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Green Building News

A Passive House Kick-Start in the Northwest

One of the first Passive House projects in Washington state is under construction in Seattle, and a regional organization is now promoting the standard

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In Seattle. This house is being built to Passive House standards in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle.
Image Credit: Blackbird Builders LLC
In Seattle. This house is being built to Passive House standards in the Rainier Valley neighborhood of Seattle.
Image Credit: Blackbird Builders LLC
The house, which includes 2,200 sq. ft. of living space, is being built by Dan Whitmore, who lives next door. When he visited Seattle in March 2011, GBA senior editor Martin Holladay took this photo of the west elevation of Dan Whitmore's Passivhaus duplex. At the time the photo was taken, the construction was nearly complete. Dan was Holladay's host during his Seattle stay, and Holladay felt honored when Dan told him that he would be staying in the new building — making Holladay the first person to sleep there.
Image Credit: Martin Holladay

UPDATED 3/22/2011: New photo added.

On March 26, when it convenes its inaugural regional meeting, Passive House Northwest, a group of certified Passive House consultants and others interested in energy efficient construction, will dig into many of the technical issues relevant to the standard and its potential applications in the Northwest. And in an opening address, Katrin Klingenberg, director of the Passive House Institute U.S., will present a strategic view of Passive House adoption throughout the country.

The meeting is timely, because Passive House construction in the Northwest, while still pretty much in its incipiency, has a big toe in the water. One of Washington state’s first such projects, for example, is a single-family home under construction in Seattle’s Rainier Valley neighborhood. It is being built to the standard by Dan Whitmore, principal of Blackbird Builders LLC and one of the certified consultants in Passive House Northwest.

In the ground and going up

The Rainier Valley project got underway with groundbreaking on January 9, and now the walls are up. When completed, the two-story home will feature 2,200 sq. ft. of living space and will be a candidate for Passive House certification. (Click here to read blog posts about the home’s construction and view layout drawings and exterior elevations.)

Whitmore lives next door to the job site, in fact, so he is closely supervising construction of the house, which fans of the project have tentatively named Foamhenge. But he is not the only one closely tracking its progress. A Seattle-based team of filmmakers and building professionals has been filming construction work and interviews with homeowners, designers, homebuilders, craftspeople, manufacturers, and consultants involved in “deep green” projects, including Whitmore’s. The team plans to eventually assemble a 13-episode series on deep green homebuilding, called “The House That Saved the World.” Click here for clips featuring Whitmore’s project and other “Saved the World” features.


  1. Linda Whaley | | #1

    Seattle Passive House Blog
    Hi Richard,

    I write the Existing Resources blog that is following Dan's Passive House project in Seattle. Thanks for including a link to it. I just updated the blog with a link to your article. I have also pulled all the blog postings specific to the Seattle project into a one page posting. There is a link in my update "Seattle Passive House Active Excitement about Dans Passive House" or it can also be found as a permanent tab at the top of the page.

    Thanks again!


  2. SDS PLAN | | #2

    Wow! Nice topics, I am looking this type of topics. But I need more informations. I know a New Drafting CAD Site gives away over 100 House plans for free.

  3. Seattle Central Community College PIO | | #3

    Student-built “Mini-B” Passive House on display, Jan. 15, 2011
    Come explore and tour the 300-square foot eco-friendly, energy efficient, and green living modular residence also known as the “Mini-B”. The home was built by 22 carpentry students at Seattle Central Community College/Wood Construction Center under the supervision of instructor Frank Mestemacher.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011
    10 am – 1:30 pm

    Phinney Neighborhood Association Center
    6532 Phinney Ave North
    Lower parking lot off North 67th Street
    Seattle WA 98103

    Representatives from Seattle Central’s Wood Construction Center, Johnson Braund Design Group, Phinney Neighborhood Association and the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild will on site for further inquiries.

    The home will be on display at the center for six months. During that time the Seattle chapter of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild will be using the Mini-B to encourage building practices that promote super energy efficiency. After its six-month stay at the center the Mini-B will go on sale with more planned to be built and sold.

    Students built the Mini-B from start to finish applying the principles of airtight construction and high-performance in all phases of the home’s construction:
    • Placing high-performance windows appropriately for solar gain
    • Installing insulation and air barrier that is almost 100 percent air-tight, with full-time 100% fresh air ventilation
    • Utilizing building methods and materials to allow for passive solar heating
    • Completing all the interior details

    The Mini-B, designed by architect Joe Giampietro (Johnson Braund Design Group), has a kitchenette, three-quarters bath, living/dining room, bed loft, closet, equipment loft with storage, solar hot water collector, and vaulted ceiling. It is built to an energy conservation standard that uses approximately 15 percent of the heating energy used by similar houses built to current Washington State Energy Code requirements. Once the last inspection and test is completed, Mini-B will be certified as a “Passive House” by the Passive House Institute U.S.

    Frank Mestemacher – Seattle Central carpentry instructor, 206.516.2970 or [email protected]
    Joe Giampietro – Mini-B building designer and architect, 206.766.8300 or [email protected]

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