Double-Sided Challenges


Green industry standards can be a challenge on their own, but add ADA-compliant design and challenges can reach another level. Using Central Washington Built Green’s guidelines, Nine Pine Developments and 4D Architects in Washington state created a Five Star Green home — the highest rating — that is ADA-compliant for a homeowner in a wheelchair.

“It was much more challenging to make it green and ADA. When you do ADA-compliant, you have to allocate more space. But one of the major aspects to building green is to not build more than you need,” says Ben Mulder, designer and principal, 4D Architects, Kirkland, Wash.

The house is located in a community where homes must be minimum Three Star-rated by Central Washington Built Green guidelines. Therefore, this home started out as a Three Star, but changed after plans were drawn. “It turned into a demonstration home, which is typically Five Star green,” says Travis Gibson, managing partner, Nine Pine Developments, Cle Elum, Wash. “It was up to the homeowner to set it up as a demonstration home. We put on a tour of homes, and then the home is open three weeks after the tour to allow contractors to showcase their work.”

Because it was a demonstration home, it required more management than a typical project. “I met with the homeowner when it was decided that it was to be a demonstration home and talked about the cost increase,” Gibson says. “Our goal was to see if we could meet budget and give them green products above and beyond. We saved in some areas and others were above budget.”

Green systems that were added to the project include: metal roof with an integrated solar panel system; solar hot water system; and structural insulated panels, to name a few.

Building Science

One of the first steps to building a green home is to look at the site. Built in an area where all four seasons occur, it was important to take advantage of the sun in winter, and shade in summer. “My take was how we could best respond to nature. Let’s start by designing to minimize exposure to cold, maximize exposure to sun, create areas that are shielded from the wind, and create ways for light to get into the house,” Mulder says.

The house couldn’t be positioned with only green in mind. They had to consider all the ADA guidelines, and how the homeowner was going to use the space, including the driveway. “The client wanted to negotiate the driveway in his [wheel]chair which puts limits on [its design], so it had to be longer and not as steep,” Mulder says. “And the garage and porch had to be on the same level, which posed some challenges in snow country — don’t want melting snow to get into the house.”

The house was sunk into the lot, which also helped protect it from the wind and keep the home at a moderate temperature. “Parts of the walls are in the ground. We took a slice off the top of the lot and put dirt in front and back,” Mulder adds.

The main living area was designed to take advantage of southern sun exposure. The winter sun warms this area, and is protected from the summer sun by a larger overhang.

Not everything within ADA guidelines made it difficult to meet green standards. Actually, much of the accessibility options added points on the green scale, says Chris Jansen, managing partner, Nine Pine Developments. “Concrete floors, which were a must for the homeowner, made it easy to do slab-on-grade and radiant heat,” he says. In addition, the home features automated upper windows similar to a clerestory. This fit into green guidelines for air ventilation as well as accessibility.

“I went with an aggressive architectural concept that I would not have tried on other people. It allowed me to do some unorthodox things.”
Ben Mulder, designer and principal, 4D Architects

Learning Curve

The homeowners had never been part of a custom home project, adding to a list of challenges faced on this project. Nine Pine Developments was more than the builder — it acted as researcher and educator to the
homeowners, too.

“[The homeowners] didn’t really know anything about green building. They didn’t know much in the beginning but they learned a lot,” Gibson says. “They did a lot of research but it was tough because they needed to keep up with the schedule and make decisions.”

The homeowners did research on their end by looking online and visiting showrooms, but Nine Pine gave a complete overview of each product to determine if it was valuable to the project. “It was our job to do the research and see if it would fit in the budget. And if not, what would the cost be,” Jansen says. “We did the homework and presented it to them.”


The success of its design falls on the clients’ willingness to do something different, Mulder adds. “I went with an aggressive architectural concept that I would not have tried on other people. It allowed me to do some unorthodox things,” he says.

By unorthodox, he means the roof, which contributed to the home’s green nature. “They allowed me to design a roof so it shed snow away from where they don’t want it,” Mulder says. “Snow won’t fall in front of any doors, or block patios.”

Mulder worked closely with the clients, especially in regard to understanding which accessibility features they needed. This included visits to the homeowners’ current home, which allowed Mulder to see what worked and didn’t work, as well as provided a reference point when discussing design for their new home.

In addition, Mulder worked closely with Nine Pine. Though this was the first time the two businesses worked together, both said it was a close and successful partnership. “We were pretty experienced in that area of the mountains,” Mulder says. “And these builders are also experienced in this area. We had a team: the owner, builder and us.”

Nine Pine Developments
Cle Elum, Wash.

4D Architects
Kirkland, Wash.

Name: Green Access at Suncadia
Location: Nelson Preserve,
Suncadia, Cle Elum, Wash.
Size: 2,770 sq. ft.
Cost: $715,000

Home technology:
Home control system: Ecobee Inc.
Audio/video distribution: NuVo Tech.
Security system: GE

Roofing: Custom-Bilt Metals
Siding: Cor-A-Vent
Brick/stone/stucco: Montana Rockworks
Doors: Hurd Windows and Doors,
La Cantina Doors
Windows: Hurd Windows and Doors
Locksets/hardware: Emtek Products
Structural panels: Simpson Strong-Tie, Premier Building Products
Garage doors: Amarr Garage Doors
Paint/stain: Cabot
HVAC: Rheem Mfg.

Tile: Oceanside
Brick/stone/stucco: American Clay
Fireplaces: Westgate

Cabinets: Sauk River
Faucets: Rohl
Range: Jenn-Air
Exhaust hood: Jenn-Air
Ovens: Jenn-Air
Refrigerators: KitchenAid
Freezer: KitchenAid
Dishwashers: Jenn-Air
Washer/dryer: Whirlpool Corp.

Cabinets: Sauk River
Tubs: MTI, Kohler Co.
Toilets: Kohler Co.
Showers: Rohl
Shower faucets: Rohl
Sink faucets: Rohl

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