Award-Winning Young Professional Shares Insights on Green Building

Filed in Awards, Sustainability & Green Building by on October 10, 2019 1 Comment

A pioneer of net-zero energy home development, Anthony Maschmedt, principal and founder of Dwell Development in Seattle, is constantly spreading his wealth of knowledge about green building best practices at events around the country. Maschmedt chairs the board of the Built Green program, which is part of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties, and is a key member of the Columbia City Business Association. He was also recognized with the 2018 Best in Green “One to Watch” Young Professional of the Year Award.

Maschmedt boasts countless achievements when it comes to building homes with zero net energy consumption, including the 2018 U.S. Department of Energy Housing Innovation Award and the 2018 Sustainability Leadership in the Built Environment Award. He shared with us his insights on the green building industry and what’s to come.

NAHB: What major changes have occurred in the past decade in the high-performance home space?

Anthony Maschmedt: Not enough has not happened, unfortunately. I thought there would be more change and a stronger push for building highly energy-efficient homes.

That being said, there have been many technological advancements in product innovations, including efficient heating and cooling, insulation, and high-performance windows.

In the past 10 years, smart-home technology has come a long way. The market has made huge strides in terms of managing all the different systems in a home. There are a lot of companies doing exciting work in the technology space, and Dwell Development loves partnering with innovators pushing the envelope with smart technology.

NAHB: What is the biggest hurdle for your design team when incorporating green practices and features?

Maschmedt: Since we’ve been at this for such a long time, through trial and error, we have tried every type of system, so we have worked out the most cost-effective way to build net-zero energy homes. Overall, though, I would say the biggest general hurdles have to do with city regulation and permitting.

For example, we had a senior site inspector challenge us on our HRV installation at final inspection. [HRV stands for heat-recovery ventilator, which improves indoor air quality, especially in tight building envelopes, by removing stale indoor air and replacing it with fresh, preheated air from outside.] We’ve installed hundreds of these units, and this inspector had seen them but never knew what their function was or how they worked. Instead of just asking us, he failed us on final inspection.

We provided him with the current code, and he still didn’t budge. So we took up our position with the director of the planning department at the city of Seattle. It became apparent that since we were the only builder installing these at the time, we needed to educate and share the concept of HRVs with the city, so they could better understand their function and use.

It was a great opportunity to inform, initiate change, and allow a fast-growing city such as Seattle the ability to support innovative ways of bringing fresh air into newly constructed homes. These standard HRV details are now used by all builders in Seattle who install HRVs. Ultimately, it was a big win for everyone.

Downtown Kirkland 5-Star Built Green Home. Photo courtesy of Dwell Development

NAHB: What advice would you have for builders looking to start building more sustainably?

Maschmedt: Just do it. But seriously, it’s the right way to build a house. The knowledge, systems and technology are here and readily available. I would say that younger, newer builders will have an easier time starting from the get-go with sustainable building practices.

I am also an open book and happy to share my knowledge and best practices; I wish every builder would build with efficiency in mind. If you’re getting started in the space, just give me a call.

Updates to the building code will eventually put us where we need to be, but we might as well get there now. This would allow for more homes that use a fraction of the energy of a code-built home to be on the market and reduce the carbon footprint of development by leaps and bounds.

NAHB: Any predictions for the green building industry for the next five years?

Maschmedt: I think that solar will be standard in every new building; there’s no reason it shouldn’t be already. I also think we’ll see an uptick in solar thermal — hot water — installs. Additionally, every new home will be managed with smart-home technology. Basically, my major prediction is that solar and smart-home penetration will grow exponentially.

This post originally appeared on the Best in American Living blog. To read the full question-and-answer session, including Maschmedt’s business tactics and strategies, click here.

To stay current on high-performance building, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building team on Twitter.

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  1. Tim Droney says:

    The race to design and build the most efficient green home is an interesting exercise, but it has lead to diminishing returns to the point of absurdity. There is no application of cost-benefit for these systems and little thought to the cost of maintenance and future replacement.
    As each jurisdiction ups the ante on energy efficiency the rapidly disappearing middle class is being left behind, unable to purchase the current crop of green homes.
    We have a crisis in housing affordability in this country which is being given lip-service by those who approve of the march to net zero. California is the poster child of this green movement, with an ever growing homeless population and increasing exodus of mid-income residents leaving the state for less expensive housing options. As the net-zero craze that started in California spreads across the county the cost of housing will continue to go up and the middle class will be relegated to older, less efficient homes- effectively putting energy efficiency out of reach for the people who could most benefit from it economically. For a high-income family to save $100 a month on an energy bill means little compared to someone making $40-50K a year.
    As a designer and builder I make reasoned decisions on materials and methods in my construction projects and am constantly doing cost/benefit analysis for the various systems. The ever increasing requirements in the building and energy codes require us to use products that meet those codes but have small incremental value to the end user in annual energy savings. It would be nice to see these issues addressed as often as the next platinum LEED home or building. The NAHB should be insisting that the ICC do cost/benefit on every code update, and asking how these updates are beneficial to the population at large.

    Tim Droney
    Droney & Associates, Inc.
    Ojai, CA

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