Ellis Residence

Perched high upon Yeomalt Bluff, the Ellis residence enjoys a commanding 180-degree view of Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline. The home is the first LEED Platinum home outside the city of Seattle. The single family residence houses two bedrooms and many flexible living spaces combining many functions such as living, dining, office, and media spaces.
Owners Ed and Joanne Ellis wanted to prove that sustainability can be achieved without compromising a modern aesthetic design and they
wanted to motivate others to follow suit. The Ellis are proud that their home is the first LEED Platinum residence outside the City of Seattle. The design limits its impact on the environment with a multitude of sustainable practices.
Through implementation of geothermal, photovoltaic, solar hot water, and advanced heat-recovery technologies this home has succeeded in reducing the energy consumption by more than 70 compared to a typical home construction. The home also makes use of rain water cisterns for irrigation of native landscaping and a vegetated roof. The projects ecologically small footprint was not just constrained to the construction of the new house. The site had an existing structure on it that the team deconstructed, effectively diverting 98 of its material from the landfill.

Design Innovation:
A key goal of the project was community outreach and education. This started with the owner and architect, but in order to be a truly successful project the contractor and subcontractors also had to be all in. Their willingness to be educated and alter decades worth of construction methods to better sustainable construction practices was paramount to the success of the project. Additionally, the increasing awareness in the community was a key goal to creating the ideal of sustainability; not just being a single project, but rather a project that fosters the next project and so on.

Overlapping programmatic use was also a key goal. Creating space that has multiple functions means an overall smaller footprint. That is why you will find the laundry appliances and clothing storage built into the master bathroom casework, and an office within the corner of the media room, or sliding and bi-folding doors that transform smaller spaces into larger gathering spaces that can be easily connected to the outdoors. Even more so, the homes roof becomes a vegetated garden patio – the ultimate get-away.

Hybrid spaces along with sound construction systems provide a unique and innovative residence that is a prime example of sustainability and a source of inspiration to the greater community.

Regional/Community Design:
The greater region of Seattle is a very eco conscious region of the US, but is still lacking in many built examples of green living. Moreover, Bainbridge Island is an eco-minded community looking to leaders in the community to provide examples green living. The initial vision of the owner was to build a home to create inspiration and education to the community. In order to achieve this, the owner provided five open-houses to the public, both during construction and after occupancy, for educational purposes. Their home has also been featured in numerous publications, on television, and home shows.

Land Use Site Ecology:
Much of the existing site was covered in turf and impervious paving. The site was rehabilitated with native and drought tolerant vegetation and pervious pavers. The crest of the bluff was restored with plantings to reestablish habitat and to prevent erosion. Extreme care was taken to preserve natural habitat and existing trees throughout the construction process.

A large rain-garden is integrated into the west side of the site, providing an on-site eco-system and habitat as well as collecting and filtering storm water runoff.

Care was taken during construction to reduce, contain, and treat any runoff pollution. The construction area was limited and filter fabric fence encircled the construction area. Also, a wheel washing station was provided for all vehicles leaving the site.

Bioclimatic Design:
The orientation and massing of the building was driven by site constraints.

A large east-west CMU spine forms a central thermal mass core for the house. This massive wall reduces temperature swings and is oriented in conjunction with operable skylights to take advantage of cooling techniques. In addition, this wall sets up a division between private and public spaces.

To the north, the private portion of the house is much more enclosed for climatic and privacy reasons with very specific views to the exterior.

To the south, the glassy public spaces have abundant natural light and views. To the east, the water side of the house, windows and doors open to allow the naturally cool breezes from the sound to temper the interior spaces.

A section cut through the building shows a two-story volume to setup a sense of entry but more importantly to create a stack effect for the building to naturally ventilate during the summer months and passively heat during the winter months.

Light and Air:
The integration of views and day lighting into the house are critical to its design concept. The unique site provides panoramic views over the Puget Sound: from Mount Rainier to Mount Baker with Seattle as the focal point. The site also overlooks the shipping channels evoking memories of the owners many years of service in the shipping industry. Every room in the house has a unique view to this setting or to gardens surrounding the home.

Window fenestrations also play a critical role in passively heating the house. South facing windows along with overhead skylights warm thermal mass walls and floors effectively warming the house even on a cold winter day.

In addition to day lighting and views, the operable windows and skylights accompanied by the heat recovery ventilation system, provide fresh clean air in all rooms. The operable skylights also provide efficient natural ventilation through the two-story core at the center of the house. Large bi-fold doors allow the living and dining rooms to seamlessly open up to the exterior terrace.

Water Cycle:
The water management system, designed by a licensed Civil engineer, utilizes a three point system of water filtration, collection for reuse, and outlet to the Puget Sound.

Storm water from building downspouts and site area drains is routed through an on-site rain garden and then collected in two 2 1500 gallon below grade cisterns. Finally, any overflow from the cistern is tight-lined to the adjacent sound. Collected rain water is pumped to hose bibs around the site for irrigation and other non-potable uses.

Landscaping also provides a critical role though the use of a 1400 square foot vegetated roof, drought tolerant native plantings, and drip irrigation systems when necessary.

All indoor plumbing utilizes high or very high efficiency fixtures according to LEED for Homes standards.

Precipitation Managed on Site: 100 of impervious surface storm water.

Energy Flows Energy Future:
Power grid energy consumption of the residence was a chief concern. Consumption was mitigated through reductions in lighting and appliance loads, and an integrated 4 kw photovoltaic energy generation system.

Fluorescent and LED lighting was installed to lower lighting density loads. Dimmable lighting controls throughout help the owners reduce energy used on lighting. All appliances are also Energy Star rated.

A creative mechanical system features the integration of geothermal energy, hydronic radiant floor heating, a heat recover ventilator, and solar hot water panels. The house is divided into 9 temperature zones for accurate mechanical system usage.

The house design also utilizes thermal mass CMU walls and concrete floors to stabilize temperatures, passive heat from south facing windows, and operable skylight stack ventilation for cooling. Overall this project will be approximately 70 more energy efficient than the average home.

Metrics: HERS Performance Rating: 41

Materials Construction:
The integrity of building construction focused on construction sustainability and waste management, building envelope integrity, and material durability.

The existing cabin and garage previously located on the site was hand deconstructed by a local salvage firm resulting in a 97 landfill diversion rate. Existing foundations were ground up and used as structural fill on other projects.

Before construction began, subcontractors created detailed lists of FSC certified framing and sheathing to more accurately place their lumber orders to reduce waste. Additionally, the contractor tracked all waste and recyclable material on the site to provide a 75 landfill diversion rate.

An innovative hybrid insulation system of closed-cell spray foam and batt insulation was used to provide maximum insulation performance and air-tight construction at an affordable cost. In addition, triple-glazed wood windows were installed throughout the project.

Untreated FSC certified hardwood rain screen siding assembly provides a low maintenance, moisture resistant cladding system. In addition to the hardwood siding, recyclable metal panels and CMU block comprise the remainder of the durable exterior envelope.

Interior trim and stair material originated from site-milled fir trees that were fallen from a neighbors property.

Long Life, Loose Fit:
The residence is limited in its future use adaptation. However, the project was conceived with durability, aging in place, and recyclability in mind. From the cladding selection, to aluminum clad wood windows, to metal and membrane roofing products, material lifespan and longevity was a primary focus.


Project Type


7268 Madrona Drive NE , Bainbridge Island, Washington, 98110,