This green community started with the goal of building 15 net-zero homes, but based on homebuyer interest and demand, it tripled that.
The New Rainier Vista Community has been created to be not only net-zero but also Built Green Certified. Built Green establishes environmental standards such as energy efficiency and Indoor Air Quality (IAQ).
“We found a huge calling for our product. We pre-sold all of the homes during framing because of our design and attention to sustainability,” says principal at Dwell Development, Anthony Maschmedt.
The community was designed by Dwell Development and began as a partnership with the Seattle Housing Authority as an initiative to construct homes with green building techniques and high performance technology. Working with the Housing Authority was the first step to approval.
The project began during the economic downturn with the Housing Authority involved. According to Maschmedt, Dwell was one of the few builders in Seattle, at the time, that could maintain construction costs. This is because of the type of homes it builds.
“Initially people told us we were crazy, that we were building in an area that was diverse. They said people wouldn’t get it, because they are just looking for a home. But, we did it, and our business grew 300 percent during the downturn,” says Maschmedt.
Not only that, but Dwell has been recognized for its efforts. The community was honored with the 2016 “Best in Green Community” award from the National Association of Homebuilders and the NAHB’s “Best in American Living” award.
Energy Monitoring and Management
A few of the homes in the New Rainier community are being tested through the NorthWest Energy Alliance for conservation data that Dwell will use to improve future homes.
“We have sensors in a few homes that measure air flow and how much water is being used,” says Maschmedt.
One of the homes in the community is monitored by Kirio, a whole-house automation and energy management platform that communicates with connected devices. It also provides measurements on Healthy Home factors like IAQ and energy usage.
The Kirio was designed by a homebuyer in the community. Dwell was so impressed with this new platform, the developer decided to include the system in more new homes moving forward.
After being installed in Dwell’s passive house, the platform was able to boost efficiency by almost 25 percent.
The builder is looking for devices that can integrate with the Kirio system.
In the meantime, keyless front door entry from EMTEK is standard in each home in the community.
“Smart, tech-savvy people seem to be buying our homes. They do their homework, and they’re very intelligent. And if you can give them systems that they can control, they are in,” says Maschmedt.
Radiant heating is also a standard on the ground floor of each home. Small, but unique features that offer comfort, such as radiant heating, can help you stand out in a cooler climate like Seattle.
Each roof has been designed to optimize solar power generation, with Dwell pre-wiring each roofs to be solar ready. Electric vehicle charging stations are ready to be installed as well.
“Each home was actually set-up to expand the capabilities of what we installed in the homes,” says Maschmedt.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to achieve net-zero, so each home uses triple-glazed windows, efficient heat recovery ventilation (HRVs), tankless hot water heaters and is solar ready.
Two homes use cork siding to increase efficiency. The cork serves as a functional siding material as well as exterior insulation.
One of these cork-sided homes is certified as net-energy positive, meaning the home will produce more energy than it consumes. It’s actually Seattle’s first net-positive spec home.
“We are constantly striving to push the envelope, but beyond that, let’s continue to come up with new systems and building techniques to get our homes as efficient as possible,” says Maschmedt.
The New Rainier community includes Dwell’s first passive house—a voluntary standard for low-energy homes centered on an airtight building envelope that reduces HVAC needs.
“In theory, you should be able to heat the passive home with a hairdryer,” says Maschmedt. The passive home uses efficient HVAC and lighting as well as sustainable materials. “The idea behind it is that we are going to lead the way.”
According to Maschmedt, the decision to continue building green homes was an easy one, because he says there’s so much homebuyer interest and demand for high-quality and healthy homes.
“The buyers out there were telling us, that if you build it, we will buy it, because there are no other options for us.”