Triple Net-Zero Design Uses Sustainable Infrastructure to Rebuild a Resilient Town
Every fall, the residents of Hamilton, Washington, wonder the same thing — will the Skagit River crest its banks and pour water into their homes and businesses? The answer to that question has been “yes” 25 times in the last century, resulting in Federal Emergency Management Agency flood recovery costs of more than $10 million.
Regional sustainability non-profit Forterra had a big idea: create a new Hamilton Center in concert with nature using highly sustainable infrastructure. After securing an option to purchase an urban growth area above the flood plain, they brought us on board to conduct a feasibility study and conceptual master plan for infrastructure, land planning and net-zero analysis centered on a stunningly resilient town center surrounded by attainable homes. With leadership from our community designers backed by input from our engineers, environmental scientists, sustainability experts and architects, the outcome is a plan for a triple net-zero community that provides residents an option to affordably move to higher ground.
Sustainable Infrastructure Supports a Circular Economy
Triple net-zero focuses on achieving net-zero energy, net-zero water and net-zero carbon within a circular economy framework. The feasibility study imagines features like rooftop solar panels for energy, anaerobic bio-digesters to process food waste into fertilizer and a community greenhouse to contribute to the resilient, sustainable approach. Using Hamilton’s rainy climate to support the circular economy, rain and other wastewater could be reclaimed and reused.
Triple Net-Zero Design Lowers Development Impact and Builds Connection with Nature
By minimizing resource use, the plan for Hamilton improves viability of land development. More than half of the development area is protected as natural land, using design elements that help to recover the ecosystem. The plan maximizes efficiency to make triple net-zero design a feasible part of an affordable housing project.
The sustainable design also protects Hamilton’s neighboring sea life and environment. A collection of agencies coming together to buy out residents who choose to move is also committed to cleaning up flood sites to protect the river’s salmon. The river is the passage to and from the Salish Sea for more than half of Puget Sound’s Chinook salmon — the primary source of food for the region’s struggling Orca whale population. Options for the development include creating a connection with nature through boardwalks across the landscape buffers to wetlands and a nearby stream, as well as habitat passages for elk to pass through the community.