Green is the New Black

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Featured Companies: Cascade Built and N.K. Architects - Location: Seattle, Washington - Project Type: Residence - Project Name: Park Passive

Photos by Aaron Leitz,

By Amanda Koellner

Luxury and sustainability living in harmony. Such is the mantra of Park Passive, a 2,710-square-foot home that sits on a small urban infill lot and features a modern design “as bold as the passive-house concept itself,” according to Cascade Built founder and owner of the home Sloan Ritchie. Crafted with passive-house standards—some of the most stringent energy guidelines today—this home’s design and construction result in significantly decreased energy consumption, cutting heating by an estimated 90 percent.

“Inefficient buildings are the number-one consumer of energy in the world, and the largest contributor to climate change,” Ritchie says.

“Passive-house design standards offer a way toward net-zero building with strategies that are relatively easy to implement—better windows and doors, more insulation, improved air sealing. Unlike asking people to stop driving their cars, passive house reduces our carbon footprint while increasing comfort and quality of life.”

Ritchie worked closely with Marie Ljubojevic and Lauren McCunney of NK Architects to design the high-performance home; here the two talk with DB about the project.

What design elements and details make this a true example of stunning design?

It features an open floor plan, a strong connection to the small yard, high ceilings, and ample natural light. Using salvaged wood from a site-harvested tree, we built in storage units to create spatial separation and clean, modern lines. We designed small moments in the house, including a bay with a reading nook and windows that frame views as one walks up the stairs; a barn door that doubles as a chalk board; a double-height kitchen with skylights; and a deck off the master bedroom that captures the lake views and morning lights. Also, because the owners have two small children, a play area visible from all corners of the house has easy places to store toys and a low window for small people to view out.

Of all those details, which do you feel best represents the project’s aesthetic?

We love Park Passive’s emphasis on vertical living with its day-lit open stairwell that has punctuated views to the street. The double-height vaulted kitchen space that visually connects the main living area to the upstairs kids’ play area also really stands out, as well as several large skylights that usher light into the kitchen area.

Which elements are you most proud of?

As Seattle’s first passive house, Park Passive is a model of innovative design that distinctively combines livability with sustainability—meeting today’s most stringent energy standards. Though it emphasizes livability, we reduced the need for mechanical heating and cooling, reduced the carbon footprint, and dramatically improved indoor air quality by paying extreme attention to detail with air sealing, packing 16 inches of insulation in the walls and more than 20 inches in the lid. We also used high-performance windows, solar hot water, zero-VOC finishes, and a heat-recovery ventilator. The home’s average indoor air temperature is 70 degrees and is managed by opening and closing its Intus high-performance windows and doors in the summer and using the heat-recovery ventilator when it’s colder.

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