Capitol Hill Goes Green with New Eco-Friendly Town Houses

To see how these Capitol Hill homes are cleaning the city—just look up!

With iron gray siding and ultramodern facades, the three town houses on 18th Avenue and E Spring Street, designed by architect couple Tiffany Bowie and Joe Malboeuf (Malboeuf Bowie Architecture;, initially read more contempo condo than eco-friendly. But ascend the glulam beam staircases within each one, and you’ll see how the roof decks of this infill project on Capitol Hill epitomize smart growth. “We always have a green angle to our projects,” Bowie says. “We believe part of building is doing it responsibly, trying not to waste materials and preserving water.”

The roof decks, ranging from 350 to 450 square feet, feature concrete pavers, installed by Fulcrum Landscaping (, and sedum garden plots that are laid out on a pedestal. Rainwater drains through an exposed scupper and gutter system to water the properties’ ground-level planters. “The soil acts as a natural filtration process,” Bowie says. “All the roof water goes through to the rain gardens [along the foundation], and the excess flows back into the city sewer system as clean water.”

The project achieved a Built Green 4-Emerald Star certification through the Master Builders Association due in part to the green roofs. The program offers design incentives, such as extra square footage, for builders to incorporate green elements into projects.

The town houses’ modern, C-shaped cedar and iron gray exterior belies the eco-processes at play up on the roof; photo: Andrew Pogue Photography

The City of Seattle has also implemented specific requirements for eco-sensitive landscaping since its 2007 adoption of the Seattle Green Factor: a scoring system that helps improve and increase urban landscaping. With goals ranging from mitigating the heat island effect to decreasing crime, the program requires developers and homeowners to incorporate features such as green roofs, rain gardens and vegetated walls into their projects.

Tenants of town house B, Chris Thompson and Sanjin Alajbegovic, have built on Bowie’s sustainable foundation by converting one of their sedum plots into a vegetable garden. “We tend to focus on plants that require minimal watering and can be sustained through the rain, like arugula and bok choy,” Thompson says. The deck also serves double duty as the couple’s unofficial living room. Alajbegovic says, “When the weather’s nice, we’ll spend the whole night up here.”

Architect: Malboeuf Bowie Architecture,
Pavers for decks and landscape: Fulcrum Landscaping,

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