Dwell Development Wants to Do to Multifamily What They Did for Single Family Housing

Dwell has been known in Seattle for changing the tapestry of single-family homes, and now they are breaking the norm for multifamily design with its NOCO project.

North of Columbia City (NOCO) is a new 54 unit multifamily Seattle project, for the Columbia City neighborhood. Dwell Development is taking its lessons in innovative design and new building products to bring a new hallmark for a part of the urban village zone (an area of the city targeted for high-density development and small-efficiency dwelling units [SEDU]).

Dwell Development

A four time winner of innovation awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Dwell Development is recognized because of their reputation for designing for comfort, energy efficiency (zero-energy), durability, and tenant health. Dwell focuses on a community first point of view, which extends beyond their pillars of sustainability.

We approach our design and development by thinking of the neighbors first and what makes sense socially, and then financially. Most builders make decisions by placing money first.

– Anthony Maschmedt

Ten years ago, Dwell began steps to changing the tapestry of sing-family homes in Seattle. In a market that only knew Craftsmen-style homes, Dwell unveiled a reclaimed modern design. The market has responded by paying a premium for Dwell properties, in some cases up to 20% more than comparables. Now, Dwell is taking their model of success into the multifamily market.

Redesigning multifamily

If we think about multifamily homes, it’s easy to put together a picture of our expectations (multiple stories, a single building, and parking underground). That’s why Dwell is so innovative, their NOCO project is disrupting the norm, featuring an open interior courtyard and exterior doors on each unit. The concept is to create more engagement, with the courtyard creating a community feeling; Maschmedt says it will be the feel of a European cafe with potted plants and vines, and consistent to Dwell’s widely popular reclaimed modern design.

NOCO and unique design

Size: The average unit size is 300 square feet, all units are studios. aschmedt says NOCO is attracting those that are looking to live in line with a style that is more minimalist, or those who prioritize eperiences over things, less consumption, and less materialism.

Transportation: There is no onsite parking. Flexcars and Cars to go will get a designated area while bike storage will be available in abundance. Uber and Lyft ride-share services will be given designated drop-off areas, and to help facilitate a more smart transportation mindset, NOCO will offer discounted rent to those with no car.

Mixed-use: NOCO features two commercial spaces for an espresso bar or restaurant, and a micro brewery or organic grocery store.

Free Wifi: This is staying ahead of the market trend of millennials cutting cable; a recent survey from Videology found just one-third of Millennial males plan to pay for television this year.

Landscape design: Although a relatively small lot and an increased floor to area design (FAR), special attention is given to permeable pavers, which reduce stormwater runoff. NOCO features potted plants and vines, modeled after a European courtyard theme.

Along with its unique design concepts, the project will unveil innovative energy saving products.

Innovation: Energy efficiency at NOCO

NOCO will feature advanced sealing technology. Maschmedt says, “The number one obstacle to achieving multifamily Passive House certification levels is the strict leakage requirement for the whole building and for each unit (compartmentalization). Our standard envelope is very good, and barely misses Passive House requirements for leakage. Getting to Passive House requirements has been cost prohibitive, but not anymore.” What is Maschmedt referring to? As of January 2018, Nerva’s advanced envelope sealing technology was launched, a GreenGuard Gold certified mist, that seals holes the eye cannot see, and allows builders and developers to achieve Passive House leakage requirements or better, and do so quickly, easily, and without disruption to the construction schedule.

We used it on a Dwell single-family project, so we decided to run a beta test, using it on a single-unit (compartmentalization) at NOCO; sure enough, the leakage went from 13 to .2, and we were blown away – literally! For some reason, the leakage stopped at .2, and we later found a four inch by three inch hole that was left behind by a somewhat reckless sheet rocker. Otherwise, the results could have dipped below a .1.

– Tadashi Shiga, Owner of Evergreen Certified, Energy Rater for Dwell

What is compartmentalization?

Also known as single-unit blower door testing, compartmentalization is sealing up gaps and openings between units. The IECC requires whole-building sealing, but does not require compartmentalization. Compartmentalization is a Passive House requirement. Each unit must meet or exceed 0.30 ACH50. It is also a requirement of LEED BD+C: Homes | v4 – LEED v4. The benefits include comfort, air quality, odor control, fire safety, and lower electric bills.

NOCO energy saving features include

Framing: 2×6 exterior wall framing, featuring special attention to the envelope and blown in cellulose insulation.

Windows: Triple pane, or three panes of glass, two of which have a low-e coating. The space between the panes is filled with krypton gas. 20-30% improved energy rating compared to double pane.

HVAC: NOCO features electric resistance heaters, which are used in warm air and hot water systems, and in heat pumps. They incorporate one or more heavy duty heating elements that are actuated by sequence relays on demand from the thermostat. The relays start each heating element at 30-second intervals, which eliminates surges on the electrical power system.

Lighting: NOCO features 100% LED lighting, including string lights above and across the cafe tables and chairs below.

Ventilation: Panasonic WhisperCeiling™ Fan – Quiet, Spot Ventilation Solution, 110 CFM. Bathroom, toilet and kitchen are the places with high concentration of contaminants.

Envelope Leakage: Superior leakage is achieved with a two-wall system, blown in cellulose insulation, and AeroBarrier advanced sealing technology.

Green certifications at NOCO

NOCO is designed with high standards for water and energy efficiency, superior air quality that uses low or no-VOC materials, durability and easy maintenance, and an engineered ventilation systems that helps create healthy indoor air. This thoughtful design and workmanship earns NOCO the exclusive 5-star certification from Built Green. Shiga says, “Sometimes we get a visitor to the property who inquires about Dwell’s air-tight design and its impact on health and indoor air quality. When building to the high standards of Dwell, the mechanical and ventilation systems are engineered, designed for fresh air and occupant health/comfort. As a matter of fact, indoor air inside a Dwell home tests healthier than outdoor air, with fewer particulates.”

If sealing air tight, be sure to vent it right.

– Tadashi Shiga, Evergreen Certified

The NOCO units average just under 300 square feet. Who is willing to live in relatively small spaces? So far, interest has come from couples and individuals who are downsizing, entrepreneurs, and people working in tech. Rents are between $995 – $1300.

Smaller spaces, superior energy efficiency, healthy indoor air, no car parking, extensive bike storage and ease of ride sharing, and a courtyard design to increase neighborly interaction. Could this be the trend for other multifamily developers to follow? Maschmedt says, “At Dwell we have always emphasized a structure that uses little or no energy, creates healthy indoor air, and lessens environmental impact. But, what about the carbon footprint of the occupant? Our vision is, offer a product like NOCO and marry a building structure that has a low environmental footprint with an occupant doing the same. Both occupant and building use fewer resources, without sacrificing comfort. In fact, we believe such a product will improve quality of life through more social interaction and less time spent in a vehicle — both of which are proven to promote well-being for people.”