Our First Passive House Wins the National AIA Housing Award

Posted by Sloan Ritchie on April 7, 2014

We’re proud to announce that our Park Passive project, and Seattle’s first Passive House, has received the esteemed AIA National Housing Award.  The award, now in its 14th year, was established to recognize the best in housing design and promote the importance of good housing as a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit and a valuable national resource.

Park Passive was one of five homes selected for the award in the one/two family custom housing category and the only Passive House project to win. Designed by NK Architects, Park Passive demonstrates that luxury and sustainability can co-exist. As a certified Passive House the home uses 90% less energy for heating and cooling than standard built homes, resulting in significantly decreased energy consumption, improved thermal comfort, and superior indoor air quality.


Photo Courtesy of NK Architects

The AIA’s recognition of the home showcases its “passive survivability” for its ability to capture and retain heat – even during a power outage.  High performance windows admit the sun’s heat, which is captured by a carefully crafted building enclosure, and distributed as warm fresh air by a heat recovery ventilation system.  The home maintains a comfortable average of 70 degrees, even on overcast conditions.  NK Architects balanced the vertical design with horizontal special connections into the front and side yards to expand the home’s extremely shallow floor plate. Park Passive was certified by the Passive House Academy and authorized by the Passivhaus Institut. Rob Harrison served as the Passive House consultant.


Photo courtesy Aaron Leitz Photography

Cascade Built is currently implementing Passive House techniques employed for Park Passive on Seattle’s first Passive House townhouse project, View Haus 5 in the city’s Madison Valley neighborhood.

Upcycle Design: Integrating Salvaged Exteriors on View Haus 5

Posted by Sloan Ritchie on February 27, 2014

A Shou Sugi Ban contemporary exterior in Portland via Houzz.com


Construction is underway on our second Passive House project, View Haus 5. The townhomes are designed by Bradley Khouri of b9 Architects to meet Passive House Institute US standards, which radically decreases energy consumption for heating and cooling the homes, improved thermal comfort, and superior indoor air quality.

A beautiful compliment to the Passive House design is the upcycled natural salvaged cedar and softwoods that we will use for View Haus 5’s exterior cladding. Integrating this type of finish adds to the dramatic nature of the project’s modern design, and allows the aesthetic to take center stage. It also carries the bonus of natural resource preservation and reduces the project’s carbon footprint.

The product that we chose, NatureAged Weathered Timber from Green Home Solutions, is sourced from logs that have been damaged by forest fire or other forces of nature. Some of the wood is also obtained from sawmill, logging or wood processing plants.

Our application will incorporate two finishes, a burnt wood effect called Shou Sugi Ban and a naturally weathered patina. Gaining in popularity, Shou Sugi Ban is an ancient Japanese method that involves torching the wood and sealing it with oil. This process renders the wood nearly maintenance free and makes it resistant to fire, rot and pests. The expected lifespan of Shou Sugi Ban wood is more than 80 years – far more than any other type of siding product.

Check out an example of the Shou Sugi Ban burning process via Houzz.com:

Burning the wood
Dousing the wood with water
The finished product

The salvage concept isn’t foreign to Cascade Built; we salvaged existing site trees when building Park Passive. The wood was then used to create the home’s stair treads, wall paneling, and a live-edge bathroom counter top.

What do you think about using salvaged wood product?

For more information about View Haus 5 or the products that we use, contact us at info@cascadebuilt.com.

Valley 3 breaks ground

Posted by aaron on January 30, 2014

Cascade Built has broken ground on another new project in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood. Designed by S+H Works Architecture & Design, Valley 3 will feature a single family home and two townhomes on a 4,800 square foot lot. The project shares the same alley with two of our earlier Madison Valley projects, Alley House 1 and Alley House 2.


This property is in an ideal location for professionals and young families. We sought it out for its expansive valley views and walkability to the Madison Valley retail corridor, transit and Capitol Hill’s vibrant Pike/Pine neighborhood.

In keeping with our highly-efficient green building focus, Valley 3 is designed and built to a Built Green 4* certification to use considerably less energy (than code built homes) for heating and cooling. The homes will feature additional energy efficient building measures, including exterior insulation, bonus packed insulation in the walls, and heat recovery ventilators. The project’s three-story single family home will have 3 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, over 2,300 square feet of living space and two parking spots. The three-story townhomes will each be 1,750 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and one parking spot. All units will have a rooftop deck with great views.

Construction is currently under way and anticipated to be completed and on the market for sale in May 2014.

Learn more about Cascade Built’s other Madison Valley projects, Alley House 1, Alley House 2 and View Haus 5.

Breaking ground on View Haus 5

Posted by aaron on January 22, 2014


Cascade Built has broken ground on its second Passive House project, this time in Seattle’s Madison Valley neighborhood. Designed by Bradley Khouri of the award-winning b9 Architects, View Haus 5 is Seattle’s first Passive House townhome project, and is appropriately named for its five units with expansive views of the Cascade Mountains and the neighborhood. View Haus 5 was designed under the rigorous standards of the Passive House Institute US, for energy use and air infiltration, which translates into significantly decreased energy consumption, improved thermal comfort, and superior indoor air quality.

We are able to achieve this standard by creating an airtight home; incorporating densely packed insulation and remarkable windows and doors. Insulation measuring well over 12 inches thick will be placed in every wall, the roof and under the foundation. View Haus 5 will rest at a comfortable 70 degrees year-round. Temperature can be managed by opening and closing the high performance windows and doors in the warmer months, and using the heat recovery ventilator when it’s colder.

As these townhomes will rank as one of Washington State’s most energy efficient, View Haus 5 will use approximately 90% less energy compared to those built to today’s code built standards. This figure reflects normal energy consumption by a family of four, including electronics, cooking and refrigeration, clothes washing and drying, and hot water for bathing and dishwashing.

The 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom and 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom townhomes will range in size from 1,200 – 1,700 square feet and will incorporate a variety of sustainable features, including reclaimed materials and zero VOC finishes.

Construction is currently under way and anticipated to be completed and on the market for sale in August 2014.

Learn more about Cascade Built’s first high-performance Passive House project, Park Passive.

Park Passive in the New York Times

Posted by aaron on August 21, 2013


Cascade Built’s high-performance Passive House project, Park Passive, was recently featured in the New York Times! Read the article.

Designed by NK Architects and developed by Cascade Built, Park Passive is the first certified Passive House located in Seattle. The home was certified by the Passive House Academy and authorized by the Passivhaus Institut, which sets rigorous design standards for energy use and air infiltration that translate into significantly decreased energy consumption, improved thermal comfort, and superior indoor air quality.

LEED Certification Matters

Posted by Sloan Ritchie on August 8, 2013

A response to the “should we certify” conundrum:

LEED Certification Matters

By Mona Lemoine

What was once an aspiration of a few innovators in isolated industries is
now part of our day-to-day lives. People around the country and particularly
in the Cascadia bioregion desire leadership and sustainability in how we
design, construct, operate and maintain the buildings where we live and
work. Green building has become part of our vernacular. And LEED helped us
get here.

The private sector increasingly uses LEED certification as a measure of not
only greenness, but also as a measure of overall quality. That’s why people
repeatedly certify their buildings. That’s why there are more than 17,000
LEED-certified commercial buildings covering 2.6 billion square feet (not to
mention more than 40,000 certified homes). That’s why 88 of the Fortune 100
companies use LEED. It’s this demand for efficiency and quality that drives
the demand for LEED, which has driven green building market growth from 2
percent in 2005 to 44 percent today.

With each newly certified project, LEED broadens the base for the necessary
and wide-scale transformation of our building industry. Thanks in no small
part to LEED, adoption of the  <https://ilbi.org/lbc> Living Building
Challenge is also growing, and with it, projects that bring about local
community benefits, technological advancement, growth in manufacturing,
innovative design and restoration of the environment. LEED is a tool for the
broad adoption of green building practices to reduce the social, human
health and environmental impacts of the built environment and created a
platform for true innovation in the form of the Living Building Challenge,
that aspires for not only sustainability, but the potential for every act of
construction to restore health.

The “just build green, but don’t get LEED-certified” position, presented in
The Oregonian editorial about building West Linn’s new police station, is
neither new nor surprising
> (“LEED certification is overrated,” July 15). No matter what
the industry, there are those who do not think verification and validation
are important. The reality is that LEED is not a “designer label,” it is
third-party proof that the building owners, in this case Oregon taxpayers,
actually got the green building they paid for. It’s not impossible to build
green without LEED, it’s just unlikely that corners won’t be cut and goals
and objectives missed, which happens every day and everywhere. “Trust me”
from the architect, engineers and contractors is not good enough.
Certification cuts through the greenwashing that is so common in the market
today and ensures that buildings are designed and built to meet an accepted
rigorous standard.

The private sector increasingly uses LEED certification as a measure of not
only greenness, but also as a measure of overall quality.

And just like the employers who hire college graduates instead of applicants
who claim to have learned the same skills, the market increasingly demands
certified buildings because they are verified energy, water and cost savers.

Despite all the evidence in favor of LEED, critics continue to argue that certification is optional, to which we say: Just look at the changes in the green building industry over the past two decades and ask yourself, would today’s nearly mainstream acceptance of and demand for better, healthier, more efficient, lower-impact buildings have been possible if we committed to a “trust me” approach to delivering on these objectives? Could the market support the Living Building Challenge and the transformation toward a living future were it not for LEED?

Oregon taxpayers deserve better than “just trust me.”

Mona Lemoine is the executive director of the Cascadia Green Building Counciland vice president of education and events of the International Living Future Institute.

Park Passive Project Selected for AIA Explore Design Home Tour

Posted by Shauna on July 10, 2013

Our first Passive House project has been selected by the AIA for its first-ever Explore Design Home Tour. Park Passive was chosen as one of seven homes to be featured on the day-long tour this fall.


Designed by Marie Ljubojevic and Lauren McCunney of NK Architects, Park Passive is the first certified Passive House located in Seattle. The home was certified by the Passive House Academy and authorized by the Passivhaus Institut, which sets rigorous design standards for energy use and air infiltration that translates into significantly decreased energy consumption, improved thermal comfort, and superior indoor air quality.  Our Passive House consultants on this project were Rob Harrison and Dan Whitmore.


Aaron Leitz Photography

Despite an incredibly difficult site for Passive House construction, our drive to lead sustainable building in Seattle led to the development of this project.  Park Passive is situated on a tiny urban infill lot (as most of our homes do) with a small, shallow floor plate, zoning envelope that required us to work with the form of the existing house; and passive house requirements that minimized glazing on the north side of the house, where windows would have been intuitively placed and necessitated 18” thick walls.

The home’s vertical design features a day-lit open stairwell with punctuated views to the street; a double-height vaulted kitchen space that visually connects the main living area to the upstairs kids play area; and several large skylights that usher light into the kitchen area.  We also salvaged existing site trees for stair treads, wall paneling, and a live-edge bathroom counter top.


Aaron Leitz Photography

To build a home that doesn’t need a furnace, it has to be airtight, lots of insulation, and great windows. The walls are 16” thick, airtight and full of insulation, the roof has 24” of dense-pack insulation and there is 8” of structural insulating foam under the foundation.  We imported super high performance windows from Lithuania and installed them with a crane. The insulator was there a week instead of a day, and we used an infrared camera to inspect the entire house for air leaks and insulation integrity.


As one of Washington State’s most energy efficient homes, the 4-bedroom, 3-bath Park Passive uses approximately 75-80% less overall energy compared to homes built to today’s code standards. This figure reflects all of the energy used in the home by its family of four for electronics, cooking and refrigeration, clothes washing and drying, and hot water for bathing and dishwashing.


Park Passive’s average indoor air temperature of 70 degrees is managed by opening and closing its Intus high performance windows and doors in summer and using the heat recovery ventilator when it’s colder.


Purchase tickets to view Park Passive on the AIA Explore Design Home Tour on Saturday, September 14, 2013 here.

Seattle Green Builders Unite for Passive House Training

Posted by Shauna on May 22, 2013


The PHIUS Passive House Builder training is the week of June 4th in Seattle.  Cascade Built is well represented, and it’s sold out. Great to see so many green builders in Seattle becoming passive house builders and learning how to achieve this level of performance. For home energy consumption it’s nothing short of revolutionary. Home heating and cooling is reduced by nearly 90% and other loads are systematically targeted, for overall 75% reduction in energy consumption, and that’s before you add any solar if you choose to. After tearing into a fifties home to discover 4 inches of insulation, it was disappointing to suddenly realize that we have only added an inch or 2 of insulation to our building codes in sixty years of building. We can do better.

Choosing a dryer for a Passive House is tricky

Posted by Shauna on April 24, 2013

Can you have a conventional vented dryer in a passive house? Absolutely not. It consumes too much energy, and then all the hot air it generates gets dumped directly outside at 200 CFM. That’s the rough equivalent of every hour your dryer runs (like for every single load), completely emptying all the air from your house and starting over and having to re-heat or cool, depending on your climate.

Instead, a condensing dryer is the best bet (they are also referred to as a ventless dryer, since they don’t vent to the outside). Another option is a drying closet, or drying cabinet, Asko has a couple of models to choose from.


(photo courtesy of Askousa.com)

How does a condensing dryer work? Instead of sending hot humid air outside, it runs it through a condenser, and the moisture condenses and is then pumped out into the same drain where you connect your washer. So the heat is not dumped outside and you save energy and money just like that. Does it take longer to dry your clothes? Yes, it does take a little bit longer, but this is a small price to pay for such a huge reduction in your energy consumption, carbon footprint and utility bills.

Top Questions to Ask When Interviewing Seattle Home Builders

Posted by Shauna on February 20, 2013

If you’re interviewing a Seattle home builder for your custom home, here are some questions you might add to the list you have about finishes, budget and communication style:

#1: Know where they stand on energy performance.  ASK: how often do you blower door test the homes you build and how do they turn out? If they don’t have a laser sharp answer then probably it’s not something they focus on, and you will end up with a home that leaks energy through windows, doors, walls, and the roof. Your poor energy performing home will feel cold in the winter and too hot in the summer and your energy bills will be higher than needed. Leaky homes were acceptable back in the roaring twenties but so were horse drawn buggies. You want neither. Code minimum in Washington state is 7 ACH (air changes per hour), and soon to be 3 ACH under new energy codes. For perspective, a super energy efficient passive house is only 0.6 ACH, and that cute craftsman house from the 1920’s is double digits, which is why it’s so drafty and expensive to heat.

#2 : What about your Seattle custom homes specifically is eco-friendly? Almost every builder will tell you they do eco-friendly green building, it’s really caught on the last couple of years to almost every aspect of contracting, and sometimes it’s just talk. Caveat emptor (may the buyer beware), because your idea of green building for your new amazingly energy efficient home may be very different from that of your builder. So ask. What exactly do you do for your homes to make them stand out, or what specific strategies make your homes more energy efficient than the ones next door? In Seattle, there are incentives to build using Built Green 4 star in some cases. So your builder will advertise this, but dig deeper. Built Green 4 star is better than not doing it at all, but it is also not the most rigorous test, particularly if your goal is to drastically reduce energy consumption for the long term. I’m not picking on Built Green. There are lots of standards and each measures different things. Take the time to figure out what’s important to you and make sure your builder is doing that. For example, it is possible to reduce your home’s energy consumption to about 20% of the otherwise identical new home next door, if you wanted to do that. And I think you do, now that you know it’s possible.

#3: Ask to see previous results: Tour homes built, ask for examples of standards achieved, budgets not exceeded, performance verified. And interview the homeowners!
We’re back in a boom as proven by all of the cranes on our skyline.  Perhaps one of them will belong to you.