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.
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
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