The following post is by Joe Giampietro, AIA, CPHC, NK Architects
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!
Herrera is testing to see whether new soil mixes can remove
more heavy metals and other pollutants from stormwater.
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, email@example.com 206.787.8248
The following post is by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties:
Housing affordability and the impact of the Puget Sound region’s dwindling supply of buildable land was the focus of the recent Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties' (MBA) 2014 Housing Summit in Bellevue.
“Accommodating Housing Needs with Less Land” included presentations by top national and regional housing experts and a panel discussion with state legislators and homebuilders.
“There is an explicit link between the availability of buildable lands and housing affordability,” said MBA Executive Director Shannon Affholter. “The Summit served as a starting point in a frank discussion about what’s working, and what’s not, in meeting the Growth Management Act housing targets and the region’s growing needs.”
A presentation by Todd Britsch, regional director for Metrostudy Inc., a leading provider of research and analysis to the housing industry, underscored the immediate challenge to the buildable land supply: based on projected population growth, King County has 3.87 years of supply remaining of assumed total inventory, and only 3.29 years of supply in Snohomish County.
“We’re seeing lot prices absolutely skyrocket, and the numbers are staggering. It’s a long-term issue and we have to address it sooner rather than later,” he said. “And if we don’t, the Puget Sound region is going to become the next San Francisco Bay Area, where only the ‘elite of the elite’ can afford to own a home.”
Nancy Bainbridge Rogers, land use attorney at Cairncross & Hempelmann, noted that GMA-mandated Buildable Lands Reports generated periodically by counties don’t provide a full and accurate picture of future trends.
“The reports compare housing targets to the actual growth. The reports must determine whether sufficient land exists to accommodate population projections. Unfortunately, the reports are not required to include a feasibility component or an assessment of affordability.”
A lively panel discussion focusing on legislative solutions included Senator Joe Fain (R) 47th District, from Auburn; Senator Marko Liias (D) 21st District, from Mukilteo; Representative Jay Rodne (R), 5th District, from Snoqualmie; and Representative Larry Springer (D), 45th District, from Kirkland. Other participants included homebuilders Mark Kaushagen of the Pulte Group and Lynn Eshleman from Pacific Ridge Homes.
Individual panel members cited specific action items that could advance the goals of housing availability and affordability, including:
- couple housing demand with affordability in future planning
- passage of a transportation package and infrastructure financing bill
- comprehensive review of the Urban Growth Boundary and its possible expansion
- require cities in King and Snohomish counties to do a planned action on remaining undeveloped lands to assess infill housing opportunities
- eliminate redundancies in the review and permitting process, and establish a meaningful time limit in which permits can be outstanding.
The following post is by DJC staff:
Want to know more about the way millennials are changing Metro Vancouver — and other cities around the world, like Seattle?
You can catch a free public talk on the topic next week in Vancouver or watch a live webcast on Tuesday, Sept. 16, starting at 7 p.m.
The speaker is Dr. Markus Moos, assistant professor of planning at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. He will share insights into millennials focusing on their values; housing and commuting decisions; and transportation preferences — especially what this means for employers, developers, planners and other residents.
The talk is presented by TransLink and Simon Fraser University’s City Program.
If you want to attend the event it will be in SFU Harbour Center at 515 W. Hastings St. Registration to attend is required.
Millennials are the folks who started to reach early adulthood around 2000 and they outnumber even the Baby Boomers. A press release from Simon Fraser University says there are roughly nine million millennials in Canada and more than 500,000 in Metro Vancouver. They think, communicate, travel and work differently from their parents and grandparents.
SFU offers some stats about millennials:
• More than 25 percent of Metro Vancouver’s population are millennials.
• The percentage of young adults living in neighborhoods near transit is two to three times the Metro Vancouver average.
• Living close to downtown is important to millennials in cities across North America — in Vancouver, proximity to transit matters more than to downtown alone.
• Fewer and fewer millennials hold drivers’ licenses or own a vehicle, with a more than 10 percent decrease among 25–to-29-year-olds and five percent among 30-to-34-year-olds from 2004 to 2013. Young adults in 2011 used transit 11 percent more than their counterparts in 1999.
SFU says Markus Moos is a planner and assistant professor who does research on the changing economy and social structure of cities. He has examined the factors shaping Canada’s housing markets; the changing characteristics of suburbs; and the implications of change on affordability, sustainability and equity.
He lived in Vancouver from 2006 to 2010 and completed his PhD at the University of British Columbia.
The following post is by DJC staff:
There are ways to add some fun to city streets. What if you could play a pickup game of ping-pong or chess on the way home from work?
CEOs for Cities’ blog has a post by Tara Sturm called “Ten Creative Ideas for Energizing Our Streets” that offers lots of ideas and examples: Colored crosswalks, whimsical bus stops, gardens in unexpected places and even graffiti-style art in public places. Here’s a three-story example taken on a recent stroll along the High Line in New York.
Check out Sturm’s post and add your ideas for things Seattle can do to make our streets more lively, energized and entertaining.
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
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."
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."
One of the hottest real estate stories of the week is the news that Skanska is bringing its commercial development division to Seattle, signifying it sees growth in the regional market.
My colleague at the DJC, Benjamin Minnick, reported the news here. In the story, he reports that
The move is especially notable because Skanska will self-finance all its projects and says it won't necessarily develop projects owners are currently doing, such as apartments in today's times. Instead, the story says Skanska will look at the long term and what is a good buy now.
That's interesting obviously, because of the freedom Skanska has to build what it wants. But it also speaks to the potential for sustainable buildings.
Most developer's green goals are constrained by the cost of super green technologies. I've been told that green projects up to around LEED gold can be done at cost if you begin early. But if you want to go for the super green stuff - net zero energy, Living Building certification, fancy new technologies - there's still a hefty premium, even if there's a huge benefit.
According to the story, Skanska has already said all its projects built locally will meet LEED gold or higher standards, and will be located in urban core areas with strong employment growth. To read the company's sustainability policy, click here (beware- it's pretty overwhelming).
By self-financing its own projects, Skanska, already a leading green general contractor, has the opportunity to do some really incredible things. Additionally, if they plan to hold onto projects for a long time, rather than flip them, they have more of an incentive to invest in green technologies that only pay off over the long term.
I'm curious to see what kind of projects they pursue, what kind of sustainable goals they target, and what kind of green technologies they might choose to pursue that others wouldn't be able to. Of course, they could simply go the LEED gold route. Or they could build something really innovative.
If projects were self-financed and held onto for a longer amount of time, do you think we'd end up with a larger quantity of super green buildings? Or do you think teams would stick to the status quo?
If you've been paying attention, you know 2010 has been a pivotal year for Seattle's waterfront.
In March, the city awarded a contract for seawall work, worth about $18 million, to a multi-disciplinary team led by TetraTech. At the same time, it sped up the schedule to redesign and redevelop its Central Waterfront Project
Wednesday was the RFQ deadline for central waterfront work. A team is expected to be chosen by the end of September. The budget for design work over the first two years is expected to be about $6 million while the estimated budget for planning and design of the entire project is between $50 and $70 million. It got 30 proposals on the urban design/public space side.
Not to mention the process (or sometimes lack thereof) for the replacement on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which is crucial to how the city's waterfront will be opened up.
Make no mistake about it, these projects combined will totally reshape our downtown. However, in all the hustle and bustle, it can be really hard to imagine just what that end result will be. Or what it is Seattleites want it to be.
If the city proceeds with the deep bore tunnel option, the goal is for the seawall to be done by the time the bored tunnel is complete, currently scheduled for 2016. Construction on the waterfront work could begin this same year.
The seawall may seem like the smallest of the three but how it is designed and managed will be incredibly important to the foundation of the other two projects. One big push is to create places along the waterfront for the public - for you and I - to interact with the water. Places that aren't separated by physical walls but allow us to connect with water, the cultural backbone of our city.
In June, Bob Chandler, city program manager for the viaduct and seawall replacement, said the city is looking for a seawall that supports the waterfront while providing habitat value and creating space for people to interact with the water. “We have an opportunity,” he said. “We need to come up with an approach here that provides protection in a seismic event but that doesn't necessarily mean this is a 35-foot high straight wall. It doesn't mean that at all.”
My question is - how do you envision this?
What should it look like? How do you want to interact with the water, related to the seawall? Once the seawall is complete, what would your optimal redeveloped waterfront look like? Sustainably, what should its function really be?
I recently spent my honeymoon in Greece and Turkey. In each city I visited on the water, there were vibrant spaces located along its edge. I couldn't help wondering what it would take to create the same kind of energy in our city: a bustling mix of tourists and locals that waxes on until the early hours of the morning every day. In Greece and Turkey, the answer is built on history, combined with making these spaces centers of tourism and city life.
These are a lot of questions, often without answer. Part of the point of the design process is to come up with that answer, and there will be a number of opportunities to participate in the formal process. One will be a meeting with teams shortlisted for the central waterfront design work at Benaroya Hall on Sept. 15 - mark your calendar. For now, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
At the end of 2009, the city of Seattle legalized backyard cottages on Seattle lots over 4,000 square feet. This
Those who attend the event will see all the design challenge entries, meet the designers, participate in the awards ceremony and enjoy food and drink. A jury including David Cutler of the Seattle City Planning Commission, Robert Humble of Hybrid Architecture and Colleen Groll of O'Brien & Co. will judge the entries. Andrea Petzel, Seattle City Planner, will act as advisor to the judges.
There will be five awards given out. Awards will be given for overall best design, honorable mention for best design, most innovative, most sustainable and most adoptable.
The free event will be at 7601 Greenwood Ave. N. and begins at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact Brian Abramson at Method Homes at (206) 790.2852 or Infiniti RED at (206) 235.6925. eva@infinitiRED.com.
Over at HugeAssCity on Publicola, Dan Bertolet has a great overview of Vancouver, B.C.'s transportation experience during the Olympics, then connects that to Seattle's current replacement of the Alaskan Way Viaduct debacle. It's an interesting overview, though I have to say the post's comments are possibly even more interesting....