Council OKs “zero-energy” housing project

By Sonia Krishnan
Seattle Times Eastside bureau

The Issaquah City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a much-anticipated “zero-energy” housing project, in which 10 homes will be designed to produce as much electricity as they consume.

The homes, in the Issaquah Highlands, will be among the first of their kind to be built in King County, and are slated for completion by 2009. Noland Homes has been chosen as the builder and will reimburse the city for staff-related costs up to $300,000.

“It’s a major step forward to begin to address and do something about climate change,” said Councilman Fred Butler.

The hope of the zero-energy project is to spur more interest among the public and developers to build homes that reduce a family’s carbon footprint.

“We hope that this will be an impetus,” said Mayor Ava Frisinger.

The 500- to 1,750-square-foot homes will sit on a half-acre parcel in the Issaquah Highlands on Northeast High Street. The site was donated by Port Blakely Communities, developer of the Highlands, as part of a deal made with the city in the late 1990s to set aside 2.83 acres for affordable housing, said Frisinger.

While the green homes will be priced for the median market — with one leased by the city for a maximum of five years as a demonstration tool — they will be part of a larger project to build up to 155 affordable housing units in the city.

Those units, only available to those earning less than 60 percent of median income, will be “significantly green” but not zero-energy — which is much more expensive to build, Frisinger said.

The zero-energy homes are expected to:

• Reduce water use by 60 percent from the amount used by the average household by installing low-flush toilets that use stormwater collected from rooftops and filtered in a nearby tank. This reclaimed water would not be used for drinking or showering.

• Produce no stormwater discharge, through use of green roofs and permeable pavement.

• Use highly durable materials, such as metal roofing instead of asphalt shingles and hardwood floors instead of carpeting.

The city’s efforts follow in the path of a U.S. Department of Energy program pushing zero-energy home construction. “Building America” began in 1995, with a goal of trimming household energy use by 70 percent by 2020.

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