Hardly a newcomer to energy-efficient design, Dwell Development set Seattle’s green building community abuzz after earning the Emerald City its first Built Green Emerald Star-certified home in September. The firm’s latest project, located in the densely populated and walkable Admiral district, checks another green milestone off Seattle’s list—this time in the commercial realm.
Dwell’s projects adhere to the rigorous standards of Built Green, a regional building program of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties in Washington state. Built Green projects can achieve 3-, 4-, 5-, and Emerald Star certifications, with all levels requiring third party verification. To date, more than 23,000 housing units have been certified to the program, which focuses on energy efficiency, water conservation, and careful use of material resources.
Seattle Live/Work offers two mixed-use sustainable homes designed with progressive systems that provide extreme energy efficiency. Unique zoning allowances permit the owners to use the ground floor as an extension of their living space or lease it for commercial purposes such as a restaurant, office, or retail business. In true live/work fashion, one unit’s owner, a photographer, has transformed the lower level into a studio and gallery where he features works for sale. The supplemental rental income and energy bill savings help owners afford the mortgage in this pricey housing market.
According to Dwell Development’s founder, Anthony Maschmedt, this high level of efficiency begins with the Passive House methodology of sealing the home’s envelope impeccably airtight. Thick walls of dense-packed cellulose insulation are coated with a fluid-applied air and water barrier and outfitted with triple-paned windows. Inside, heat recovery ventilators work to cycle in fresh air that is preheated by older, warm air exiting the home through a crossover mechanism inside the system— unlike standard systems that must heat cooler outdoor air.
In addition, each 2,700-square-foot, four-bedroom unit is designed to achieve net zero energy use with a solar-ready rooftop configuration, advanced framing, and a tankless water heating system. The firm has seven more similarly designed and zoned units in the pipeline, two of which are in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood. With these, Maschmedt hopes to build on buyer interest in a commute-free lifestyle.
“The first live/work unit sold while the project was still in the framing phase, and the second sold within hours of being listed on the market,” Maschmedt says. “We had an open house scheduled for that evening and many interested, potential buyers came out only to be informed the house had already sold.”
Much of the project’s design appeal comes from the firm’s renowned affinity for reclaimed materials—what Maschmedt calls “the secret sauce.” In line with other Dwell homes, reclaimed materials were integrated wherever possible. His wife, Abbey, heads the firm’s interior design division and works with a team that specializes in scouting old barns and farmhouses that have outlived code regulations or their maintenance value and are facing demolition.
From the barns, Dwell salvages materials such as metal roofs or wood siding for reuse. Cabinets are made down the street from the firm’s office, and countertops are sourced from Novustone, a local manufacturer that crafts glass-based surfacing materials from post-consumer recycled content. Dwell holds the line on ensuring that all materials that are used in the projects are either recycled, upcycled, or locally manufactured without significantly spiking the overall cost of the the project—thanks to established relationships with fair-priced suppliers.
“The reclaimed modern look is something that works because you’re talking about materials that people are drawn to. They’re interesting, they have a story, they have a history ... and you’re intrigued by it. Someone walks into a house with old rustic floors, and you’re able to say they came out of a barn or tavern in Montana. There are real stories behind these materials, and they blend very nicely with modern edges,” says Maschmedt.
“Everything we build has to be 5-Star Built Green or beyond. And that’s just the starting point,” Maschmedt says. “We’re now focusing on the ‘beyond’ in many of our projects.”