Article No: 280

2010-09-24 11:15:58
Pristine Panoramic View
By: Larry Storer

One of the most peaceful views in the country may be from an estate sitting on the highest point of Camano Island, Wash., with an unobstructed 270-degree view of the San Juan Islands, the Cascade Mountain range and the Olympic mountain range. This pristine setting, the homeowner said, offers glorious sunrises and peaceful, relaxing sunsets. Camano Island is 55 miles north of Seattle, and can be reached by car.

The Louis Saekow Estate, constructed with Reward Walls insulated concrete forms (ICFs), has a total footprint of just more than 9,750 square feet " 7,925 square feet of living space, a 625-square-foot attached and conditioned garage, and a detached 1,200-square-foot garage.

To take full advantage of the views, large windows dominate the first floor, which has 12-foot ceilings; and the second floor, which has 11-foot ceilings. In order to provide the durability required by the weather, while at the same time allowing for large windows and doors, ICFs were the best choice of building material.

Builder Ben Lazowski of P&P Construction Inc. on Camano Island and Mount Vernon, Wash., said it took just 120 days to complete the ICF installation out of the 600 days of total construction. Because of the constant prevailing wind, extra bracing and twice daily inspections were key to a house with perfect walls.

As the architect, Louis Saekow designed the house as a Mediterranean estate with large pillars and numerous arches. Large open spaces were also a necessity on the interior of the home, along with barrel ceilings and other intricate ceiling treatments.

As the owner, Saekow had some goals in the construction project. It was his desire to build an estate rather than just a house. The cornerstone of an estate, he said, is longevity and durability.

This home was designed and built to last more than a lifetime, he said. It needed to outlast all of the surrounding structures to earn the title of a true estate. The permanence of ready mixed concrete and ICFs were definitely the best option to achieve this lofty goal.

Hardscaping with ICFs
The property is surrounded with 600 linear feet of landscaping and privacy walls constructed with 15,100 square feet of Reward Wall ICFs. Some 220 feet of the wall has gentle S curves designed to blend in with the landscape. The entire wall is topped with a continuous concrete mushroom cap along the entire wall.

A radius wall for the back landscaping wall presented some challenges, but Lazowski said a little extra time and persistence really paid off. The ICFs were chosen for the wall because architect and owner Saekow didnt want to see the mortar lines of the typical CMU block construction in hot and cold weather.

The Sound and the Fury
While the home is beautiful, its not just another pretty face on this breathtaking island location. This estate stands up to some of the harshest weather in western Washington with winds sometimes hitting 90 miles per hour. In fact, the greatest challenge to building the estate, according to builder Lazowski, was the wind. Saekow agreed.

During construction, after the house was closed-in against the elements, one can feel the extra quiet of the house structure and even the strangely warmer temperature inside despite the lack of a working HVAC system in the depth of winter, Saekow said during construction.

As Ben has indicated, we live on Camano Island, Wash., and though the view is nothing short of breathtaking, the wind really kicks up here quite strongly and often throughout the year. After a particularly stormy week, my next door neighbor (who also moved into her newly stick-built house around the time that I moved into my home) told me that she had gotten so scared by the forceful sound of the storm howling through her house that she and her husband escaped to their basement.

Well, in my Reward (Reward Walls) house, except for the slight rattling of the bathroom vents and vibrations of the many large picture windows, if I were not looking at the swinging trees, I would not have known that we were in the middle of a storm!

Saekow said the neighbors husband, who frequently inspected Saekows house when it was under construction, has ruefully told me that he wished he had built with ICFs instead of wood studs. Hey, knowledge is king!

Interior Supports ˜Estate
The front entry has a 12-foot ceiling with a circular coffered effect that is lighted with a center-placed chandelier. The floor has a marble inlay to match the circular pattern from the ceiling. Straight ahead is the formal dining room, complete with large view windows and an elegant fire place.

Left off the entry is the guest master bedroom, complete with a walk in closet and marble shower. This bedroom also has a private patio that looks east at the Cascade mountain range. Next to the guest master bedroom is a laundry room that leads into the attached garage.

Right off of the entry are stairs to the second floor, followed by an enormous kitchen, living room with a built-in entertainment center, game room and theater room.

Right at the top of the stairs takes you into Saekows huge office with built in shelving and desk. The office leads into the master bedroom with exquisite views to the south and west. The master bedroom has a 110-inch projection screen that is hidden in the crown molding; large his and hers closets; and a master bath with a jetted tub, steam shower, and double sinks. A second-story sunroom is also incorporated into this bedroom with panoramic views.

Left off of the stairs leads to two other bedrooms and a second laundry room. A covered patio and sitting area finish off the upstairs.

Flooring choices throughout the house are high-end as well. Living areas and bedrooms are bamboo. Bathrooms, showers, laundry rooms, dining room and entryway are travertine stone, and the master bathroom is slate.

Energy Prices Uncontrollable
According to Lazowski, the estate was designed to be energy efficient and environmentally friendly while maintaining the luxuries that modern technology provides. Energy efficiency is one of the most obvious priorities of building with ICFs.

Like many people, the owner realized that energy prices were uncontrollable; customers are forced to pay the energy rates set by the companies themselves, Lazowski explained. To limit these energy costs consumers must simply use less energy, and thats why ICFs were the clear choice for this home. The owner expected to lower the estates energy use by 60 percent thus reducing energy and satisfying his second major objective.

With energy prices being uncontrollable, ICFs help customers limit those costs by simply using less energy. A smaller heating and cooling system can be used to achieve the same efficiency in an ICF home than a larger HVAC system in a stick-build home. This on-average will save a customer about $1,500 a year. This can be determined by performing load calculations before the home is started.

This house uses a combination of dual heat pumps with dual furnaces, all meeting high-energy efficiency concerns. The pair of state-of-the-art electric heat pumps generate heat for the house when the outside temperature is higher than 38 degrees, and two propane furnaces with blowers take over when the outside temperature is lower than that.

The house was finished in late 2008 and after a year of living in the house, Saekows average monthly electric bill is $135 and his average monthly propane bill is $145. More specifically, his total one-year usage of electricity was 19,433 kilowatt-hours and his total one-year propane usage was 1,188 gallons.

His neighbors, who live in stick-built homes that are around 2,500 to 3,500 square feet " much less than half the size of his home " pay almost exactly what he pays for electricity and propane combined. Considering cubic footage, instead of just square footage, its even more impressive because the ceiling height downstairs is 12-foot-4 and the upstairs is 10-foot-7. None of his neighbors have a house with ceilings over 9 feet.

Maintaining Quality
P&P Construction (, which has been building with ICFs for more than a decade, had twice daily ICF inspections.

Quality control has always been very important and P&P strives to teach all of their employees the importance of accuracy and efficiency, Lazowski said. Because we typically build the home from the foundation through the finish work, our employees understand the importance of being accurate all through the project.

The Louis Saekow estate demonstrates the extreme you can put ICFs to, Troy Gibson, LEED Green Associate at Reward Wall Systems ( said. It was built at an extreme location with extreme winds and potential for extreme storms, as safety and durability of the home should always come first.

The sheer size and style of the Saekow Estate shows future homeowners that this industry can build anything, and build it safer, faster and better. Building with ICFs truly is ˜sustainable because this home will still be standing for future generations to marvel at these building concepts.