Me-Kwa-Mooks Net-Zero

The transformative remodel of an awkward, poorly remodeled home within its existing footprint on a steeply sloped, triangular lot.

The design improved access to the home, connecting to views of the greenbelt and Puget Sound, while improving interior flow and on track to achieve  net-zero energy efficiency. 

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Located on a steeply sloped, triangular lot adjacent to Me-Kwa-Mooks Park, the existing house framed territorial views over Puget Sound but suffered from several ill-conceived additions and remodels. The house was also difficult to access–the driveway was steep and lacked turnaround space, and prompted visitors to climb a street-side circular stair to arrive at the entry door. The combination of the grade and triangular shape of the lot made changing the footprint impractical, and made working with the site limitations a necessity. 



The clients are young, adventurous, and willing to explore design solutions rooted in their experiences. Having lived in Japan they enjoyed both traditional and contemporary design elements, from the concept of the tea room to Studio Ghibli to contemporary Japanese architecture. They sought a balance of old and new, crafted and minimal. Both had been professional circus performers, bearing an affinity for open, dynamic spaces. While the existing house contained the rooms they needed, the space was fragmented, compromised by successive remodels and not taking sufficient advantage of their surroundings. What the clients desired was not more space, but better designed space–to live in rooms engaged with one another and to the outdoors.  



The solution was informed by designing around the central hearth and by reducing the jumbled exterior form of the house into two integrally linked volumes. The exterior relationship was carried into the interior, so the form is present both outside and inside the home. The result is a clearly legible exterior while on the inside the space is very dynamic, with volumes linked together through views and circulation.

Referencing client experience, the design solution coalesced around the idea of the “big top”, the main tent of a circus. Figuratively, the centrally located hearth served as the mast that pushed up a gable roof tent to create a large lofted space. Taking the analogy further, this tent sheltered three rings of program–dining room, living room and music room–under one big roof. Each space was organized around the hearth and corner windows that opened them to their immediate surroundings. The master suite sits in the upper atmosphere of the big top. In the office loft, one sits looking down over the three rings below and out to the forest and sea, the orange flue of the hearth expressed as the mast supporting the tent. Down the hall is a Japanese-inspired bedroom replete with tatami nook and Japanese soaking tub. Life as a three ring circus! 

On the exterior, the form of the house was distilled down into two intersecting forms–a metal volume and a wood volume. The intersection of the two occurs around the central hearth of the big top whose orange flue pins the two disparate forms together. Where they meet, metal-clad walls are pushed up to support the roof. A large, west-facing deck further stitches the wood and metal forms together, providing a social space to take in territorial views and connection to terraced gardens facing the forested park at the rear of the house.

A particular design challenge was posed by the entry sequence. Once a path without structure or clear organization, the entry was redeveloped as a sequence of interconnected spaces that brings a visitor form the street to the main level clearly, and with moments of movement and rest. At the street, an orange steel plate defines the first landing and start of the journey up the circular stair. At the top of the stair, one pauses before the next sequence of steps that arrive at a covered exterior bench where one can rest and enjoy the view. To create a sense of arrival within the home, a genkan (a traditional Japanese entry area) was located inside the front door with a bench and closet, with a clear view of the stair ascending to the main level of the house. 

Additionally, the constrained driveway made vehicular movement and parking difficult if not dangerous. Within the constraints of the site, the parking area was enlarged by removing raised planting beds, an exterior stair and increasing surface area with several shoring piles. The closed garage was converted to an open carport, providing more flexibility for maneuvering cars in the turnaround. 


  • High performance envelope with ACH of 1.2
  • Exterior insulation 
  • High Performance windows, GLO Triple Pane Passive House
  • High efficiency HVAC
  • Solar panels 
  • Dual electric car chargers


Current House Performance

Total Project Energy Use Index (Total EUI) = 10.3 kBTU/sf-yr

Grid Project Energy Use Index  (Total EUI) = 3.9 kBTU/sf-yr (this excludes energy offset by PV)



Heating cooling – High Efficiency Epoxy Coated 3 Ton Mitsubishi Electric Heat Pump 

Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) – Life Breath 205Max 

High Efficient Water Heater – Rheem Professional Prestige Hybrid Electric Heat Pump 

Low flow plumbing fixtures 1.75 – 1 GPM or less



System Size – 10.95kw

Power Offset – 71.6%

Approximate Cash Positive = 12.2 years (based off typical house and their usage)

(2) Tesla Car Chargers



Blower door test – ACH @ 50 Pa  = 1.23

Windows/Doors – Average Weighted U-Value = .19 

Exterior Wall R-Value = R24+continuous R8 (TOTAL = R32)

Roof R-Value = R65

Floor R-Value = R53++continuous R8 (TOTAL = R61)