Mercer Island

zHome promises energy efficiency

zHome promises energy efficiency
The view from the top floor is very pleasant.

Next Saturday and Sunday are the last days public tours will be available for the 10-unit, zHome development located in the Highlands of Sammamish. Tours will be open Sat. 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 5 p.m. Eastsiders can take exit 18 off I-90 in Issaquah and head up the hill until you see the solar panels.

On Saturday I coerced my real estate savvy gal pals, Margie Calvert of Bellevue and Kristie Salinger of Sammamish to tour the zHome with me. Our tour leader, David Fujimoto of the City of Issaquah, asked group members from all over the Eastside and Seattle area, to watch a video that featured Denis Hayes.

"View this first true zero energy townhome neighborhood in the country as an important first step," said Hayes, co-founder of Earth Day and director of the Bullitt Foundation. "Forty percent of energy goes into building buildings so the key is to build right."

After Fujimoto described the zHome's wall-to-wall energy efficiencies, our trio blasted off to tour the model homes.

The three-bedroom, 2.5 bath, 1,694 square foot model is priced at $625,000. The two-bedroom, 2-bath, 1,350 square foot model is listed for 530,000.

It is clear that the architect David Vandervort has thought very carefully about every square inch of these homes. Everything looked first class: materials, products, aesthetics, large open spaces and huge windows.

A couple of design features intrigued us. For one, in the master bedroom there existed a little loft that is reminiscent of a crow's nest-treehouse. While a sign prohibited us from climbing up for a look-see, it is accessed by a vertical, metal ladder like you might find on a fishing boat. We learned later that the washer-dryer is up there, too.

"Can't you just see the kids throwing the laundry down onto mom and dad in the bed," said Salinger, a retired third grade teacher. "It needs a fire pole to complete the look!"

We noted several other interesting design issues for both the three bedroom and the two bedroom units. We didn't see many closets or much storage space and the vaulted open spaces were fenced with railings with rungs that would "beg" kids and pets to climb up and over.

Also, while the high windows would let in a huge amount of ambient light, they do not lend themselves to window coverings. That's okay for the daytime but not a good thing for insomniacs.

"Where will they put their stuff when they come in the door?" mused Calvert, when she couldn't find a coat closet. "Oh, well, maybe the people who will live here won't have many clothes?"

Please let us know what you think about the zHome. Would you buy one? What ideas would work in your traditional home?

Personally, I would like to install a solar panel on my Lake Hills tar & gravel roof so I could watch the electrical meter run backwards!