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The ultra-sustainable Ellis Residence is perched on Yeomalt Bluff on Bainbridge Island, overlooking Central Puget Sound and downtown Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. This home features a 4-kilowatt grid-tied rooftop photovoltaic array that supplies about 40 percent of the residents’ demand with 20 Sanyo 200-watt modules, along with two solar thermal collectors that provide domestic hot water. Rainwater is collected from 100 percent of the roof area on two buildings into two 1,500-gallon (5,700-litre) concrete cisterns that are buried below the auto-court between the residence and the accessory dwelling unit (ADU). A 1,300-sq-ft vegetated roof that consists of 3-ft x3-ft modules containing pre-grown, drought tolerant sedums. Sustainable wood was used throughout for more than 90 percent of the lumber, including site-milled fir, FSC-certified ipe siding, cabinetry and framing lumber. A geothermal system uses the earth’s consistent natural warmth to stabilize the home’s temperature. The whole house is designed for passive heating and cooling using proper orientation on the site and thermal massing; concrete floors and an interior two-story concrete wall hold the heat provided by the sun and geothermal heat via a hydronic in-floor radiant heating system. The concrete floors in the main residence cured for 28 days before a soy-based stain and sealer were applied. The house is comprised of polished concrete masonry units inside and out, galvanized metal panels and sustainable ipe wood siding. The interior has abundant natural light from floor-to-ceiling, triple-pane windows. An existing old cabin on the site was deconstructed so that 98 percent of its building materials could be diverted from the landfill and reused. The 230-square-meter (2,450-square-foot) home, which has a separate, 65-square-meter (700-square-foot) accessory dwelling unit apartment, is tightly sealed and super-insulated (roof is R-60 and walls, R-24) using a hybrid system of spray-foam and batt insulation for an energy-efficient envelope. (Scroll to bottom for additional resources)
Modern Cliff-Top Home
by Wendy Koch, USA Today, September 2010
Joanne Ellis' new cliff-top home on Bainbridge Island shows green can also be gorgeous.
"It's pretty darn awesome," Ellis says in describing her dream home with floor-to-ceiling windows that look east to Seattle. Yet its drama and Puget Sound location is only part of its allure. It's also energy-efficient.
Here's the bathroom of the Ellis home, which has water-saving plumbing fixtures.
"The whole house is designed to passively cool and heat itself," Ellis says. It's oriented to capture sun and shade, and its concrete floors and concrete interior wall hold the heat. On a 100-degree day last year, she says, the house was comfortable without air conditioning.
Ellis' home -- chosen as "This Week's Green House" -- earned the top or platinum rating in June from the private U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program. Her architect, Matthew Coates, says it's the first LEED-platinum house in Washington that's not in Seattle.
The home's exterior is a blend of galvanized metal panels, sustainably forested Ipe siding and polished concrete masonry units.
The 2,450-square-foot home, which has a separate 700-square-foot apartment, spared no expense on its green features, which include geothermal heating, two 1,500-gallon cisterns, a vegetated roof, a 4-kilowatt solar array and Loewen triple-pane wood windows.
The Ellis residence has stained concrete floors, a wall of polished concrete masonry units and a sustainably harvested Douglas fir ceiling.
Nor did Ellis shortchange design. The home has a sleek but casual look. Its interior has lots of natural light, custom cabinetry and sustainably harvested Douglas fir ceilings.
Its exterior is a blend of concrete masonry units (also used inside), Ipe siding and galvanized metal panels.
"We do different variations of Northwest modern. It's generally a little warmer than typical modern -- more wood and Japanese inspiration," says Justin Helmbrecht of Coates Design, the Bainbridge Island firm that created the Ellis residence.
How much did it cost?
The home has much natural daylight, afforded by floor-to-ceiling, triple-pane Loewen wood windows.
Ellis, 60, who moved into the house in January with her husband, Ed, 61, says she hasn't tabulated its total price tag but says it's typical of custom builds. She says they saved their pennies so they didn't need a construction loan.
"We didn't want to build just another house," she says. "We wanted to do something different but didn't know what. Matthew Coates defined it."
When Coates told them about LEED's four levels of certification, they were immediately interested. She says her husband, who owns his own shipping business, responded: "Well, let's do platinum!"
She says they want to "make a difference," but they're not political people. "We've just lived consciously," she says. "We're products of our age -- very practical, waste not-want not, a penny saved is a penny earned." When her three kids (now in their 20s) were little, she says, she made her own baby food and used cloth diapers.
They raised their kids on Bainbridge Island, and she says they would have stayed in their prior home if they hadn't seen the cliff-top lot for sale. The site had an old cabin and, rather than demolish it, they had it deconstructed or taken apart piece by piece so its building materials could be reused and not sent to the landfill.
Their new house is tightly sealed (it has mechanical ventilation) and super-insulated (roof is R-60 and walls, R-24) with a mixture of spray-foam and batt insulation. She says their utility bills are now less than those for the condo they rented during construction, and she'll be getting a refund.
"We sell kilowatts to the power company, and it sends me a check once a year," she says.
What she loves about her home, aside from its efficiency and flexible spaces that accommodate visiting adult children, is its magnificent views.
"Every window captures a different view," she says. "I can't foresee myself ever getting bored with this house."
Ellis Residence Interior Decorating (166 kb)
Ellis Residence Features (222 kb)