Our Lot, Before Construction

Hi. We’re Alex and Eric, and we created this blog documenting the building of our house in Seattle for family, friends, and anyone else who might be interested.

We just completed our 1915-square-foot, 3-bedroom, single-family home on an empty lot in Ballard. A true net-zero house and the first of its kind in Seattle, this Energy Star certified, 5-Star Built Green home produces as much electricity from the sun as it uses over the course of a year. By keeping the design simple and minimizing expensive finishes, we were able to keep the cost of building down to $124 per square foot ($114 after rebates and solar production incentives), which includes the 6kw solar panel system, taxes, and permits. Given that the average cost of construction in Seattle is $200/sf, we think our project demonstrates building green need not cost more than traditional construction. In addition to its energy-saving features, the house also incorporates reclaimed building materials and water conservation systems. Since moving in last September, we have been enjoying the home’s radiant floors, clean indoor air, and abundant sunlight. Now that we have settled in, we hope to play a role in inspiring others to build or retrofit existing Seattle homes to the net-zero-energy standard.

About the Ballard Net-Zero-Energy House

Owners: Eric Thomas and Alexandra Salmon

Designer: Zero-Energy Plans, LLC (zero-energyplans.com)

Builder: TC Legend Homes (tclegendhomes.com)

Site Address: 612 NW 60th St., Seattle, WA 98107 (Ballard)


1,915 square feet, single-family, 2 stories, 3 bedrooms + work loft, 2 bathrooms, concrete slab foundation, radiant heat floors, Hardie plank siding.

Green features:

Structural Insulated Panel construction, air-to-water heat pump, 6kw solar electric (photovoltaic) system, triple-pane windows, passive solar design, rain garden, stained concrete floors, reclaimed fir floors, recycled fixtures, zero-VOC paint, low-waste engineering, low-energy LED and CFL lighting, capacity for additional solar panels to power an electric car 5,000 miles per year.




15 thoughts on “About

  1. It will be really informative (and fun) to watch the progress of your home building. Will you be including any background on what it took to get all the blueprints, approvals, loans, etc. that led up to the first shovelful of dirt being moved? That’s a part of the story too.

  2. Love it when people don’t just speak or dream about things, but actually do them!! You are my idol, Eric! I’m gonna be sharing your experience with a lot of people, especially my students, hoping your initiative will inspire them too!
    Congratulations, my brother, and tha best of luck!

  3. We feel privileged to have seen your dirt pile in person last February. The location in Ballard is gorgeous. Way to go. You’ve got an amazing vision, too. What could the bank think of next? Whatever, you’re equal to the task, and in the meantime, roll with the punches and stay sane. I guess it helps to have a social worker in the family. Love from the parents!

    • Thanks for your interest in the project. We didn’t use a mechanical engineer per se. Rather, the designer of the house, Ted L. Clifton of zero-energyplans.com, also designed the mechanical systems, with some input from the engineering team of the manufacturer of the air-to-water heat pump, Unichiller. Tim Garrison of constructioncalc.com was the structural engineer who signed off on the house plans and provided materials specifications. The city of Seattle was somewhat taken aback by a house that was built almost entirely of SIPs panels, but after Tim provided a letter of assurance, they issued the permit.

      • Love your web site!
        Here in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, there is not much of a permitting process and certainly few municipal regulations, but it is great to see that Seattle is willing to see the future. I know from talking to the guys at Insulfoam and Premier Building Systems that they have been instrumental in helping regulatory agencies to understand the new building technologies that are turning old construction paradigms on their head!
        You guys are doing an awesome thing! I would be very interested in learning more about your house plans and your zero-energy design. Very cool to watch your progress online.

  4. We’d like to do a feature on you and your project on the KUOW radio program the Conversation with Ross Reynolds. Please shoot me a note with contact info when you have a moment.
    Love the project!

    • Hi Owen,
      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m a daily listener of the show, and my wife and I would love to come on to talk about our project. I’ll send an email to you with our contact info.

  5. Hi Eric (and Alex),
    Loved finding your website and catching up with what my captain has been up to. It appears that this project is in good hands with Eric at the helm, and will continue to be steered clear of rocks and other dangers, to the safe harbor of net zero energy. Do not get discouraged if you are forced to luff up or header because of an unexpected headwind, just try to keep those navigational buoys in sight, and remember! NO LOOSE ROPES ON DECK!

    • Hey Jason,

      It’s great to hear from a former Windrush crew member. Thanks for your encouragement–and for enough nautical metaphors to sink a battleship! Is it true you’ve set up your own law practice? Good for you! I’d be interested to hear about what you’ve been up to lately.

  6. Excellent job on keeping things as simple as possible to reign in costs. Could you share who the mechanical contractor was? I am looking for one interested in more than just the standard forced air systems.

    • Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I took a look at your site, and your work is very impressive.

      Our general contractor, Ted Clifton of TC Legend Homes, was the one who installed the heat-pump/radiant floor system.

      Feel free to get in touch if you want any more details about the installation.



  7. Hello, I stumbled across your site today while searching for eGauge & Sunergy and am intrigued by your story! I haven’t read very much of your analysis, but out of curiosity, the “cost of building” of $124 /$114 per sq. ft. means the cost separate from the land purchase right? That’s what I assumed but I was just making sure. Way to go!

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