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Seattle Passivhaus: Yours for $1.45 Million

Hammer & Hand teams up with Heliotrope Architects on a project they're calling the Green Lake Passive House

A high-end Seattle spec house. Heliotrope Architects designed this high-performance home for an upscale neighborhood in Seattle and hopes to sell it for $1.45 million.
Image Credit: Heliotrope Architects

It hasn’t been built yet, but a modernistic Passivhaus in Seattle has won a regional architectural award and is being offered for sale for $1.45 million.

In a joint announcement, Hammer & Hand builders and Heliotrope Architects said the 3,000-sq. ft. house would be built to Passivhaus standards. The three-bedroom, two-bath house will cost about $483 per sq. ft., not including transactions costs.

The house won a Northwest and Pacific Region Design Award from the American Institute of Architects in 2011, said Zack Semke, director of business development for Hammer & Hand.

One factor driving up the cost is the lot, Semke said, which is located in a pricey Seattle neighborhood near Green Lake. The lot, measuring a fraction of an acre, is “very desirable,” he said, and will have views of the lake.

“Our aim was to combine design excellence with cutting-edge building science to prove that sustainable homes can be beautiful, and that high design homes can be sustainable,” Heliotrope principal Joe Herrin said in a news release. “It’s a combination not often seen in our region.”

Passivhaus spec projects starting to crop up

Passivhaus construction is a relatively new development in the U.S. Compared to the hundreds of thousands of conventional homes built each year, the number of projects certified through Passive House Institute U.S. or Germany’s Passivhaus Institut is minuscule.

But Passivhaus spec projects are beginning to show up. Earlier this year, a duplex in Portland, Ore., was immediately snapped up by buyers. In Philadelphia, Onion Flats and Domani Developers are behind a 27-unit townhouse project built to the Passivhaus standard. Three units have been completed to date; two of them have been sold.


  1. Mike Eliason | | #1

    worth noting this wasn't
    worth noting this wasn't originally planned as a spec project, but herrin's own house, with a budgeted goal of $200/sf. also interesting to note the claim the house's envelope will, 'lose virtually no heat'.

    i'm no physicist, but damn - that's quite a stretch.

  2. user-1087436 | | #2

    Android Dwelling Unit # 35175
    I'm sure this has won an architectural award. It's just the sort of thing that wins architectural awards. To ordinary humans, though, it looks trite and really rather unattractive. Until January of this year, I lived in Seattle, and I had been there for 38 years. I can't imagine what Green Lake neighborhood this fits into. And at $483 a foot, it does nothing to advance the cause of green building in this country.

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Response to Gordon Taylor
    I must agree. It does make one wonder where they find the judges for architectural competitions.

  4. user-659915 | | #4

    I disagree. It looks great.
    But I just hope they're not planning to leave it out in the rain. It does come with a custom fitted tarp for inclement weather, right?

  5. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #5

    Response to James Morgan
    Roof overhangs? Or even a roof? C'mon, James -- it doesn't rain in Seattle.

  6. user-659915 | | #6

    Re: no rain in Seattle
    Good to know Martin. I was worried.

  7. jackofalltrades777 | | #7

    Flat Roofs Makes For Happy Roofers
    I've seen my share of flat roofs on residential out in the dry desert Southwest but I didn't expect to see it in rainy Seattle. Roofers love the flat roofs because they are a constant maintenance issue and that means more $$ with callbacks. As the saying goes, most people who lived with a flat roof would never own another home with a flat roof. Especially in a snowy or rainy climate. Seattle being the latter.

    I also thought that PH requires overhangs to prevent overheating during the spring-fall? Overhangs are also nice to have to protect the exterior finish material and windows from rain weathering.

    The design is interesting but the flat roof with no overhang is something I did not expect to see with a PH in Seattle.

  8. Mike Eliason | | #8

    martin,the judges for

    the judges for architecture prizes are, generally, other architects (surprise!).

    overhangs aren't needed to prevent overheating on all PHs - this one has a rather ginormous and banal house to the south.

    also, seattle gets less rainfall than most major US cities - less than dc, boston, nyc, philly. even san antonio and austin get nearly the same amount of rainfall annually as seattle.

  9. user-1026988 | | #9

    Mike beat me to the punch.
    Overhangs aren't needed at all in any houses let alone Passive houses. Water management IS needed in both. Shading overglazed southern exposures is recommended to mitigate overheating. Which by the way is understated in the PHPP. It is a comfort criteria.

    Mike- I can design and build walls that 'lose virtually no heat' all day long , They just wont have any windows in them.

  10. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #10

    Response to Mike Eliason and Christian Corson
    Mike and Christian,
    Architects who like the look of flat roofs without any roof overhangs burden owners for the life of the building with increased maintenance costs, because siding will need to be refinished or replaced more often, and some wall components will rot prematurely. This is not a hypothetical; it is a fact.

    While Seattle may not be as rainy as some people assume, it rains a lot in Seattle -- enough to cause concerns about saturated siding for a house that looks like the one in this picture.

    Christian, you point out that "Overhangs aren't needed at all in any houses" -- a statement that may or may not be true, depending on one's definition of "needed" -- and then you go on to say that "Shading overglazed southern exposures is recommended to mitigate overheating." Let's hope that the glazing on the house in the picture doesn't lead to overheating.

  11. user-1109130 | | #11

    Flat Roofs Aplenty
    While I like sloped roofs and overhangs and frequently employ them in my own work, if you consider the total area of roofs in our cities (commercial, institutional, etc) there is way more low slope (I.e. flat) roof area than sloped. A properly detailed and installed membrane roof can be just as durable as a sloped roof. Add a green roof for UV protection, habitat, and stormwater management and you've got a beautiful extremely long lasting roof. As for shading and preventing overheating, a properly sized overhang can work well and is cost effective, but an operable exterior shade can provide much better control and allow solar gains in the shoulder seasons where it's often desired in our climate (I'm in Portland Oregon).

    I recently completed a certified passivhaus with flat roofs (covered with an ecoroof and 4.32kW PV array), no overhangs, and exterior shades. The siding is stained cedar over a generous rainscreen and designed to weather naturally over time. My windows are alum clad and my sills are stainless steel. You might think i'm a fool, but my soffits were cheap and easy to detail and build (since i have none) and I'm thoroughly enjoying my quiet 68F interior (we haven't turned the heat on yet this year).

  12. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #12

    Response to Jeff Stern
    You may be surprised to see the condition of your "stained cedar" in 20 years.

  13. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #13

    Posted on the Q&A page: a flat-roofed disaster
    A GBA reader just posted photos of a house with a flat roof and no overhangs. Warning: the photos aren't pretty. Here is the link:

  14. user-1031474 | | #14

    Response to Gordon
    I agree, ugly. Looks like a box with stripes, tiger in a box? And top heavy too!

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