“We always believed that having a house can be comfortable, green, stylish, and affordable at the same time,” says Millie Leung, of her newly completed “green” home in Bellevue. “We did an experiment for ourselves, as a platform to exchange ideas and educate the public.”

Completed in October of 2010, the “Green Concept Home” is a 2840 sq. foot house incorporating the latest eco-friendly features into a modern, innovative home that is also remarkably cozy. Husband and wife team Millie and David Huang (who is also the architect) began the venture in 2009 and offered free educational tours of the house during construction to provide a glimpse of what might be the future of home-building.

The “Green Concept Home” is the first single-family residence in Bellevue, registered under the internationally recognized “LEED for Homes” green certification program, which recognizes the top percentile of homes that demonstrate environmental responsibility. The home is also registered under the “Built Green” program, a regionally recognized environmental agency.

The exterior of the house is an impressive display of contemporary design, featuring sharp angles and lofty, strategically placed windows. The exterior exhibits a sense of proportion and balance. On the inside, the rooms exude a zen-like simplicity in the use of space and light. In keeping with their Asian-inspired theme, Leung notes that much of the house uses bamboo wood, which, unlike wood used in traditional homes, minimizes the impact on the environment because of its rapid growth cycle. Whereas wood in traditional homes derives from trees that have an extended growth period, bamboo trees mature rapidly, making it an ideal material for eco-conscious homes.

Some features of the house include:

  • Structured insulated panels – which is a very thick insulated wall. Traditional homes use wooden pieces so that there are a lot of gaps for heat loss.
  • Rain water collection – this collects rainwater from the roof into an underground tank which holds 1700 gallons. This form of collection uses rainwater for toilet flushing and irrigating the lot. It’s the first house in Bellevue to use rainwater for indoors and outdoors.
  • Solar hot water heater – this is located on the roof. A panel collects solar energy and heats up the water for showers and indoor water use.
  • Heat recovery ventilation (HROV) – this takes fresh air from outside, which goes through a high efficiency filter. A heat exchanger extracts heat from the house and exchanges it with fresh air. This saves energy and results in better air quality.

Regarding the cost of “green-friendly” homes, Leung notes that eco-conscious homes are more expensive than traditional homes in the short-term, but save money in the long-run.

“We find that yes, in a way, initial investment is higher, but long term is good for the environment.”

Over time, the cost of eco-friendly homes is expected to be lower as the demand for eco-conscious homes increases. However, a current relatively lower demand for eco-friendly homes prevents them from penetrating the housing market.

Leung says, “We’re hoping that it will become the standard but it will take some time.”

Further developments in the eco-friendly market include solar hot water and solar electricity. “The reason why we didn’t equip the house with solar energy is because it’s still not efficient.” Currently, solar electricity is estimated at 20 percent efficiency, which makes it less than ideal as a power source. But, Leung notes, the house is pre-wired for solar electricity in the case that it becomes more efficient in the future.

As Leung says, it will probably take some time before eco-conscious homes begin to dominate the market. In the meantime, people can raise awareness of the need for eco-friendly homes by attending educational tours, asking questions, responding to green builders, and attending events on the topic. Only by educating ourselves on the environment can we realize the importance of eco-conscious homes in society.

Information about the home can be found at the website: http://www.greenconcepthome.com.

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