Building Science Excellence Creates a Climate Haven

No water? No problem. This home checks all the boxes: energy efficiency, IAQ, water efficiency, and design innovation.

“Samish Solar Home” is a highly efficient, drought-resistant Net Zero Plus home designed by Powerhouse Designs and built by TC Legend Homes. It’s another classic Green Builder Green Home of the Year winner—this one’s in the new Extreme Heat Ready category—making TC Legend a two-time champion.

Project Stats

HOTY-2024-logoFName: Samish Solar Home, Bellingham, Wash.

Builder: Ted Clifton, TC Legend Homes
Architect/Designer: Talia Dreicer and Jake Evans, Powerhouse Designs

Interior Designer: Michelle Banks, Spiral Design Studios

Photographer: John Trax, Zigzag Mountain Art

Located in Bellingham, Wash., Samish Solar Home is also a certified U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH), ENERGY STAR and EPA Indoor airPLUS certified, and anticipated Built Green 5-Star certified. 

Samish 1 Solar Array

The green elements are overwhelming. Samish Solar Home includes 2,345 square feet of heated living space and is built using SIP walls and roof, and an ICF foundation for superior insulation and airtightness. It was also constructed using TC Legend’s tried-and-true clearstory design with extended eaves to allow for passive heating, cooling, and lighting. 

The house received a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index score of minus 20, and is a Net Zero Energy home with a 10.8kW solar array, Enphase micro inverters, and is battery ready. 


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According to TC Legend owner and project builder Ted Clifton, Samish produces enough energy to completely sustain the home and an electric vehicle (EV). The annual energy cost savings for this home is $2,432.

“Samish Solar Home was designed for clients who have a growing family and want their home to be resilient in a world where our climate is gravely impacting our day-to-day lives,” Clifton says. “It was important to [the clients] that they be able to harvest their solar energy and water, so that they don’t have to rely on the city or their well for utilities. This also aligned with our standard building techniques and goals which include creating a highly energy-efficient, healthy home that is built based on the principle of solar-guided design.”

Samish Solar Simple Plans

It wasn’t a simple project. When the clients purchased the lot, there was already an old permit and plan set in place. “We started out hoping to modify that plan set, but it would have resulted in too many adaptations and changes, so we had to scrap the whole thing and start from scratch,” Clifton says. “It was an important but challenging moment to recognize when it was time to start over versus trying to make the old plans work.”

To make the home as energy efficient as possible and create the best indoor air
quality (IAQ), TC Legend utilized hydronic radiant floor heating using a Chiltrix CX-34 heat pump and additional fan coil unit, a Fantech Hero 250 HRV with integrated HEPA filtration, all ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, LED lighting, and triple-pane windows. Aerobarrier air sealed the home down to 0.27 ACH50. A certified metal cool roof was installed to help with temperature regulation. 

Samish Solar Home has an added level of resiliency with its 28,000-gallon rainwater cistern that supplies the house and its fire suppression system with water. The rainwater is filtered through a sediment filter, activated carbon filter, and UV filter to ensure it is fit for domestic use. 

But even with the cistern, TC Legend wanted to make the home water efficient, and did so using all WaterSense certified plumbing fixtures. IAQ was ensured as top notch with installation of Greenguard Gold certified flooring, using low- or zero-VOC paint and finishes, installed humidistats and CO2 sensors that automatically boost the ventilation system. A separate Awair IAQ monitor measures CO2, humidity, VOCs, particulate matter, and temperature. 

Clifton adds that it was important that the finishes be locally sourced where possible.

Cabinets were made locally and the interior doors and trim are locally grown fir. The home’s Hardie siding, Vinyltek windows, Insulspan structural insulated panels (SIPs) and under slab expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation are also made just a short distance away.

The company did learn a lesson from this project. “We started construction during the wet season which meant we ended in the dry season,” Clifton says. “In the future, for a build this size, it would have been more advantageous to start construction in the dry season and ending in the wet.” 

Samish 1 Solar Array

The Samish Solar Home features durable walls with pre-painted siding, metal flashing and a timber-framed entry.

Samish Timber Framed Entry

Whenever possible, locally sourced products were used, such as locally grown fir, structural insulated panels (SIPs) and under slab expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam insulation.

Samish Rainwater Cistern

Samish Solar Home’s rainwater cistern supplies the house and its fire suppression system with up to 28,000 gallons of filtered water.

Samish 5 Loft and Fan Coil

The internal environment is maintained by a hydronic radiant floor heating downstairs and a fan coil unit upstairs.

Key Components

Appliances: All ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, Including LG washer/dryer set, GE Café range and fridge, Zephyr range hood, and Bosch dishwasher

Building Envelope: R-20 foam under slab, Nudura ICF foundation (R23), Neopor SIP panel walls and roof (R29 and R59 respectively), above-grade walls air sealed to ACH 0.27 with SIPs tape, and AeroBarrier

Cabinets, Shelves, Millwork: Locally made cherry cabinets

Caulks and Sealants: Milk Paint Co. Outdoor Defense Oil for the front door. Alex Plus low-VOC caulking throughout the house.

Countertops: Quartzite from Creative Stoneworks

Doors and Hardware: Fir doors and trim, clear coated in a low-VOC sealant. The door hardware is all lever-style handles for accessibility.

Electrical: Pre-wired for a backup battery system and (2) electric car chargers

Exterior Finishes: James Hardie pre-painted lap siding, metal flashing over exposed ICF foam and a timber framed entry

Fire Protection: Standard sprinkler system by XFire, fed by rainwater catchment and filtration system

Flooring: Abode Flooring Maple Greenguard Gold flooring

Garage Doors: Wayne Dalton 8500 Series (R16.22)

Home Controls: Fantech ECO-Touch Auto IAQ control that detects temperature, humidity, and VOCs

HVAC/Ducts: Chilltrix CX-34; hydronic radiant floor heating downstairs and a fan coil unit upstairs

Insulation: R-20 foam under slab, R29 SIP walls and R59 SIP roof, R19 between floor and sound wall fiberglass insulation, R21 exterior wall and roof fiberglass insulation where SIPs are not used (breezeway and sunroom)

Landscaping: The site is mulched to prevent erosion while clients landscape themselves

Lighting: All LED lighting

Paints and Stains: Sherwin-Williams zero-VOC paint

Plumbing/Plumbing Fixtures: All WaterSense-certified plumbing fixtures. The first floor shower is zero-threshold for aging-in-place.

Renewable Energy Systems (solar, wind, etc.): 10.8kW solar array made up of 36 Hyundai HiA S300-HG solar panels, with an Enphase microinverter on each panel to maintain maximum solar output even with shaded or damaged panels. The system is battery ready.

Roof: Certified ENERGY STAR metal cool roof from ASC Building Products with an SRI of 32

Ventilation: Fantech Hero 250 with built-in HEPA filter. Built-in humidity, temperature, and CO2 sensors.

Water Heating: Air source heat pump heats and cools domestic hot water. Backed up with a small on-demand electric unit for extreme use circumstances.

Windows, Skylights, Patio Doors: Vinyltek triple pane, low-e3 coated, argon-filled windows, with U-values averaging 0.16-0.18. There are no skylights to prevent possible leaks in the building envelope.

Other: A 28,000-gallon rainwater cistern, supplies the house and its fire suppression system with water.