DJC Green Building Blog

How green is the future? Yudelson’s 2014 predictions

Posted on January 14, 2014

The following post is by DJC staff:

Sustainability consultant Jerry Yudelson, has released his annual list of the top 10 green building trends and says he expects this year will see a rapid increase in energy retrofits on existing buildings, a new focus on water conservation, and a switch to cloud-based systems for monitoring and managing energy use.

Jerry Yudelson

He says the expansion will be global thanks to the economic recovery in most of Europe and North America. “There is no doubt that we are seeing more agencies, architectural firms, development organizations and companies building green each year,” he writes, “and there is nothing on the horizon that will stop this MegaTrend or its constituent elements.”

By the way, Yudelson also announced he is the new president of Green Building Initiative, the organization responsible for the Green Globes green building rating and certification system that he says is increasingly competing with LEED.

Yudelson Associates’ Top 10 Green Building MegaTrends for 2014

  1. Green building in North America continue its strong growth in 2014, with the ongoing expansion of commercial real estate construction together with government, university, nonprofit and school construction. This will build on the fact that in 2013 green building project registrations in new construction accounted for about 30% of all new projects.
  2. In 2014, there will be rapid uptake of energy-efficiency green building retrofits.. Note: this trend will be strongest in corporate and commercial real estate, along with the “MUSH” market (Municipal, University, School and Hospital) projects, given the availability of cheap financing and the rise of numerous new players in the building energy retrofit market. Yudelson says absolute building performance, and resultant operating cost, (vs. the relative improvement approach still enshrined in most rating systems) is going to be an increasing focus for building owners.
  3. Zero-net-energy buildings are become increasingly commonplace, in both residential and commercial sectors. LEED and ENERGY STAR certifications and labels have become too commonplace to confer competitive advantage among building owners. Developers of speculative commercial buildings have also begun to showcase Zero Net Energy designs in order to gain marketplace advantages. Systems such as the Net-Zero Certification of the International Living Building Institute are driving this trend, but it has been growing steadily for about five years.
  4. LEED will see enhanced competition from Green Globes. This trend is supported by the fact that the Federal government has released its “once every five years” assessment of rating systems and has now put the two systems on an equal footing for government projects. More importantly, LEED will struggle to convince owners, designers and consultants in all sectors that LEED v4 represents more value than hassle.
  5. The focus of the green building industry will continue its switch from certifying new building design and construction to full greening of existing buildings. This trend has been in place since 2010, and we expect it to accelerate in 2014.
  6. Green Buildings will increasingly be managed by information technologies, especially those in the “Cloud.” This trend is reflected by the large number of new entrants and new products in fields of building automation, facility management, wireless controls and building services information management over the last three years. In fact, we are calling 2014, “The Year of the Cloud” for how quickly this trend will become fully established.
  7. Green Building Performance Disclosure will continue as a major trend. This is highlighted by disclosure requirements enacted in 2013 by more than 30 major cities around the country, laws that require commercial building owners to disclose actual green building performance to all new tenants and buyers and, in some places, to the public. This trend will spread rapidly as the easiest way to monitor reductions in carbon emissions from commercial and governmental buildings.
  8. Healthy Building Products, Product Disclosure Declarations, along with various “Red Lists” of chemicals of concern to healthy building advocates, will become increasingly contentious. This trend has manifested through such tools as the Health Product Declaration and the inclusion of points for avoiding certain chemicals contained in LEEDv4, currently scheduled for full implementation in 2015. We predict that building product manufacturers will increasingly try to gain or maintain market share based on open disclosure of chemicals of concerns. We also foresee that industry-developed disclosure systems will begin to compete with systems offered by dozens of third-party rating agencies.
  9. Solar power use in buildings will continue to grow, especially because of the prospect of increasing focus on implementing aggressive state-level renewable power standards (RPS) for 2020 and the move toward zero-net-energy buildings. As before, third-party financing partnerships will continue to grow and provide capital for larger rooftop systems on low-rise commercial buildings, parking garages, warehouses and retail stores, as well as on homes.
  10. Awareness of the coming crisis in fresh water supply, both globally and in the U.S., will increase as global climate change affects rainfall and water supply systems worldwide. Leading building designers, owners and managers will be moved to take further steps to reduce water consumption in buildings by using more conserving fixtures, rainwater recovery systems and innovative new onsite water technologies.

 

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Your patio can also be a power plant

Posted on May 17, 2013

The following post is by Silicon Energy:

Two Washington-based companies said they are joining forces to make solar systems easier to install and more flexible than traditional roof- or ground-mounted modules.

Silicon Energy, a solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer, and CrystaLite, a skylight and sunroom manufacturer, will create pre-engineered, integrated-PV systems. The new structures — including patio and carport coverings, electric car charging ports, and picnic shelters — will let solar contractors offer customizable, durable PV systems.

Silicon Energy said the modules are strong enough to withstand harsh weather and were recently rated the most durable among competitors by the federally funded National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

They were introduced at the recent Living Future's unConference in Seattle.

PV systems can be installed on different types of structures.
The structures are offered in modular 4-foot widths, and can incorporate CrystaLite railing systems with glass panel, aluminum pickets or stainless steel cable railings. Silicon Energy and CrystaLite PV-integrated structures can be grid-tied or battery-backed to generate electricity in remote locations.

Silicon Energy said its double-glass design allows light transmission through the PV module with a mounting system that fully encloses and protects the system wiring, delivering an aesthetically pleasing and practical shelter. The open-framed, shingle-like mounting of the Cascade Series PV Module and Mounting System maximizes shedding of snow, dirt and debris from the modules, which optimizes performance.

Silicon Energy’s modules come with a 30-year power warranty, a 125-psf load rating and Class-A fire safety rating.

"A paradigm shift is needed in how we look at PV,” said Silicon Energy President Gary Shaver. “We need to think beyond the roof and fields and integrate PV even more into our local communities, bringing the beauty and benefits of distributed generation of PV into our built environment.”

The systems will be available starting in July.

Silicon Energy was founded in 2007 and is located in Washington and Minnesota. More information is at www.silicon-energy.com.

Founded in 1982, CrystaLite is a Washington-based manufacturer of roof glazing, sunrooms and railing systems that are built by local employees. Primary vendors are in Portland and Hood River, Ore., and the company says 80% of its raw materials are from Washington and Oregon. For more information about CrystaLite, Inc., visit www.CrystaLiteInc.com.

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Chemical trade group lobbies to block LEED

Posted on February 19, 2013

The following post is by Robin Guenther:

The war over toxic chemicals and human health is spilling over into places we live and work: our buildings. The American Chemical Council (ACC) has launched an expensive and focused attack on the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) to protect the status quo of a small set of bad-actor manufacturers of toxic and obsolete chemicals. But innovative companies across the building industries and human health advocates are fighting back.

Guenther

The American Chemical Council is lobbying to end the federal government’s use of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building certification system unless USGBC removes all references to human health. If successful, they will keep taxpayers from receiving the cost savings and productivity benefits that LEED certification has generated. Why does a chemical industry trade association think better buildings are such a threat, you ask?

The USGBC has transformed the global building industry with its emphasis on high performance, low energy and healthier building practices through its LEED certification program. In only a decade, LEED plaques have become synonymous with the best buildings in the world.

SXC.hu file photo

A high-performance building?

USGBC’s mission is to make buildings not only more energy-efficient, but healthier spaces for those who inhabit them. The new draft version of LEED seeks to assuage human health concerns of buildings by offering voluntary credits for buildings using healthy materials. Many in the health community see this as a long overdue step for the rating system.

The ACC, however, sees this as a dangerous threat to their member companies because a few of them make a pretty penny producing controversial chemicals.

So if you can’t beat ‘em, lobby against ‘em, right? ACC is doing what it does best -- spreading misinformation and shoving truckloads of cash into lobbying efforts to keep the market from abandoning toxic materials and embracing green chemistry.

They’ve even gone so far as to form the laughable “American High-Performance Buildings Coalition,” a group whose membership reads like a who’s who of industries that make unhealthy products, all uniting to lobby against LEED. From big chemicals to vinyl to adhesives to petrochemicals -- they’re all here.

These toxic trade associations are trying to convince us that they are the ones who truly support “green” building. Perhaps next they’ll suggest that their products only increase your odds of developing “green” cancer.

While they claim LEED is not consensus-based, this is demonstrably false. Any revision to the LEED standard must be approved through a democratic balloting process open to all 14,000 members of USGBC. These members are architects, engineers, builders, contractors and product manufacturers.

In fact, the ACC and many of its member companies are participating in the LEED development process. But when the professionals who purchase building materials began to suggest that a LEED credit be available for purchasing healthier building materials, suddenly the process is flawed, and not consensus-based.

In the real world, when your customers ask for something, you don’t lobby against their right to buy what they want, do you? Let’s hope these companies wake up and start to reign in their out-of-control trade association before people really start to notice who’s behind the curtain.

Green buildings are about more than energy and water conservation; they must also include consideration of human health. Hospitals have started to lead the way. The Health Product Declaration, an independent, open-source methodology for declaring content of building products, is ushering in a new age of transparency in corporate reporting. The Healthier Hospitals Initiative recently released targets for safer products that include credit for avoiding chemicals of concern in interior furniture. Major manufacturers of health-care building products have begun substituting PVC and phthalate plasticizers with safer alternatives. These firms are innovating and capturing market share.

While the ACC protests these LEED credits, we would venture to say their innovative members are investing in R&D to move to safer alternatives precisely because of these initiatives. The construction industry needs the USGBC and LEED; citizens do, too. Someone has to make the push to get these chemicals out of our faces.

Robin Guenther, FAIA, is a principal focused on health care architecture at Perkins+Will, a global design firm. This piece was distributed by American Forum.

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Got a green building start-up idea? Here’s help

Posted on January 15, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

For innovative, entrepreneurial types, green building is a perfect field. It's not business as usual, and although some folks are claiming that green building is now mainstream because many new (and more and more existing buildings) have LEED plaques on them, sustainable building is not the norm. Not even close. Do you have a big idea you'd like to operationalize to help this movement along?

Michael "Luni" Libes

Being a smart innovator doesn't necessarily mean you don't need help mapping out a business to take your idea to market. I recently chatted with Michael "Luni" Libes, author of "The Next Step: Guiding You From Idea to Startup." Luni calls himself a "serial" entrepreneur with six start-ups himself, primarily focused on hyper-intelligent data gathering and mobility products and services — he founded GroundTruth, Inc., Medio Systems and 2WAY, for example.

After years of being asked how he "did" it, he decided to write a book about it. The book takes two "socially" responsible product ideas through their traces, from ideation to business launch and beyond: Bird Watch, a set of tiny radio tags to measure wildlife behavior, and Concrete Battery, an energy storage technology using low-tech flywheels. The book isn't philosophical, it assumes you have an idea that is socially conscious and you wish to bring it to market. As a social entrepreneur myself, it's a delight to see the process so clearly laid out.

The book was just the first step for Luni, as he is now an instructor in social entrepreneurship at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, and the Entrepreneur in Residence Emeritus at UW's Center for Commercialization. His current "start-up" is aptly named Fledge, which he says is a "conscious company" incubator aimed at helping create companies "fill the unmet needs of conscious consumers." He also organizes social entrepreneurship weekends — he held two in 2012. These are fast-paced idea competition events. They are similar to the "slams" held at recent Living Future Conferences but longer and more intense and definitely more serious about testing ideas generated against the kind of real-world criteria that real-world start-ups have to face.

With the passage of state HB 2239 last year, it became legal to incorporate a for-profit that prioritizes its social or environmental mission over the conventional priority of shareholder profit. In a sense, it expanded the definition of "shareholders" to include all stakeholders (humans and otherwise), not just those who own a piece of the company. This legal basis, and the savvy to take a truly "good" idea to market provided by organizations like Fledge could make a difference for those of us in the green building field. We have long understood that green building can be good business, but some of us would appreciate help turning that philosophy into long term financial sustainability. (If I knew then, what I knew now...)

Kathleen O'Brien is a long time advocate for green building and sustainable development since before it was "cool." She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. She continues to provide consulting on special projects for O'Brien & Co., the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her own conscious start-up: The Emerge Leadership Project.

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New module from Marysville solar manufacturer

Posted on November 30, 2012

The following post is by Silicon Energy:

Silicon Energy, a manufacturer of solar photovoltaic modules in Marysville, said it is releasing the Next Generation Cascade Series PV module.

The first generation came out in 2007.

The new module uses less embedded material, which improves performance and output.

Silicon Energy's new photovoltaic panels.

Here are some features of the new module:

· Anti-reflective coating on the front glass

· Advanced encapsulant

· Lighter weight mounting hardware

· About 30% fewer roof penetrations to reduce costs and speed up installation

· 12 AWG wire for reduced voltage drop

· Amphenol connectors with a higher current rating and increased reliability

· American Fittings Raintight conduit connectors that improve mechanical and electrical bonding

Gary Shaver, president of Silicon Energy said, “Our relationships with suppliers and research laboratories allows our engineering team to integrate innovative concepts and advanced material sciences into our products. We’re excited to see how architects and building designers integrate our new, even more attractive Cascade Series PV modules into the building envelope and overhead structures to achieve contemporary and functional designs.”

The module has a double-glass, open-frame design to shed water, dirt and snow. Airflow behind the module keeps the system cooler, which boosts performance.  Custom mounting hardware colors are available.

Silicon Energy is shipping the Next Generation module to Washington customers and will introduce it in other markets early next year.

Silicon Energy was founded in 2007, and is located in Washington and Minnesota.

 

 

 

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MCA holds its first ‘innovation event’

Posted on October 9, 2012

The following post is by DJC staff:

The Mechanical Contractors Association of Western Washington held its inaugural Mechanical Innovation conference in Seattle last week, with a speech by Denis Hayes of the Bullitt Foundation about his group’s net-zero headquarters under construction on Capitol Hill.

Hayes spoke about the worldwide market for net-zero buildings using his project as an example.

Panel session at the Mechanical Innovation conference.

The members of MCA are union plumbing, piping and HVAC contractors.

About 300 people attended the conference, which included sessions about embracing change, innovation and technology. The tech talk was by David Burczyk of Trimble Navigation, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm that provides advanced positioning systems that are used in a variety of fields including surveying and construction.

There was also a panel discussion about sustainable built environments and the participants are shown here: Yancy Wright (Sellen Sustainability), Craig Norsen (The Seneca Group), Robert Willis (PSF Mechanical), Ted Sturdevant (Washington State Department of Ecology), Steve Doub (Miller-Hull Partnership) and moderator Robert Tucker.

Tucker introduced and questioned the panelists about sustainable buildings. They talked about how and why to get involved, as well as the challenges and benefits of such types of projects.

Tucker also delivered the keynote address: “Innovation is Everybody’s Business.”

The breakout sessions included a leadership talk about "Unlocking Your Innovative Smarts" by Bill Stainton, who shared tools and techniques to help people think more creatively in problem-solving, embracing change and unleashing innovation. A technical session presented by Norman Strong of the Miller-Hull Partnership gave a glimpse into the direction of the AEC industry through the eyes of an architect.

 

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9 green warehouse retrofits

Posted on March 23, 2012

The following post is by Michael Koploy, an ERP analyst and manager with Warehouse Management Systems Guide.

The goal of many modern supply chains is to become more sustainable and reduce its carbon footprint. A great way to do this is by retrofitting older warehouses to reduce energy usage.

Unfortunately, this is often a costly initiative. These facilities are old and deteriorating, and investing in expensive green technology is sometimes a poor investment. How can these facilities be improved to become more sustainable without breaking the bank?

I sourced four experts to discover the answer to this very question: Sean Canning, LEED AP and owner of 10|70 Architecture; Shawn Casemore, supply chain consultant President at Casemore & Co; Dan Gould, president at energy-efficiency firm Synergy; and Dave Homerding, marketing manager of commercial contracting and roofing company WeatherSure Systems.

Image source

Based on their conversations, here are nine affordable retrofits to can help make the warehouse more sustainable.

1. Use solar tubes to increase natural lighting -- Solar tubes, or light pipes, can introduce natural lighting through skylights without major construction that will impact the building’s integrity.

2. Apply a cool roof -- White, reflective coatings can be applied to roofs to reflect UV rays and reduce the amount of heat the warehouse absorbs.

3. Upgrade batt insulation to sprayed-foam or loose-fill -- Loose-fill and sprayed-foam insulation are much more effective at insulating commercial facilities, and can be installed with little financial investment.

4. Move to task-lighting to reduce usage -- If intense lighting isn’t necessary to perform routine operations in the warehouse, reduce electric ambient lighting, introduce natural light and use “task-lighting,” or localized light around areas that need increased visibility.

5. Upgrade metal halides to fluorescent, induction or LED lights -- These lighting fixtures are much more efficient than the traditional metal halide lights used and warehouses, and can often be paid off in only a couple years of energy reduction.

6. Purchase destratification fans -- Destratification fans circulate heated air in warehouses, and can greatly reduce the amount of energy exerted to heat facilities.

7. Deploy (or program) networked thermostats -- Again, energy exertion can be reduced using controllable thermostats that eliminate extraneous heating and cooling cycles.

8. Use daylight or motion sensors to reduce light usage -- If electric lighting is necessary, invest in motion sensors to only use lighting when workers are present, or daylight sensors to dim lighting according to the natural sunlight throughout the warehouse.

9. Join a energy-reduction demand-response group -- Finally, participating in a peak-energy response group can reduce energy and add extra cash-flow to the business.

For more on these retrofits, check out: 9 Warehouse Retrofits to Go Green and Reduce Energy Consumption.

 

 

 

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Working together better – a quiet construction trend

Posted on January 13, 2012

I've noticed a quiet trend over the last year: more and more teams are crediting each other on successful projects.

I'm not sure whether teams are actually collaborating more or whether they just say they

puzzle
are. I don't know if it's related to the increasing use of integrated project delivery and more open bidding methods or if its culturally related to social media. But it's happening. More and more people I talk to are highlighting the importance of different team members.

Sustainable design is inherently related to integrating. The whole point of green building is to cut down on waste and redundancies. The idea behind collaboration and working together, is that you accomplish that goal more efficiently.

Just to give you a few examples:

In December, I went to the AIA Seattle's forum on IPD and wrote this story called "Form Right Team for Successful Construction Project." The story condenses a big theme from the event, which is that the team is the most important element in creating good IPD projects. Speakers said more effort needs to go towards selecting team members for IPD projects, but the lessons seem to be worthwhile for any type of project.

Dave Kievet, group president of California operations for The Boldt Co., said all sorts of questions about experience, work ethic and outside interests are asked when a company hires a new employee.  But when a contractor is hired, very little time is spent on those issues. Instead, questions are about safety record, balance statements and licenses.

“You can have the best team assembled that can be absolutely destroyed by one bad apple on that team,” he said. “It's the people that deliver a project, not the companies.”

The forum also highlighted the importance of working together to move through negative situations. Barb Jackson of California Polytechnic State University said she often counsels her IPD teams to have "you suck meetings" so everyone can clear the air. It's better than dwelling on problems and letting them stifle a team, she said.

Last week, I toured this $56 million new water treatment plant in Anacortes. The team

Image by Katie Zemtseff
members were practically glowing with descriptions of each other (and these were real reactions - they weren't just buttering me up). Fred Buckenmeyer, Anacortes public works director, said the camaraderie at project meetings is real. Matt Reynolds, assistant city engineer, said everyone has been fair with each other and works to solve problems when things go wrong, rather than place blame.

Brandt Barnes of MWW, the owner's representative and construction manager, said all team members took a partnering approach to the project that they will be proud of for many years to come.

Todd Pike, project manager at Imco General Construction, said the construction process in general is becoming more open, due in part to the influence of new contracting methods like GC/CM and design-build. But he said being open is a conscious effort at Imco.  “You (can't) miss one person... It's a purposeful, intentional effort on all sides of the contract,” he said. “We don't have to have a design-build contract or GC/CM contract to reach out and have this positive, open communication with the owners and the design team.”

Image courtesy SPU
Then in the Jan. 13 edition of the DJC here, I wrote about the "swale on Yale project." The swale is an innovative public-private partnership, in which Vulcan contributed over $1 million to a city stormwater treatment project. The swale, once comple, will treat over 190 million gallons of stormwater per year that currently flows straight into Lake Union. Jason Sharpley, project manager with SPU, said both Vulcan and city team members went out of their way to work together, and put the good of the project above anything else. Team members included KPG, KPFF, The Berger Partnership and Runberg Architecture Group.

Now, it's not like people have never talked about collaboration before. The difference is that more team members are talking about its importance. What do you think? Do you think this is a noticeable trend?

 

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Area’s first commercial building made of cargo containers up for sale

Posted on December 16, 2011

In February of 2010, I wrote this story about an office building in Georgetown that was constructed of reclaimed cargo containers. The owner, Jay Stark, said it was the first project of its kind in the country.  I also produced this video-tour of the space at the time. Here is our story from Dec. 16 about the sale.

Now,  nearly two years later, the space is for sale for $1.5 million. Sadly, it was a foreclosure. I

GeorgetownShowroomPhoto_big
haven't spoken to the owners so I don't know what happened but it's too bad things likely didn't turn out as planned.

The slight upside is that it will be really interesting to see who buys the site when it sells. I recently spoke to Evan Lugar of Kidder Mathews, who is representing First Savings Bank Northwest on the sale. He said the bank has owned the property since August. He also said it's a tricky space to sell because it isn't typical retail or commercial and is unique. He's targeting creative businesses.

The building is made of 80 percent recycled materials by weight. The complex has two buildings, which are each made of six cargo containers that came from the Port of Seattle. They have halogen and fluorescent lighting, an efficient reverse-cycle chiller HVAC system, and windows with argon gas sandwiched between the panes for increased insulation. There is a rooftop deck with views of downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier.

Typically - the super green, innovative projects that have been built have been created with the intent of the owner using it for many years. (Houses don't count). The greenest commercial projects I've profiled over the years have been built or are being built by the Bullitt Foundation, the U.S. General Services Administration, a consortium involving the city of Portland, universities or by firms that intend to stay in a space for a long time.

My point is: they don't turn hands. Because of that, there isn't much information about the resale value and market for super green projects in the U.S. created for a specific client. People hypothesize uber-green buildings hold their value better and that there's more demand, but it's hard to prove - without proof. No matter what, this is just one building. But the more sales we see, the more accurately we'll be able to guage the true value of innovative sustainable buildings and whether it's the LEED credential or a building's inherent sustainability that translates as value.

As a sidenote, this is the second time spaces made of cargo containers or using "cargotecture" has been in the news in a week. Earlier this week, the DJC covered a new pilot project Starbucks drive though in Tukwila made of cargo containers. Here's our story and here's the story the AP ran based on our story.

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Northgate – what exactly is light rail’s urban development responsibility?

Posted on November 30, 2011

On Nov. 17, the DJC published this article I wrote about Sound Transit's Northgate light rail station. The Northgate station is one of three that will be part of Sound Transit's North Link light rail extension, running from the University District to Northgate Mall. The Northgate station is the only one that it above ground. Because of this, and a number of other factors, it is also the most complex of the three. It is designed by Hewitt.

The article centered on the station's design, and was based off a Seattle Light Rail Review

ST PowerPoint Template
Panel meeting I attended. The panel, which reviews the station's design, had a lot of criticism that is detailed in the story. Their main point was that the structure wasn't living up to its responsibility in helping to transform the neighborhood.

This is from the story:

Julie Parrett, who is on the review panel and the Design Commission, said this station is unique because the area around it is going through a transformation. Northgate was built for cars and a more suburban lifestyle, but today there is a city-wide effort to make it a place that works for pedestrians, residents and the surrounding community.

Thornton Place, she said, has helped set a standard for new development and the station can reinforce that. She said she doesn’t view the current design as helping shape a new Northgate.

“These are buildings and projects that are going to last for 50 to 100 years and we can’t forget that,” she said. “They do have a civic responsibility and right now, I feel like this building is really turning itself inward and not reaching out and not thinking in a conceptual way what its role (is) as a precedent or precursor in this area."

After publication, Ian Hernandez, a friend of mine, posted this comment on my personal Facebook page:

"Speaking of, great article on the North Link Northgate station the other day! Some of those panel comments crack me up - it's like they think that Thornton Place somehow turned that area into a shining jewel of urban transition, when it's really still just a bunch of crapshacks bordered by a giant movie theater and ugly parking garage."

Image courtesy Sky-Pix
Big, boxy Thornton Place certainly isn't perfect but it's better than the empty parking lot that used to be there. At least the space now offers movies and a few retail and eating options. Whether you like it or not, it's there. The question is what happens next and what is the light rail station's responsibility in helping to guide that change?

When I went to the last Northgate station open house, the audience members seemed generally pleased with the station design and some even commended Sound Transit for its work. The Light Rail Review Panel was quite critical, but it looks at the project with the eyes of people who have a responsibility of curating the city's future through projects and urban development.

Here's what's sure: The Northgate area is changing and light rail will be transformative, no matter what it looks like. Given these two things, how much does the station's design really matter? Does it need to serve as a bridge to the future or does it just need to be there? In a perfect world, what would you like to see the station look like?

Also, as a sidenote, this station will have restrooms unlike the ones at Brooklyn or Roosevelt.

Also, if you're really intersted in this topic, go to this open house on Dec. 8 at Aljoya Senior Apartments (a part of Thornton Place). Sound Transit says it has drawn up a "few options that show future urban design and development possibilities for this area south of the mall."

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