They Reinvented Single Family Housing → Seattle’s Dwell Development Now Eyes Multifamily

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Known for changing the tapestry of single-family homes in Seattle, Dwell is breaking the norm for multifamily design with its latest project, NOCO

Dwell Development is bringing innovative design and new building products to a 54-unit multifamily Seattle project, named NOCO (North of Columbia City). NOCO is centrally located, in the Columbia City neighborhood; a part of the urban village zone — an area of the city targeted for high-density development and small-efficiency dwelling units (SEDU). North of Columbia City boasts one of America’s most diverse zip codes.

Dwell Development

Dwell Development is recognized as one of the most innovative builders in the United States; a four-time recipient of the innovation award by the U.S. Department of Energy and a reputation for designing for comfort, energy efficiency (zero-energy in most cases), durability, and occupant health. Beyond the pillars of sustainability, Dwell focuses on what is best for the neighborhood and community, or a values-driven approach to development. Dwell’s CEO, Anthony Maschmedt says, “We approach our design and development by thinking of the neighbors first and what makes sense socially, and then financially. Most builders make decisions by placing money first.”

“We approach our design and development by thinking of the neighbors first and what makes sense socially, and then financially. Most builders make decisions by placing money first.” Anthony Maschmedt

Dwell is known for changing the tapestry of single-family homes in Seattle. Ten years ago, in a market that only knew Craftsmen-style homes, Dwell unveiled a reclaimed modern design. The market has responded by paying a premium for Dwell properties, in some cases up to 20% more than comparables. Now, Dwell is taking their model of success into the multifamily market.

Redesigning multifamily

When one thinks of multifamily homes in an urban setting, it connotes an image of multiple stories, a single building, and underground parking. Dwell’s design for NOCO is disrupting the norm, featuring an open interior courtyard and exterior doors on each unit. The courtyard will help create community and neighborly interaction; Maschmedt says it will be the feel of a European cafe with potted plants and vines, and consistent to Dwell’s widely popular reclaimed modern design.

Unique design at NOCO

Size: The average unit size is 300 square feet, all units are studios. Maschmedt says NOCO is receiving a lot of interest from those wishing to downsize and live simple. This style of living is in line with the rapidly embraced Minimalist movement, or those who prescribe to a lifestyle that prioritizes experiences over things, less consumption, and less materialism.

Transportation: There is no onsite parking. Instead, there will be an abundance of bike storage, a designated area for Cars to Go and Flexcars. For easy trips around town, there is a designated drop-off area for ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft. As a means to encourage smart transportation, NOCO will offer discounted rent for tenants with no car.

Mixed-use: NOCO features two commercial spaces for an espresso bar or restaurant, and a micro brewery or organic grocery store. Tenants to be confirmed.

Free Wifi: This is staying ahead of the market trend of millennials cutting cable; a recent survey from Videology found just one-third of Millennial males plan to pay for television this year.

Landscape design: Although a relatively small lot and an increased floor to area design (FAR), special attention is given to permeable pavers, which reduce stormwater runoff. NOCO features potted plants and vines, modeled after a European courtyard theme.

NOCO is the testing ground for innovation. Along with its unique design concepts, the project will unveil innovative— energy saving products.

Innovation: energy efficiency at NOCO

NOCO features products that are new to the market, or in some cases, not tried previously. Innovative products featured at NOCO include AeroBarrier and Silk Road solar thermal technologies.

In the past, solar thermal water heating was prohibitive due to pipes freezing in cold months and exploding during warm months. NOCO has overcome these barriers by implementing solar thermal designed by Silk Road Environmental. The company’s innovative design preserves piping integrity, even during the most extreme weather.

Along with innovative solar thermal technology, NOCO will feature advanced sealing technology by AeroBarrier. Although NOCO is Dwell’s first multifamily project, they plan is to do more in the future, and Maschmedt is considering Passive House certification. But, there are obstacles in doing so, Maschmedt says, “The number one obstacle to achieving multifamily Passive House certification levels is the strict leakage requirement for the whole building and for each unit (compartmentalization). Our standard envelope is very good, and barely misses Passive House requirements for leakage. Getting to Passive House requirements has been cost prohibitive, but not anymore.” What is Maschmedt referring to? As of January 2018, advanced envelope sealing technology was launched by AeroBarrier, a GreenGuard Gold certified mist, that seals holes the eye cannot see, and allows builders and developers to achieve Passive House leakage requirements or better, and do so quickly, easily, and without disruption to the construction schedule.

Tadashi Shiga, Owner of Evergreen Certified, is the energy rater for Dwell. Shiga says, “The AeroBarrier results were amazing. We used it on a Dwell single-family project, so we decided to run a beta test, using it on a single-unit (compartmentalization) at NOCO; sure enough, the leakage went from 13 to .2, and we were blown away – literally! For some reason, the leakage stopped at .2, and we later found a four inch by three inch hole that was left behind by a somewhat reckless sheet rocker. Otherwise, the results could have dipped below a .1.” (AeroBarrier fills holes as small as a human hair, and no larger than a half-inch)

What is Compartmentalization?

Also known as single-unit blower door testing, compartmentalization is sealing up gaps and openings between units. The IECC requires whole-building sealing, but does not require compartmentalization. Compartmentalization is a Passive House requirement.  Each unit must meet or exceed 0.30 ACH50.  It is also a requirement of LEED BD+C: Homes | v4 – LEED v4.  The benefits include comfort, air quality, odor control, fire safety, and lower electric bills.

NOCO energy saving features include:

  1. Framing: 2×6 exterior wall framing, featuring special attention to the envelope and blown in cellulose insulation.
  2. Windows: Triple pane, or three panes of glass, two of which have a low-e coating. The space between the panes is filled with krypton gas. 20-30% improved energy rating compared to double pane.
  3. HVAC: NOCO features electric resistance heaters, which are used in warm air and hot water systems, and in heat pumps. They incorporate one or more heavy duty heating elements that are actuated by sequence relays on demand from the thermostat. The relays start each heating element at 30-second intervals, which eliminates surges on the electrical power system.
  4. Lighting: NOCO features 100% LED lighting, including string lights above and across the cafe tables and chairs below.
  5. Ventilation: Panasonic WhisperCeiling™ Fan – Quiet, Spot Ventilation Solution, 110 CFM. Bathroom, toilet and kitchen are the places with high concentration of contaminants.
  6. Envelope Leakage: Superior leakage is achieved with a two-wall system, blown in cellulose insulation, and AeroBarrier advanced sealing technology.

Green certifications at NOCO

NOCO is designed with high standards for water and energy efficiency, superior air quality that uses low or no-VOC materials, durability and easy maintenance, and an engineered ventilation systems that helps create healthy indoor air. This thoughtful design and workmanship earns NOCO the exclusive 5-star certification from Built Green. Shiga says, “Sometimes we get a visitor to the property who inquires about Dwell’s air-tight design and its impact on health and indoor air quality. When building to the high standards of Dwell, the mechanical and ventilation systems are engineered, designed for fresh air and occupant health/comfort. As a matter of fact, indoor air inside a Dwell home tests healthier than outdoor air, with fewer particulates.”

“If sealing air tight, be sure to vent it right.” Tadashi Shiga, Evergreen Certified

The NOCO units average just under 300 square feet. Who is willing to live in relatively small spaces? So far, interest has come from couples and individuals who are downsizing, entrepreneurs, and people working in tech. Rents are between $995 – $1300.

Smaller spaces, superior energy efficiency, healthy indoor air, no car parking, extensive bike storage and ease of ride sharing, and a courtyard design to increase neighborly interaction. Could this be the trend for other multifamily developers to follow? Maschmedt says, “At Dwell we have always emphasized a structure that uses little or no energy, creates healthy indoor air, and lessens environmental impact. But, what about the carbon footprint of the occupant? Our vision is, offer a product like NOCO and marry a building structure that has a low environmental footprint with an occupant doing the same. Both occupant and building use fewer resources, without sacrificing comfort. In fact, we believe such a product will improve quality of life through more social interaction and less time spent in a vehicle — both of which are proven to promote well-being for people.”

About Dwell Development

With more than thirteen years experience building homes in the greater Seattle area, Anthony Maschmedt is an advocate for sustainable design and green construction. He continues to push the envelope in the sustainable community with innovative construction methods that have positively influenced city building practices. As a lifelong Seattleite, Anthony has a deep commitment to creating communities that bring together like-minded individuals who value sustainability and modern design. Anthony has served as the Chair on the Board of the Master Builder’s Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Built Green Residential Building Program for the last three years. He is a key member of the Columbia City Business Association and is sought after in the Seattle sustainable community to promote and share Dwell Development.

About AeroBarrier

AeroBarrier is being called the most innovative building product from the past decade; building science professionals are embracing it as the most significant envelope-sealing breakthrough in recent years. AeroBarrier seals holes as small as a human hair and as large as 1/2 inch, improving acoustics and reducing outside particulates and pollution from entering a building area. AeroBarrier makes it easier to meet the stringent leakage requirements of ratings and standards, including LEED, Passive House, ZERH, and the 2015 IECC. AeroBarrier is GREENGUARD Gold certified and a Green Certified Product by the NGBS. AeroBarrier is the result of 5 years of research and development at University of California, Davis.

About Silk Road

Silk Road Environmental was launched in 2009 to address the need for affordable, environmentally friendly products. Products are designed by Silk Road Environmental, for the North American Market. Services include design and installation. Silk Road Solar, a division of Silk Road Environmental, has been involved in the largest solar hot water systems in Washington State and Idaho. We have provided systems as far away as Haiti, and coast to coast in the USA.Silk Road Solar solar water heaters utilize solar tubes that are more efficient at heating than photovoltaic solar. The advantages of a vacuum tube system are easy to installation, cold weather functionality, no glycol, less wind resistance, and no south facing sensitivity. Headquarters is Centralia, WA.


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