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Fish Singer Place Offers Urban EcoLiving

Credits: ©2010 Martha Rose Construction

Undaunted by the economic downturn, Martha Rose of Martha Rose Construction (MRC) has just completed four new, urban homes that are for sale and offer a brighter future to the Seattle area. They are highly energy efficient – as much as 67 percent more than conventional homes – and use site development techniques that promise to be a friendly neighbor to nearby Puget Sound. Martha has focused on energy and the environment in the building industry for more than thirty years and has been building her own green spec homes since 1995. At Fish Singer Place, Martha Rose worked closely with CB Anderson Architects to ensure that each home is individually designed for its site to maximize solar heat gain in the winter and shading for cooling in the summer. MRC builds with traditional materials, yet uses cutting edge building science techniques resulting to create an extremely comfortable and healthy home. Some of the features include super-insulation for low heating bills, conditioned fresh air 24 hours a day, universal design elements on the main floor, low impact development plus rain water harvesting, and community living in a walkable neighborhood.


Fish Singer Entry Driveway

Fish Singer Place in Seattle, built by Martha Rose Construction, features energy-efficient homes and a pervious pavement roadway. ©2010 Martha Rose Construction

Fish Singer Place is perhaps an unusual name for a community. Martha explains, “I suppose the name “Fish Singer” comes from a marriage: a Fish girl married a Singer boy. It’s easy to imagine since the Queen City Poultry Farm, just two blocks away, was owned by the Fish Brothers and it was a generation older than this 1924 home site.”

She is not sure about the rest of the history of the site, but she doesn’t think it matters anyway. “’We are making history of a different sort on this site.” This new community is modeled after her last successful project, the Queen City Eco Village, but with smaller, more affordable houses.

In keeping with green building community principles, Martha Rose planned Fish Singer Place  to be connected, not just to each other, but to the larger community as well. It’s a short walk to businesses, schools, parks, and bus stops. Bicycle riders can hop on the nearby Interurban Trail or hike on the extensive trails at Boeing Creek Park.

Located in the Shoreline neighborhood north of Seattle, Martha imagines the Fish Singer homes circling like the wagons trains of yore that kept everyone safe while staking out new territory. Their arrangement on the site provides the opportunity for neighbors to gather in the pocket park or talk over the fence. Martha also envisions dinners shared, kindnesses offered, a ride to the airport provided because she’s seen how this scenario works in her first eco village. Space has been set aside for shared vegetable gardens.

With the homes thoughtfully arranged, the site itself was carefully considered in the design, especially how rainwater falls on the land and is then dispersed. In the Seattle area, there are several species of endangered salmon, so keeping the waters clean is particularly important to protecting the fish. The site development at Fish Singer Place mimics nature by using natural stormwater treatment methods that allow stormwater to sink into the ground, filtered, to recharge the water table. Landscaping is native, edible, and drought tolerant with thick mulch that mimics the once natural forested condition, helping reduce flooding and purifying Puget Sound.

The houses themselves are comprised of pure, simple materials, sourced close to Seattle to save on transportation costs and fuel, And because of the relatively high precipitation levels (about 38” per year) in the Seattle area, Martha focuses on waterproofing details, such as larger roof overhangs and enclosed eaves. All flashings above windows, doors and other areas are custom-bent with bigger reveals for increased weather protection.

Along with the many other sustainable features, energy efficiency is a hallmark of MRC’s homes.

Martha points out that conservation is the lowest hanging fruit of the energy tree. Simply, she believes that insulating homes more and better can help eliminate the need to build more nuclear power plants or to drill for more oil. When she began building in the 1970s, she says, “I didn’t know that our housing stock was responsible for the greatest amount of energy consumption (40 percent). I thought the biggest culprits then were industry (15 percent) followed by vehicles (25 percent). What an aha! moment it was when I learned the truth about energy consumption!”

MRC insulated the Fish Singer homes to the stringent Passive House standards, increasing their energy efficiency by as much as 67 percent over other new homes. For example, the attic is R-63 using 1/2" closed cell foam on the underside of the trusses(R-3), with blown-in fiberglass (R-60) above. The R-28 walls are achieved by cladding the entire home with 1" of closed cell foam (R-5) and using an R-23 high density blown-in-batt (BIB) made with fiberglass. The windows are Serious brand fiberglass with quadruple glazing, most of which are R-9.1 with a few at R6.7. The weighted R-value is eight for the entire home.

In addition to this tight building envelope, the homes use passive design strategies such as sunrooms that provide some ambient heat. The Fish Singer homes are also pre-wired for photovoltaics so that adding electricity-producing panels will be easier in the future.

Martha asserts that even if lifestyle changes are made by riding the bus, walking more, or eating local food, there still remains the opportunity for individuals to make the biggest impact on their own personal energy consumption - especially in our homes. This thinking has brought Martha Rose Construction to the forefront of energy efficient housing.

The company was selected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building America program as a pioneering builder nationally, one of the first to take the Building America Challenge. This means MRC’s homes rate 70 or better on the E-Scale, or at least 30 percent more efficient than a typical home built to code. As part of the DOE’s Building America program, Fish Singer Place is aiming towards zero energy.

Relevant Books:
Northwest Green Home Primer
Green Design: A Healthy Home Handbook
Building Green: A Complete How-To Guide
Designing Sustainable Communities


  Martha Rose Case Study Seattle (274 kb)

  Martha Rose Building America Case Study (571 kb)

  Martha Rose Building America Case Study (1,504 kb)


Martha Rose Construction (Seattle)

CB Anderson Architects (Seattle)

E-Scale or EnergySmart Home ScaleSM

Building America Program