Building an Eco-Fabulous Home: does it cost more than the new townhome down the street?

Building an Eco-Fabulous Home: does it cost more than the new townhome down the street?

So you have a goal for your next house…. sustainable and energy efficient. You want “eco-fabulous” for your family and for the environment.  But don’t green building products cost more to build with and is that goal too far out of reach?

Seattle Couple, Eric & Alexandra (photos courtesy of

Ask Eric and Alexandra of Seattle.  This Seattle couple was tired of throwing money out every month on heating bills in their Ballard apartment, so Eric and Alexandra begin house hunting.  They couldn’t find a house that fit their fancy and was within their price range.   So they did a whole lot of research, found the right floorplan and builder with a vision, and got creative!  Better yet, Eric and Alexandra decided to document every step of the process to help show other homeowners how building for energy efficiency may make you think harder, but learned that their end goal had a combined benefit both on the wallet and the environment.

3D House Design (photos courtesy of

Eric and Alexandra decided to go all the way “eco-fabulous” to build a net-zero energy home. What does net-zero energy mean?  Well simply put, the house will produce enough energy to sustain itself over the span of the year.  So for Eric and Alexandra, this means the net energy bill at the end of the month will be zero.  BAM- money savings #1, saving hundreds of dollars every month.  Money savings #2 came in the form of a Washington State energy incentive of $1,000 a month for 9 years.  And to top it off,  money savings #3 of 30%  Federal tax credit on certain portions of their energy-efficient products and amenities.

Breaking Ground, (photos courtesy of

Sound good?  Want to know how you can get started and what energy efficient products can help you reach incentives, tax credits and no power bills?  First off, Eric and Alexandra started with home plans from Zero Energy Homes, LLC and contracted with builder TC Legend Homes.  Then the efficiency of their home starts with the bones (aka the building envelope).  The house needed to have a well-insulated and airtight shell made of Premier structural insulated panels, SIPS. Well-insulated SIP homes have improved air quality and create a healthier and more efficient home.  They chose a rooftop solar panel that will produce nearly 6,000 watts of energy (even in the Seattle climate),  enough to power the home’s electrical needs. Water will be heated by an electrical heat pump that is also powered by the solar panels. No oil or natural gas will be used. Triple-pane windows, no-VOC paint, rain garden, and use of reclaimed materials are among a few of the other amenities chosen for this project.

First SIP Wall Up, (photos courtesy of

What is the total price of this highly energy-efficient project?  Eric and Alexandra bought the Ballard lot for $180,000 and are building the two-story house for $220,000 = total of $400,000! At the end, it will be about the same price as a townhome in the same neighborhood!

Once completed, this zero energy home will set the standard for performance in this Seattle neighborhood.  It could, however, be built on any street in small-town America and no one would be the wiser. No ultra modern, “out of place” structures here; just wise and comfortable homeowners, loving his or her beautiful and efficient home.

Follow Eric and Alexandra’s zero-energy journey, from receiving the building permit to raising of the walls…this couple documents everything during their process.  Commentary on opinionated views , pictures, videos…they include it all!

Zero-Energy House Blog:

Premier SIPS:  /


  1. ericandalex 12 years ago

    Thanks for the great article. We’re happy to report that the building costs (including the solar panels but not the lot, permits, and taxes) came to $210,000, rather than $220,000. (But we might spend that extra money on some upgrades, like hardwood floors upstairs and a covered front porch.) We will be getting about $9,000 back in the form of a federal rebate for the solar panels the first year and nearly $1,000 back each year for the next nine years as a solar production credit from Washington State. Plus, we will save about $200 a month by not paying any heating or electrical bills, which adds up to more than $70,000 over the course of our thirty-year mortgage if energy prices don’t rise (which they are almost certain to do).

    Our SIPs roof will be delivered and attached on Monday! We’ll post photos on our blog once the shell is complete.

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