Lake Washington School District honored for sustainability

Champions of Sustainability: The Lake Washington School District: Forrest Miller, Traci Pierce, Brian Buck

Champions of Sustainability: The Lake Washington School District: Forrest Miller, Traci Pierce, Brian Buck

McKinstry is recognizing the Lake Washington School District as a “model of Northwest sustainability and environmental stewardship,” with its Champion of Sustainability award.

The district was honored during the Sept. 27 Seahawks game at CenturyLink Field.

In partnership with the Seattle Seahawks, the annual Champions of Sustainability program recognizes one organization during a regular-season home game that exhibits  innovative energy and waste reduction in the built environment.

What did they do?
In 2006, LWSD adopted a resource conservation management  program focusing on energy efficiency, water conservation and waste reduction. Since then, the district has saved $9 million in utility costs despite having increased its buildings’ square footage and number of students.  Electricity use has fallen by 20 percent and natural gas consumption is down 30 percent. Conservation-minded students also helped trim the district’s waste disposal budget by 42 percent.

LWSD also has the largest solar energy capacity of any school district in the state, at 615 kW – enough energy to power about 60 homes. The solar panels at Finn Hill Junior High alone account for 355 kW.

Geothermal heating systems have been installed in its new high schools and several elementary schools. Because the temperature underground stays constant throughout the year, geothermal systems that circulate water through the ground can heat schools using much less energy than standard systems.

Rain gardens and other sustainable stormwater management practices at schools save LWSD $64,000 annually, as compared to traditional water treatment systems. The measures also reduce the concentration of pollutants funneled into local waterways.

Last year, the district renewed its commitment to sustainability by launching powerED, a behavior-based program designed to bring new levels of effort and tools to conserve utilities, increase efficiencies and promote sustainability in LWSD schools.

About the Champions of Sustainability Program:
McKinstry’s Champions of Sustainability program is part of the Defend Your Turf campaign, aimed at water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction, and community involvement within CenturyLink Field and Event Cente,r as well as in terms of its impact on the city.

For more information on Defend Your Turf, visit

About McKinstry:
McKinstry has implemented a number of facility-wide energy conservation initiatives at CenturyLink Field and Event Center, including the installation of one of the largest solar arrays in the state, mechanical system upgrades, high-efficiency lighting and ultra-low-flow water fixtures. These upgrades make the stadium a national model for sustainable sporting facilities.

McKinstry is a full-service, design-build-operate-and-maintain (DBOM) firm specializing in consulting, construction, energy and facility services.  For more information, visit

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There’s gold in your gray water

An inside look at the rainwater capture system's holding tank

An inside look at the rainwater capture system’s holding tank

Along with a new age of sustainability comes new interest in gray water recycling and rainwater capture systems.  These systems capture water from your house’s bathroom sinks, showers and rainfall then reuse it to irrigate the lawn and flush the toilets.

The engineering behind the effort can be tricky, but in the simplest terms it goes like this: water from the “gray water sources” gravity-flows into a collection basin. A pump in the basin then pushes the water through a filter and disinfection array and into a storage tank.  The water in the storage tank is periodically circulated to keep it clear and bacteria-free. Finally, a pressure controlled pump automatically delivers recycled water to your irrigation system when your irrigation timer activates. It’s simplistically complex.

Whether on a household level or a commercial level, many have decided to invest in the water conservation effort.  Gray water recycling and rainwater capture systems can save 50 to 70 percent of a family’s monthly water usage. You’ll save that same 50 to 70 percent on your water bill.

How much does it cost to install? Do-it-yourself systems start at $3,500.  Systems for average sized homes start at $11,000.

To learn more, visit

A small, home-installed system

A small, home-installed system



A 10,000 gallon holding tank for a rainwater capture system being buried underground at the Santa Monica Library


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NFL strikes gold with new 49ers’ stadium

Levis StadiumThe new home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers has achieved LEED Gold status, a first for an NFL stadium. Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, has many green features, including a green roof, solar-paneled pedestrian bridges and a solar-paneled roof deck. But, its most crucial green feature may be the state of the art grey water system.

Up to 85 percent of all water used in the 68,500-seat stadium comes from recycled water. A recycled-water pressure booster system taps into the Santa Clara Valley Water District water recycling system, eliminating the need to use freshwater to flush toilets and irrigate the natural grass field and green roof.  The system is powered by Bell & Gossett brand pumps.

“A recycled-water pressure booster system ensures adequate water is available when everyone goes to the bathroom at one time, like halftime at a football game,” said Mark Handzel, Vice President, Product Regulatory Affairs, and Director, HVAC Commercial Buildings.

The stadium’s water assessment estimates the recycled-water pressure booster system will save over 42 million gallons of water per year. And there are twice as many toilets in Levi’s Stadium as were in Candlestick Park, the 49ers’ former stadium.

The stadium uses highly efficient building systems by Bell & Gossett, including:

  • The centrifugal pumps were selected for the recycled-water pressure booster system.
  • The Rolairtrol air separators, Series 60 inline pumps, 1510 end suction base mounted pumps, and VSX double suction pumps were chosen for the hydronic systems.
  • A brazed plate and GPX gasketed plate, and frame heat exchangers were selected because of their high thermal efficiency for the condenser water system.

The Levi’s Stadium will host Super Bowl 50, next year, on Sunday, February 17, 2016.

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Need a building? You’ve got some new options

The following post is by Alaska Structures:

Much has been said about sustainable construction methods and how beneficial reclaimed and recycled materials can be to reduce the carbon footprint of a home or commercial construction project.  However, often overlooked are the many non-traditional building alternatives that provide an energy efficient shortcut to a complete building.

Shipping Containers

shipping container

Highly durable and too often wasted, these hulking containers aren’t just for subterranean bomb shelters anymore. DIYers and construction experts have been creating beautiful, functional, and livable buildings out of industrial shipping containers for several years now and we’re thrilled with the results.

By reusing the massive metal containers for home construction, homeowners are able to enjoy sturdy walls, cool interiors, and endlessly expandable layouts. While working with standard shapes may feel limiting, many experienced container builders have found ways to create ventilated rooftops and innovative, expansive rooms using multiple container sections, as well as beautiful outdoor decks and living spaces.

While it takes a lot of hard work and logistical planning, the benefits of designing a custom home without the need for producing additional materials will provide a level of satisfaction beyond what typical sustainable building practices often provide.

Tensioned Fabric Buildings

tensioned fabric building

Perhaps some of the most versatile structures available today, a high-end tensioned fabric building can sometimes outperform even a brick and mortar structure in terms of durability. These buildings can withstand significant snow load and high winds, will remain intact during natural disasters, and help lower insurance costs.

High-end fabrics can provide insulation and security in any climate on earth and some manufacturers go the extra mile with HVAC systems, electrical connections, and other custom options. The lightweight nature and ease of installation make these fabric buildings a great option for organizations on the move, but with so many foundation options, there’s no reason why you can’t install your fabric structure in place for good.

Worried about meeting building code? Depending on where you purchase your fabric building, the company’s engineers may be able to meet or exceed various building code requirements mandated by your city or state governments.

Modular Buildings

modular building

Shedding the misnomer of “pre-fab” buildings, modular constructions aren’t just for the temporary construction site, and are not like the double-wide trailers of 40 years ago. Entire hospitals, apartment complexes, and even hotels are being built using modular practices. By using modular methods, major projects have found success with reductions in construction time, site preparation, and shipping costs.

The production of modular buildings is more efficient, so they are a much more eco-friendly solution when compared with traditional construction. The construction industry accounts for about 40% of the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. By using off-site manufacturing methods, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme suggests that construction site waste can be reduced by as much as 90%. Off-site construction also requires less heavy machinery use during the assembly process, further reducing emissions during the construction.

Modular buildings aren’t just greener during construction either – many modular constructions come with super efficient HVAC systems, zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and glass walls/open office layouts that utilize more natural light.

Alaska Structures has manufactured fabric buildings for industrial and commercial applications around the world since 1975.

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Seattle Lowrise Zones Now Have a Passive House Incentive to Add Floor Area

The following post is by Joe Giampietro, AIA, CPHC, NK Architects

11th and Republican PH Multifamily Rendering

On July 6th, the Seattle City Council passed a number of revisions to the low-rise zone land use code, including adding Passive House as a way to achieve floor area ratio (FAR) bonuses.

A FAR bonus allows for an increase in building height relative to the area of the lot. Passive House efficiency principles lead to significant energy savings, increased project value, and improved health and comfort for those that live there.

Although this was a minor addition to an otherwise hotly debated set of low-rise zoning updates, this addresses building energy use in a practical and cost effective manner. It is a big move in the right direction.

With the addition of Passive House to the other “green” incentive programs, including LEED Silver, Built Green 4-Star, and the Washington Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards for affordable housing, Seattle has started down the road of recognizing and providing incentives for truly high-performance, low energy design strategies.

Next on the list of legislative actions, the Passive House community is working with the Seattle City Council to consider expanding the Passive House incentive to include both current certification agencies, PHIUS and the Passive House Institute. We have successfully lobbied City Councilman, Mike O’Brien’s staff to include this adjustment in the “omnibus” zoning legislation. The expansion language is currently wending its way through the Council approval process and will be voted on later this summer.

We anticipate that this action will serve as a model for other changes in zoning legislation in Seattle as well as in cities and towns in throughout the Northwest. Let’s take a moment to celebrate one small step in this process!

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How to prepare for the LEED exam

The following post is by Jess Foster:

iStock_000063149081_DoubleCongratulations on your decision to pursue a LEED Credential. These are the most sought after credentials in the green building industry by employers. A new study by Burning Glass Technologies shows that demand for LEED Green Associates and LEED APs has grown 46% in the last 12 months, so you’ve picked a great time to join in on this growing marketing need.

Your next step is to prepare for the LEED Exam. Here are some basic things you should know before selecting an exam prep program or materials:

1. Decide which credential exam to pursue:
There are several credentials you can earn based on your profession and your goals in the green building industry. I recommend looking at the USGBC site (the creator of LEED) or resources prepared by their recognized Education Partners like GBRI. Make sure to download the candidate handbook to understand eligibility requirements, registration and scheduling details.

2. Decide whether to study by yourself or sign up for an exam prep course:
Studying on your own can be challenging given the amount of material covered on these exams. Or, you can sign up for a LEED prep course. A quick Google search will show plenty of paid exam prep providers. Make sure the provider you choose is approved by USGBC or are USGBC Education Partners.

3. Choose an exam prep provider and course style:
Depending on your availability and schedule, there are several ways to prepare. There are live online classes where you attend for a month or so; on-demand only access courses where you watch sessions at your own pace; and in-person classes where an instructor teaches at a physical location. Make a selection that is right for you and your situation.Since the new LEED v4 test was released recently, you should carefully make a selection when registering for an exam prep program. An ideal exam prep course will include:

  • Narrated study materials/tutorial with option to download audio files
  • A study guide that you can print
  • Flash cards
  • Section or category quizzes (look for quizzes with answer explanations)
  • Simulated Mock Exams (at least two)

4. Study-study-study:
I recommend studying in a group or with a partner if you can. Finding someone to study with for your exam has many benefits. Some exam prep providers also provide group discounts, making it easier for your colleagues to join you in the pursuit of a credential. If you do chose to study independently with the support of a providers prep program, you’ll want to have a roadmap or plan to ensure you are staying on track and are covering all the material efficiently. Some USGBC Education Partners programs will include a recommended roadmap for you, taking even more of the guesswork out of studying.

5. Take MOCK exams:
Make sure you are completely prepared leading up to your LEED exam by using a trusted provider’s mock exams. This is your best gauge to ensure you will successfully pass the exam on your first try. This also gives you a targeted way to complete your studies and preparations based on the areas you find you are most lacking in during the mock exams. Once you successfully pass the mock exams you can feel confident going into the real thing.

Author Bio:
Jess Foster, GBRI Blog writer, studied history at Furman University, where she encountered the concepts of green living and sustainability for the first time. In her leisure time, she enjoys photographing the wildlife in her backyard and playing with her two Shetland sheepdogs.

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Seattle fills a few tree pits with Flexi-pave

Demonstration of Flexi-pave installation

Demonstration of Flexi-pave installation

K.B. Industries installed a new material called Flexi-pave around several trees in Seattle to demonstrate its use for trees in business districts. The company has provided the material to the city free of charge to show how it works and train local contractors to install it. Flexi-pave can also be used for trails and sidewalk projects.

Flexi-pave has been installed at eight trees along Pine Street – between Second and Third avenues – and at five trees in McGraw Square.

Here are some of the advantages of using flexible porous material in tree pits:

• A safe, stable surface for pedestrians
• Allows air and water to pass into the soil to keep street trees healthy
• No weed or debris removal
• Cheaper than traditional tree grates

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After a nine-year cleanup, Port of Everett site is a winner

ESY Before and NowThe Waterfront Place Central cleanup at the Port of Everett was named the Environmental Project of the Year by Washington Public Ports Association.

The site is a 65-acre former industrial property in the heart of the port’s 2,300-slip marina, which it says is the largest public marina on the West Coast. The site will become a new mixed-use development with public access, retail, commercial space and housing. Construction is expected to begin on that in 2016.

Between 2006 and 2015, the port has done cleanup projects across the 65-acre site, removing nearly 150,000 tons of contaminated soil, remediating groundwater plumes, dredging sediment from the bay, and removing failing bulkheads and other old creosote-treated wood structures.

Strider Construction did the upland cleanup, and Magnus Pacific did the in-water cleanup.

The port worked with Ecology to divide the 65 acres into six separate cleanup sites, with the ultimate goal of creating a new waterfront destination in Everett. The final, major cleanup at the site will be complete this month.

Port officials say Waterfront Place will unify the marina and surrounding property to create a unique community.

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New earthwork blooms at 1250 Denny


“ALL RISE’s 2421 Miles,” is a new site-specific 52,000-square-foot earthwork by New York artist Molly Dilworth at 1250 Denny Way, the future site of Seattle City Light’s Denny Substation.

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture says it uses over 400 cubic yards of dirt and 182 pounds of wildflower and grass seed to create a living “urban meadow.” There are 14 individual garden beds, each with a specific colorway.

The work is based on pattern studies from national flags, corporate logos and traditional patterns found along the sea trade route between Seattle and New York.

The city said Dilworth has traveled between New York and Seattle as a freelance worker for a global technology company. The work is named for that commute – the number of miles between the airports of Seattle and New York – made possible by modern global trade.

The Office of Arts & Culture said in a press release:

“As shipping and port technologies evolved over the last century, formerly industrial areas such as South Lake Union have been redeveloped. In a short time this lot on Denny will be a power station serving the demands of the new buildings; ALL RISE has used this temporary space to mark a transition between the last century and ours. The geometric edges of the garden will soften and evolve as it grows, just as our built environment and technologies do: imperceptibly, right in front of our eyes and seemingly all at once.

“The project was realized with the design assistance of Walker Macy (Portland and Seattle) as well as expertise and custom mixes from ProTime Lawn Seed, and the advice of SunMark Seeds.

ALL RISE is a series of temporary artworks at 1250 Denny Way. The goal is to provide a platform for artists to consider “the many iterations of land and space: residential, political, commercial, agricultural, spiritual, intellectual, utopian.” It is funded by Seattle City Light 1% for Art funds, and administered by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

The project will stay through mid-June. You can view online webcams at

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Getting ready for new stormwater rules

Herrera is testing to see whether new soil mixes can remove
more heavy metals and other pollutants from stormwater.

Herrera is conducting groundbreaking research to assess and optimize the performance of LID systems.

Herrera is conducting groundbreaking research to assess and optimize the performance of LID systems.

With all the cranes towering overhead in downtown Seattle, it’s easy to forget the important work going on below to manage and protect our water as the region grows.

To keep pace with this growth, Washington State is pioneering the use of new and innovative approaches for stormwater management.  As of next year all development projects must use low impact development (LID) techniques or green stormwater infrastructure where feasible.  Rain gardens, bioswales, green roofs, and permeable pavement will become the norm rather than the exception.

As the region makes this new investment to protect our water, everyone – regulators, project owners, designers, and the general public included – will want to be confident these technologies are providing the intended benefit.

Herrera Environmental Consultants, Inc. is conducting groundbreaking research to assess and optimize the performance of these systems.

For example, with grant funding from the Washington State Department of Ecology, Herrera is currently implementing two research projects to develop a more effective soil media for use in bioretention systems.

In partnership with Kitsap County, one of these projects has involved numerous pilot scale tests of soil media components and blends to optimize their removal of heavy metals and other harmful pollutants from stormwater.

Herrera has also partnered with the City of Redmond to construct a state-of-the-art research facility for evaluating pollutant removal and plant growth in bioretention systems at full-scale.

Herrera Environmental Consultants, Inc. is an employee-owned engineering and scientific firm focused on restoration, water, and sustainable development.  Herrera is committed to working with our clients to develop innovative and sustainable solutions for infrastructure, natural resources, and stormwater projects.  Herrera was recently featured as “favorite green collar company” by the Seattle Times.

For more information:
Melissa Buttin, Senior Marketing,  206.787.8248

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