West Seattle Net Zero

  • Square Footage
    1,500 (including garage)
  • Location
    Seattle, WA
  • Structural Engineer
    Todd Perbix
  • Photography

A compact, net-zero home in Seattle built to endure.

Maintaining a compact footprint, this home was designed to maximize efficiency, privacy, and greenery.

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Maintaining a compact footprint, this home was designed to maximize efficiency, privacy, and greenery. Situated in the middle of the city block, with a tall home to the south and a home with a PV array to the north, the lot presented challenges for a net zero home. Wishing to maintain privacy for all neighbors without blocking sunlight to the northern neighbor, the home is tucked carefully into the site–placed on the north side and dug down into the earth–to maximize both the sense of space around the structure and the natural light for the home’s large PV array. The homeowner also emphasized their wish to, in the future, have the flexibility to place a DADU or tiny home on the site. A noteworthy environmental element is the use of a non-infiltrating bio-retention tank to collect rain and stormwater, filter it, and then apply it to the landscaping. 


Working from a program diagram provided by the client, SHED collaborated to refine the program size and shape to arrive at a compact, two-story house placed on the north half of the lot. Despite the restrained size, SHED was able to incorporate an open-plan kitchen, living and dining area, a flex room to be used as an office or guest room, two bathrooms (master and guest), and a garage ample enough for an electric vehicle, bike storage, and trash room. The program is stacked, with the living, kitchen, and dining area over the flex room, facing toward the street, and master suite over the garage, facing the alley. 

An idea offered by the client was the Japanese concept of ‘Shibui’, referring to a particularly restrained, simple, and unobtrusive aesthetic. The client wished to maintain a small footprint, and SHED followed this vision by creating a refined, elemental, minimal home, with an elegance but few superfluous touches. In addition, the client requested a reverse story plan so the main living level had privacy, security and prospect over the street. The client’s primary mode of transportation is by bike, so easy bike access on and off the lot was also paramount. 


The home was set back from the street to preserve a cherry tree and to create a sense of privacy and distance from the public realm. Concrete site walls cut through the raised yard at the street, anchoring the house in the lot, and defining the entry sequence by guiding you to the front door, 

Where the wall continues into the stair–the outside is brought in at the entry. That design impetus is echoed in the lower floor plan the elevation creates, allowing the base level to meet the alley at grade for car and bike access.

Privacy guided the location of interior spaces, developing the idea of controlled, diagonal views from inside the house to the outside. This is exemplified by the sliding doors located in the main space, on either side of a wall that blocks the view of the neighbor’s house to the south. From inside, one looks diagonally SE and SW over the yard to the street or alley, visually directed to serene landscape and trees rather than adjacent buildings.

The building was pushed/pulled to create a covered entry on the east, facing the street, and a covered west-facing deck on the upper floor–the central stair is at the center of this push/pull.  Though elevated, the living, kitchen and dining area remains connected to the site. In the summer, sliding doors open the space open from floor to ceiling, giving the room a sense of opening to the outside. Design decisions like these lend the small footprint a large volume, feeling generous in the most-lived areas. 

The project has a strong roof form, both to accomodate a large PV array and to protect against  the elements. Though the home opens fully on the upper level to the west deck through large patio sliders, it is well protected below the large roof overhangs. 

Creating a robust and restrained net zero home anchored to the street and alley, the design simultaneously creates a place that feels voluminous and private, open to surrounding greenery and amenable to quiet reflection. 


  • Glo windows — Euro PH-certified windows for high thermal performance
  • Over-insulated and thermal bridge free envelope
  • Electric boiler 
  • Whole house water filtration
  • In-floor hydronic heating
  • All LED fixtures
  • Water-sense certified fixtures 
  • Durable and maintenance-free metal envelope 
  • Formaldehyde-free panels in casework
  • Stormwater mitigation, bioretention