Dwell Development helps make Seattle more green (Video)
In Seattle, Anthony Maschmedt, principal of Dwell Development + Design/Build, started his company in 2005 with an emphasis on building green with high efficiency designs in walkable communities.
Dwell recently received a 2011 Built Green Hammer Award in the Builder, Small Production category. The award honors outstanding residential green building projects, leaders in the field and innovative green building practices in Washington.
Dwell builds five to 10 units a year, with most pre-sold with a modern aesthetic and a price range of approximately $399,000 to $699,000, which is affordable for the Seattle market. Every house is certified as five stars through the Built Green program, with five stars being the highest level available.
"The key thing in every market is location, location, location. We try to be toward more diverse in up and coming neighborhoods. Unlike big cities like Boston and New York, we have a brand new lightrail line and our communities are learning how to take advantage of that," Maschmedt said. "I studied communities around light rail stops in major cities and I think you won't argue it's more valuable to be closer to a light rail stop than farther away. And in walkable neighborhoods, with farmer's markets and where you don't need to have a car necessarily."
He said, "It's not just building a really cool modern energy efficient home. If it doesn't allow the homeowner to live a green lifestyle, it kind of defeats the purpose, in my opinion. We want to put them in locations so people can embrace an energy efficient lifestyle, not just living in an energy efficient home."
"That's our whole energy modeling approach. We studied the concept of passive homes and what makes them efficient, and really it boils down to the envelope of the building. When we're building production spec homes, which is what we do, people talk about doing geothermal and gray water reclaiming, and all of those things are awesome, but the most energy efficient way to build a house is after the passive house model. That's a tough task to do. That's what we keep striving for with each project. To get one step closer to being a passive house and still be profitable and build a home that's affordable," he said.
He also focuses on the HERS index, which is a scoring system established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) in which a home built to the specifications of the HERS reference home scores a HERS Index of 100, while a net zero energy home scores a HERS index of 0. The lower a home's HERS index, the more energy efficient it is.
Recent Dwell home have had HERS indexes of the low 30's, which is highly efficient. To market this concept, Maschmedt created something similar to a food label that shows the cost savings to homeowners.
"It's the first thing people see when they come into one of our homes and it's in a format people can understand. It shows the water use in our house compared to an average house, the energy rating compared to a typical house, the HERS rating," he said. "We've factored that into dollars and cents. The average person in our last Dwell home would save $1,500 on water and utilities in their home. and you can put that somewhere at 5 percent or 8 percent interest, and 10 years down the road, or 15 years, and the numbers get quite big and it's a retirement fund or vacation fund or college tuition."
Homeowners can see that they will be saving money that can go elsewhere, so they buy the house, he said.
The homes feature 12-inch walls filled with insulation with an R-value of 50 to 70. Spray foam is used in certain areas, and blown-in insulation in others. Triple glazed windows are used, as well as a rough-in for solar power.
"We've installed solar on a few projects, but we've come to realize we don't get a return for that from a cost standpoint, so we rough in for it and give homeowners a plan so when panels are $100 each or $200 each, they can add them." Right now, solar panels are approximately $400 to $500 each, but the cost is quickly dropping, he said.
The homes also include a meter so that unused solar power can be sold back to the grid, and there is conduit in the garage for future additions of electric car chargers. The homes also include a meter so that unused solar power can be sold back to the grid, and there is conduit in the garage for future additions of electric car chargers.
The homes have on demand hydronic heating systems which also heat the potable water in the house. The floors are also heated with this hot water, through tubes stapled underneath the flooring. A heat recovery ventilator, known as an HRV, brings fresh air into the home, and each home also has reclaimed materials and low-flow fixtures.
"We target LEED Platinum on all our homes and we achieved that on our last home. Actually, it was the first spec home in Seattle that was built to LEED Platinum. We got the checklist and filled it out and had a verifier check the paperwork, but we didn't register with LEED. We tell homeowners that if you want to register yourself, you can pay LEED $3,500 or $4,500 and say it's officially registered with LEED, but we do say it's built to LEED Platinum verification by a third party verifier," Maschmedt said.
By using this method, a homeowner gets a home that is built to LEED standards, but without paying the extra cost of certification. It saves money and is another marketing tool for Dwell.
A slideshow of Dwell Development images shows the range of interior and exterior options with this contemporary builder.
For more information, see our Building a Green Home research center.
Teena Hammond Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.