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Northwest Energy Star Super-Efficient Homes—#2: The House of the Immediate Future

Posted by Neil Grigsby on January 07, 2013
Northwest Energy Star Super-Efficient Homes—#2: The House of the Immediate Future
The Habitat for Humanity house in Seattle Center.

The House of the Immediate Future in Seattle, Washington, is one of six super energy-efficient homes being highlighted this year by Northwest Energy Star Homes—in collaboration with builders, utilities, and homeowners—to increase awareness and adoption of advanced building practices and products that can improve quality, comfort, and energy efficiency in new homes.

Check out #1, “The Inspiration Home” blog post and visit soon to read up on the rest of the houses, which will be profiled in the weeks to come.

Back to the Future

Everything that’s old is new again…except when it comes to energy efficiency. Northwest Energy Star Homes had a unique opportunity this summer to participate in a collaborative process for an exhibition at the Seattle Center to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Seattle's 1962 World’s Fair.

The House of the Immediate Future is a modular home of the same name that was featured at the 1962 event, and it stands in stark contrast to its predecessor in one important way.

Yesterday’s version of the American home of the future was packed with high-tech gadgets that were to be powered by seemingly endless resources. Fifty years later, consumers have driven the market to develop advanced construction methods and energy efficiency technologies. Today’s House of the Immediate Future is a net zero-energy home that uses the best of readily available energy efficiency products and technologies. It maximizes insulation for lower heating costs, minimizes air-infiltration for improved indoor air quality, and is noticeably more quiet and comfortable than a home built to current or previous state building codes.

And to reflect today’s commitment to sustainability in all aspects of life, this home was developed to be a Habitat for Humanity home. The house was open for public tours during September and October 2012. After the celebration ended, the two-story, 1,400 ft2 home was deconstructed and will be moved to an emerging Seattle Housing Authority neighborhood.

Teaming Up to Power Down

The project was spearheaded by Seattle architecture firm The Miller Hull Partnership with participation by Method Homes and Seattle City Light.

The Miller Hull Partnership worked with a team of area residential energy experts to design a home that used materials and methods that fit Habitat’s volunteer-construction model. Key components of the project were two wet core modules that were installed prior to enclosure of walls and roof, which house a mechanical room, kitchen and bathrooms, wiring, plumbing and HVAC systems. Prefabricated by Method Homes, this technique reduced construction time and centralized professional trade involvement and costs. Habitat volunteers assemble panelized segments, also built by Method, which allowed the house to be weather tight very quickly.

Seattle City Light used its involvement with The House of the Immediate Future to showcase products, technologies, and building practices that exist right now for building homes that use less electricity and are more comfortable to live in. The company highlighted how homeowners can utilize many similar products and technologies at a reduced cost by taking advantage of Seattle City Light’s rebate programs.

The Future is Bright

The project also fit perfectly with Habitat’s mission, which is to create affordable homeownership opportunities for hard-working, low-income families. Since heating costs have a major impact on affordability, it’s vital that Habitat homes minimize energy use.

Throughout the fall, public tours introduced The House of the Immediate Future to today’s home builders, buyers and owners and underscored Miller Hull’s goal: to find the simplest cost-effective approaches to achieve net-zero energy for the home, resulting in a back-to-basics design that’s comfortable, and economically practical, yet on the leading edge of super energy-efficient design.

To view other super-efficient-homes across the Northwest, including The House of the Immediate Future, visit: http://northwestenergystar.com/super-efficient-homes.

 

Neil Grigsby oversees NEEA’s Northwest Energy Star Homes initiative, which encourages builders across the region to build more efficient homes using new technologies and building practices. His experience includes a degree in urban studies from the University of Washington, and in designing, planning, and implementing energy-efficiency programs along with public outreach and education. 

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