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Clearwater Commons Building New Units

After our last two units sold, we are now starting construction of 3 bedroom units on our choice lots. These are the greenest, most energy efficient homes in Snohomish County. Occupying a small footprint at 1636 sq ft, they have views over our greenbelt and access to all of the amenities at Clearwater Commons.

Here’s a link to the floor plans. The rooms can be customized based on a personal preferences. Prices are based on market prices and finishes.

Take a look at our introductory video. And let us know if you are interested and would like to visit.

Construction has started on Unit 13!

Check out the pictures of the new construction at the Commons! One is even a time lapse of the framing of the first floor walls and the pin pile foundations.

Clearwater Commons Going ‘Built Green’

by Tom Campbell (unit 16/farmhouse)

Although the Clearwater Commons has always exceeded in its green building and site standards, for our next units we are going Built Green. What does this mean?


Phase 1 construction at Clearwater Commons

Built Green homes are designed to provide homeowners with comfortable, durable, environmentally friendly homes that are cost-effective to own and operate. These resource-efficient houses are crafted to exceed building codes and provide homeowners with years of healthy, quality living, while protecting our families and the precious Northwest environment. At Clearwater Commons, Built Green is a way to document our green building techniques and commitment.

The next unit to be built, #13, will follow the Built Green certification process. A local certifier who will document that we meet or exceed standards for every element of the building; all certifications will be verified by a third party. A major challenge is how to achieve a 5-star Built Green level while keeping costs low. We have spent considerable time this spring value engineering the specifications and using energy modeling software to develop trade-offs for how to go high level green inexpensively.

For example, each of our current units have a heat recovery ventilator.  At this time we are looking to use other insulation and heating methods to exceed current energy code by 30%.  Adding a hybrid hot water system, ductless mini-split energy method, plus a good insulation and sealing package will provide the energy efficiency at a greater savings.

Pins ready to drive into foundation blocks

Pins ready to drive into foundation blocks at Unit #5


Pin foundations ready for framing


Framing on finished pin foundations

A prospective owner at the Commons can steps in anytime during the construction process to add green components such as solar, heat recovery ventilators and other efficient appliances–go as green as you want. There are many new innovations in building science and our hope is to add ideas and experiments at the Commons. We’ve already demonstrated significant green benefits through our low impact development techniques. As a model low impact project, all of our stormwater is infiltrated, rain gardens support run-off, and paths and parking are pervious. Living along an endangered salmon run has also provided a laboratory for how building and stream restoration can go hand in hand.

We plan to partner with Built Green and other partners in Snohomish County to hold “behind the walls” tours at key stages of the building process. For now, we welcome prospective buyers to come visit us during the Green Home Tour (Sat. April 25, 11am-5pm) and get a close look at the unique property and buildings at the Clearwater Commons.


Unit #8 during construction

Commons’ PV Array Can Support 3 Electric Cars

by Eric Dolven (unit 5)

A couple of years ago, the Clearwater Commons installed a 9.2 kW socharging stationlar PV array on the roof of a shared building.  Since that time, two families have decided to lease Nissan Leaf electric vehicles and use the solar array for charging needs.  Of course the PV system is grid tied, so even if the array did not have the capacity to charge the vehicles, the energy would still be pulled from the grid.  However, I got curious about how many Leaf miles our array could fully support.  So here is the data.

The inverters we installed provide 1 year of on-board data logging, January 1 to Dec 31.  We currently do not download this data.  As a proxy, I simply looked at the inverters and noted that our 9.2 kW array produced about 9000 kWh of electrical energy in 2014.  If we had full, direct sun 24/7, that array would produce 80,592 KWh of electrical energy over the course of one year.  Given roughly half the year is night and half is day, the value corrects to more like 40,300 kWh.  And since solar intensity is roughly sinusoidal, and the average of a sin function over half a period is 2/pi (= 0.64), we could generate a maximum of roughly 25,800 kWh in a year.  So we have about 35% efficiency based on the 9.2kW specification.  This reduction is primarily a function of the cloudy weather in the winter months.  Functionally, the array is a 3.2kW system.

IMG_1162So back to the question of how many Leaf-miles the array can support.  To answer this, I have started monitoring the energy efficiency of our Leaf.  On average, the on-board computer reports our personal driving habits yield about 4 mi/kWh.  Based on this, the 9000 kWh annual budget provided by our PV system would allow us to drive 36,000 miles per year.  With a 12,000 mile limit stipulated in our lease agreement, this would allow three Leafs to be charged, fully supplied by our PV array.

Of course, there is a hitch.  The efficiency value I used is based on the car’s output; into how many miles does the energy stored in the batteries get converted.  Behind this is the issue of filling those batteries.  Charging is not a 100% efficient process.  If we charge the car on the 110V charger that comes with the car, we actually get 2.7 to 3.0 mi/kWh.  Using these numbers, the PV array can only provide 24,300 to 27,000 miles.  Closer to two Leafs.  The balance gets lost in the imperfect battery charging.  But the story isn’t over.  Charging with a 240V charger is much more efficient than with 110.  But right now, I don’t have a good way to measure the charging of the 240V charger.  So the true answer is that we could support more than two, but no more than three Leafs on our solar PV system.

An interesting side note is that if we use the solar p20150203_115526ower to fully charge those three hypothetical Leafs, it would save us 1200 gallons of gasoline each year (assuming cars that get 30 MPG).  That converts to roughly 13 tons of CO2 gas that is not being released into the atmosphere.

Green Home Tour & Free Workshops 2014

This Saturday – April 26, 11am-5pm – Clearwater Commons is featured as a site on the NW Green Home Tour. Come by to tour our homes, shop, gardens and creekside acreage. While you’re here, join our free workshops, scheduled throughout the day.

Free Workshops:

Adding the Solar Asset: Powering an Electric Car with a Solar Arraycharging station
11:30pm at the shop

This workshop presents the basics of setting up a photovoltaic solar array on your home to power an electric vehicle (or anything else). Using the Commons’ set up as a model, you’ll everything from getting State approval to prepping the site to maximizing rebates and tax breaks. Charging station available!




The Pin Foundation Advantage
2:30pm at unit 8pin piles 5

Most units at Clearwater Commons are built on pin foundations: a solid pin pile foundation that reaches deep into the ground without digging holes or pouring concrete. Simple to install, these foundations avoid excavation, thus reducing concrete use, saving fuel and precious topsoil, while preserving natural drainage.


Reclaimed Wood Finishes in Unit 5
3:30am at unit 5

Eric woodwork

Lower your consumer footprint and save money by using reclaimed wood throughout your house. Unit 5 spun stories into their finishes with antique Douglas Fir from a 1894 Poulsbo house, Madrona from a conservation easement on Vashon Island and a variety of species from an “urban sawyer” in Tacoma (to name a few). Come see the result while getting tips, advice and sources of wood.


What’s Up at the Commons

The warming temperatures, rain and turn of the season has things popping UP all over the place at the Commons. Frogs music’s turned up loud through both day and night.


peas creeping up toward the mini-B deck near the herb garden

native plantings along the W fenceline

native plants staked up along W fenceline, replacing blackberry & barbed wire


carrot canoe filled up with fresh soil, ready for worm castings then seeds


North Creek up almost as high as fall 2012 when the carrot canoe washed downstream to our shores

trellis soon to go up in the orchard

trellis soon to go up in the orchard, where there are several new trees, shrubs & berries


double rainbow up over (future) units 9-12; imagine living somewhere under a rainbow (or two)







The Salmon Return

by Bob Freeman

We recently heard that salmon were spotted in North Creek downstream from the Commons in Bothell. The water levels were a bit low and we were concerned that the fish would have a hard time swimming up to our neck of the woods. This last week, we finally saw some good rain and the stream levels rose.

Early in the week, Eric sent out word that he spotted one on the property. The next day, Tom reported seeing five in the quieter part of the stream on the west end of our part. Saturday, Shawna took me down during her regular Salmon watching time. (She is a volunteer “Salmon Watcher” for a multi-juristictional partnership of local cities and King County). Armed with a camera and some very silly cardboard salmon watching glasses — they are polarized and actually help cut glare on the water — we went down to the west end of the stream.

It was not long at all and we were rewarded by spotting 3 Coho salmon. I turned on the camera and even put one of the polarizing lens from my glasses in front of the camera lens. Take a look at the video below:

It is exciting to see them after all the restoration work that was done last year. The creek is now well suited for Salmon spawning. It is hopeful to see so many this year.
— Bob