One of the islands off the coast of Washington, Lopez Island, has seen rising land prices, which in turn, has put the squeeze on teachers, health care workers, and others in need of affordable housing.  In an effort to help, Mithun partnered with the Lopez Community Land Trust to create eleven economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable homes.  These homes are now complete and the community, Common Ground, is absolutely incredible.  The net-zero energy homes feature some of these green elements:

Lopez_site plan


  • Small footprints designed to reduce energy and resource use;
  • Overhangs for heat gain in the winter and shade in summer;
  • Vegetated trellises designed to shade lower windows;
  • Super insulated walls and roofing;
  • Straw bales at north, east, and west walls;
  • High efficiency, operable windows;
  • Solar shades on window interiors;
  • Insulated night and light shades at windows;
  • Concrete floor as thermal mass;
  • Energy Star appliances and CFLs;
  • Low flow plumbing fixtures;
  • Solar hot water heating and power from a 33.8 kW photovoltaic system;
  • Rainwater catchment for toilet flushing, washing machines, and stormwater control.  

In addition to the eleven homes, Common Ground also has two apartments and a small office space.  The total project cost, together with the cost of land, was $3.5 million. 

Notably, LCLT owns the underlying land in order to keep the home purchase affordable.  At the same time, homeowners are subject to a limited equity resale formula — a community element that also maintains the affordability of homes in perpetuity for future residents. 

Rainwater is captured and reused in toilets, laundry, and irrigation, while on-site food cultivation supports the health and sustainability of community residents.  Residents know exactly what's going on because each structure reveals water and energy use information.  All the pieces seem to come together nicely at Common Ground to create a refreshing picture of an integrated, low-impact, sustainable community. 

[+] Net-Zero Energy Neighborhood Opens on Lopez Island.






Photo credits: (c) Mithun, Juan Hernandez; renderings: (c) Mithun.