DJC Green Building Blog

Get a glimpse of green ‘pod’ home

Posted on April 20, 2012

A compact, green-built “pod” home designed by Ann Raab of Greenpod Development of Port Townsend is open to the public at the GreenDepot site until April 29 from 10 am to 6 pm M-F, 10-5 on Saturday and 11-5 on Sunday. Workshops will be offered daily.

Outside Waterhaus

The pod was part of last weekend’s Green Home Tour sponsored by Northwest Ecobuilding Guild, featuring new and remodeled homes designed for low energy use and built with nontoxic materials.

Raab’s 450-square-foot pod is factory-built using all green products. It can be delivered to any city in Washington.

Greenpod’s Waterhaus model has a Kangen water system with adjustable pH for drinking and cleaning. It also has a waterfall and living wall.

Waterhaus kitchen

Ann Raab said pods are meant to be low maintenance dwellings that are environmentally safe, healthy for occupants and “a joy to live in.”

The Waterhaus model uses multi-use furnishings, color, lighting and windows to make the living space feel larger. The waterfall and living wall are sculpted from metal by industrial artist Ray Hammar of Sequim. Michael Hamilton of Port Hadlock made the tables and benches. Seth Rolland of Port Townsend created the bathroom vanity from rock and fir. Wall textures are applied by artist Gail Miller of Whidbey Island. The interior is decorated with an exclusive line of organic fabrics by Suzanne DeVall.

The pods are built by Greg Barron of Greenpod Builders.

Waterhaus living area

They are built to meet King County’s requirements for an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and are aimed at people who want to downsize, age in place or care for family member in a separate unit. They also work as cabins, second homes, home offices and small commercial buildings. Pods can be stacked and configured to create communities. More information is at (800) 569-0831 or GreenPod.us.

 

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Puget Sound Partnership gets in hot water with state audit

Posted on May 13, 2010
Puget Sound
This morning, KUOW 94.9 aired a pretty hard-hitting piece on the Puget Sound Partnership and a recent state audit of the agency. John Ryan (who worked here at the DJC years ago, if you didn't know), covered the story in a clear way that left me with one word on the tip of my tongue after he finished: "Wow."

According to the audit, the "partnership circumvented state contracting laws, exceeded its purchasing authority and made unallowable purchases with public funds."

I just spoke with Frank Mendizabal, spokesperson for the partnership, who said the agency has made a number of changes already in response to the audit but will continue "tweaking" its operations in the future.

For more information, check out the KUOW story here.

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Rainwater harvesting: to require or not to require

Posted on July 15, 2009

This week, the DJC ran an excellent article from Arthur H. Rotstein with the Associated Press called "Commercial projects in Tucscon must start harvesting rainwater." The article says that the Arizona city has enacted the nation's first municipal rainwater harvesting ordinance for commercial projects. The ordinance requires developers building new business, corporate or commercial structures to supply half of the water needed for landscaping from harvested rainwater starting next year.

Apparently, landscaping accounts for about 40 percent of water use in commercial

Water
development and for 45 percent of household water consumption in Tucson. That. Is. Crazy.

The article also mentions that a half-dozen other communities in Arizona are looking at replicating the approach, and that rural Santa Fe County in New Mexico has required harvesting using cisterns or similar structures for commercial and residential development since last year.

Which brings me to the next question: why isn't this a requirement everywhere? Water is cheap, yes. But even though it is cheap, it still costs money. If Tucscon - which the article says gets 12 inches of rain a year - requires rainwater harvesting, why don't we? (Other than little details like the state owning the rain that drops down from the sky....) 

Now I know Tucson and Seattle are very different. I know Tucson uses so much water on landscaping because the city is in a desert, which means for most anything to grow, it is going to need extra water. But the underlying principal is the same. Water is a free resource. When water falls on the ground, it flows along roadways, picking up dirty icky things like metals and nutrients, eventually ending up in a water body like the Puget Sound, where it

The new LOTT Alliance project in Olympia will be all about water treatment and water conservation. Lisa Dennis-Perez of LOTT said the more conservation there is, the more the organization can delay the need to build additional water treatment plants.
does real damage or at a treatment plant, where it goes through an extensive process to get clean. So why don't we, as a country, require that at least some of that water is captured and used for something productive?

It just seems like a really wasted resource.

Where am I wrong here? Please tell me why this would not work.

By the way, water is going to become an even greater issue of importance as more people move to the Pacific Northwest. I wrote this article a couple weeks ago that discusses the challenges between the desire to get off the water grid and traditional infrastructure.

In that story, a number of experts from our region discussed where we are going with water treatment and the difficulties that lie ahead. It covers a range of opinions but all speakers could agree on one thing: water needs to be more expensive for change to happen.

Kurt Unger of the Department of Ecology pretty much spoke for the crowd when he said "Water is too damn cheap... We need to assess a fee on water to enable so many more things to happen."

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The 10 Winners of What Makes it Green

Posted on April 30, 2009

The honors have been doled out. The party's done. And AIA's What Makes It Green is over for another year. To read my article in the DJC, click here.

There have been some interesting blog postings on this year's ceremony. Dan Bertolet's self-described rant at hugeasscity talks about the title of the awards, and whether, after all this time, we still don't know what makes it green. Dominic Holden at The Stranger also weighed in on the point of the awards here. The AIA Seattle COTE also live-blogged the process (go here if you want a full list of winners). 

Of the ten projects that won, it surprises me that six are in Washington. Two are in Seattle. If we're really looking at the greenest of the green, I would expect a wider range of geographic locations (considering the competition was open to designers and architects in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong and Japan). 

This year's project winners included one project in Leavenworth, one in Woodinville, two in Seattle, one in Olympia, one on San Juan Island, one in Victoria, B.C., one in Billings, Mont., one in Portland and one in Denver.

By way of comparison, last year's winners included one two from Seattle, one in Tacoma, one in Issaquah, one in Bremerton, one in Billings, Mont., one in Corvallis, Ore., one in Portland, one in Salem and one in Bend. 

(Incidentally, both winners in Billings went to the same architecture firm - High Plains Architects).

But here's the thing: an awards process is only as good as the entries it receives. And from what I've heard, it takes a lot of time and effort to put a project entry together. So what can you do?

I don't have the answer. But I do have winning project pictures. Here are a few of them: enjoy!

Miller Hull's Building #35, Natural Sciences Building at Puget Sound Community College in Olympia

Anna Howlen of D + A Studio's The San Juan Channel House on San Juan Island

High Plains Architects' Klos Building in Billings
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Poisons in Puget Sound: where they come from

Posted on April 23, 2009

When it rains in Seattle (as it often does) water flows along city streets and sidewalks, picking up toxins, before it is sent to a storm drain and eventually ends up in Puget Sound. This is the largest polluter of the Sound, sending 52 million pounds of pollutants into it every year.  That's a conservative estimate but it's nothing new

What is new is a map, produced by a team of GIS students from the University of Washington that shows where the storm drains - that send the water into Puget Sound - are. Turns out there are 4,500 public manmade storm drains, according to the team. The map was produced for People for Puget Sound, a nonprofit that advocates for healthy policies for the sound. The map also includes 2,123 natural drainages that receive inputs from the watershed system of additional drains, and 297 storm drains from the Washington State Department of Transportaion and 70 bridges. Industrial and private drains were not included in the project.

What poisons end up in the sound? Yummy things like copper, zinc, mercury, flame retardants, PAHs, and petroleum hydrocarbons. Some of these pollutants, like phthalates, which are found in plastic bottles and packaging, get dissolved in stormwater, making them hard to remove, if not impossible.  Pleasant.

Why should we care? Because, on a very base level, the Puget Sound is a huge economic driver that helps support our local economy. Not to mention the environmental aspects. 

So what does the image look like? Here it is...

Courtesy People for Puget Sound

Bruce Wishart, policy director for People for Puget Sound, said the map shows the enormity of the stormwater problem which impacts the sound.

Heather Trim, urban bays and toxics program manager for the organization, said the students went well beyond their class project to create a terrific map that advances knowledge of stormwater inputs. "We have been told by agencies that it would be years before we could get this map and yet the students have produced this tremendous resource."

How about it readers, is this image a tad surprising? Or is it what you would have expected?

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Does Gerding Edlen’s Bellevue Towers make Bellevue any greener?

Posted on January 30, 2009

This week, I wrote an article in the DJC on Bellevue Towers, its developer, Gerding Edlen, and what the project represents for Bellevue.

Bellevue Towers is a two-tower luxury condo project with 539 units. According to

Bellevue Towers
Mike Brennan, director of Bellevue's Development Services Department, it is the most prominent green building in Bellevue and the first multifamily high-rise that has gone for LEED certification in the city. It is targeting LEED gold and is supposedly the largest LEED-certified residential project in the Northwest, according to press materials. It is also the first project Gerding Edlen has done in the Puget Sound region.

That's a lot of firsts. I'm wondering what this means for Bellevue.

Bellevue tends to have a mixed reputation when it comes to green buildings. In my wanderings, I've heard about city codes that make it difficult for projects to do low impact development, and green techniques that relate to stormwater. I've also heard disappointed reactions that the city wasn't more receptive to green building earlier.  (For a reaction on how Bellevue has been MIA, see the comments to a previous post regarding Kirkland here.)

But I wonder if that is changing.

Bellevue is the first city in the Puget Sound region to have a Gerding Edlen development. Gerding Edlen, Portland's premier green developer, is known internationally for its work. I'm sure Seattle and other cities would have appreciated one of its projects.

Phil Beyl, principal in charge of Bellevue Towers with architect GBD, said the city welcomed aggressive sustainable techniques "with open arms." Working on this project was exciting for him, precisely because he felt like he was bringing something new to the city: "We've been able to bring to Bellevue an elevated level of sustainability that now I think has raised the bar quite a bit higher... and that's very exciting."

Brennan said Bellevue is hoping this building will serve as an example and bring other green development to the city (though he also was unsure whether it actually would or not).

Incidentally, there are only two LEED certified buildings in Bellevue, according to the USGBC's registry. But there are 24 that are registered. Then again, some of the projects that are awaiting certification like the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center (wrote about it a year ago here in the DJC) are pretty darn interesting. 

Then there's my own experience with people that read this blog.

I like to track where blog readers come from, and believe me, there's been a dramatic shift. Last summer, I was surprised by how little readers I had from Bellevue (one here and there but virtually none). I even e-mailed certain city representatives to get them to read, but readers from Bellevue remained flat.

In the last two months, something changed. Now, Bellevue is consistently the third rated city, in cities that read this blog. (Behind Seattle, and then either Portland or New York, depending on the day.)

What the heck is going on?

Did something shift or did a whole lot of people from Bellevue start reading this blog for no reason? Was it the economy? Was it the change in presidents? I'm stumped.

What do you think? Is Bellevue getting - or going to be getting greener? Has anything changed or is this really just one LEED project? Comment below or answer my poll at right.

For more on Gerding Edlen, click the tab 'Gerding Edlen' below. Or check out SkyscraperCity and look under Bellevue Development or Bellevue Towers.

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Puget Sound is sick… and the PSP’s plan to cure it is online

Posted on November 6, 2008

Remember that time, last July or August, when you caught a view of the Puget Sound out of the corner of your eye... maybe above Pike Place Market. Maybe crossing a ferry to Bainbridge. Maybe at Discovery Park. And you just thought to yourself 'Wow.'

Hold that memory in your head. Now imagine what this region would be without Puget Sound. If you voted for the Pike Place Market property tax levy because of the

Puget Sound
Puget Sound

 market's intrinsic value to this community, then imagine how much more intrinsic is that body of water that is an environmental and economic driver of the Pacific Northwest.

Guess what, it's sick. It's really, really sick. So sick, the Puget Sound Partnership has spent the last 18 months figuring out what it would take to cure it with its draft action agenda. But hold your horses, the document is still only a draft and is ready to change based on your comments.

If you care about the sound... or would like to have future memories with the sound in it, I'd read my story in the DJC tomorrow, check the action agenda out here, and start investigating the issue and how you can make a difference. It's worth it.

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