Last June we announced the zHome community designed by David Vandervort Architects, a target zero-energy community in Washington that is one of many springing up across the country, changing the way communities are planned and developed. Since World War II spawned the era of suburban living, the Levittown model has been the trajectory along which so many communities across the country have gone. Now with sustainability and ecologically conscious design being at the forefront of many architects’ practices, it makes perfect sense for whole communities to take the leap as well. But what does that mean for the lifestyles of its residents? And does this make an exclusive neighborhood where only some are willing or able to comply. Follow us after the break for more.
zHome is built in a transit-oriented development east of Seattle in the suburban area of Issaquah Highlands,Washington. The architects of David Vandervort Architects (DVA) were concerned with preserving the urban nature of the community as it already existed; but in addition to the amenities afforded by compact urban living, they were interested in adding privacy and residential community ties that many people associate with suburban developments. The architects prioritized the functional aspects of the development with the goal of making it an efficient and sustainable community – compact and integrated with technology that could provide the development with clean and renewable energy from heat pumps and photovoltaic panels, while also supplementing energy conservation with passive design.
One of the prominent aspects of the design is the “Solar Courtyard” – a space that engages both the social and ecological concerns of the project. DVA desired to create a community that was in touch with its context, but also close-knit among the inhabitants within the community. This kind of thinking was what gave zHome the shared common space, focused around an interior courtyard and street facing views that engages the public and passersby.
While public space was an essential component to building social ties, privacy was also an important aspect of the project that DVA had in mind. Each dwelling unit has a living area located on the second floor with decks and porches. The ground floors have the option of opening out into the courtyard and blending the space between private and public gathering. On the contrary, these same spaces can be closed and secured from neighbors for additional privacy. Flexibility is vital for this kind of development, giving people the option for social and private time is essential for balancing relationships between neighbors and establishing boundaries within a healthy community.
To provide residents with the cleanest and safest environment, DVA relegated all vehicles to the periphery of the development and congregated garages and vehicle amenities into one area on the northern edge of the site. The strategy is two-fold: practically, this provides residents with security from the traffic of the street and the dangers associated with it and socially, it encourages people to meet and interact when crossing the courtyard on foot whether or not they arrived by car. The design also encourages residents to use electric cars by providing parking and charging stations for these vehicles in particular.
The community is designed to harvest rainwater and store and share it among the dwellings. Stormwater is collected and filtered through the community areas to avoid overflowing. Ground sources wells provide heat and hot water to be shared among all the dwellings. Recycling, waste disposal and gardening is located in a single shared structure where compositing and shared resources can enrich the life of the community garden.
The technical specifications for the project were considerable: providing enough roof area to general the required photovoltaic energy, selecting appropriate fenestration and glazing areas, providing proper ventilation and thermal mass for high insulation. DVA were concerned with not letting the technical specifications overrun the design of the project. It would seem that they were successful in providing a social atmosphere and blends with the technical requirements of the community and providing residents with enrichment based on sustainable design strategies. Also, be sure to check out SOL Austin in Austin, Texas designed by KRDB, another sustainble and affordable community development currently on the market and proving to be successful. Architects: David Vandervort Architects Location: Issaquah, Washington Configuration: 10 unit townhouse development Floor area: 13,162 square feet Site area: 17,424 sq. ft. Landscape Architect: Darwin Webb Landscape Architect Mechanical Engineer: Stantec Civil Engineer: 2020 Engineering Structural Engineering: HSV Engineers Interior Design: LH Design Developer/Contractor: Ichijo USA Photography: Aaron Ostrowsky