DJC Green Building Blog

A rooftop P-patch grows in Columbia City

Posted on September 21, 2012

The following post is by DJC staff:

Harbor Urban says people are starting to move into the GreenHouse Apartments at 3701 S. Hudson St. in Columbia City. The LEED gold project has one notable feature: irrigated garden plots for each resident on the roof.

Harbor calls it “roof-to-fork urban agriculture.”

There’s also a greenhouse on the roof and a communal space for dining, as well as edible trees and shrubs scattered throughout the property. The rooftop plants absorb rainwater and reduce runoff, and the soil and vegetation help insulate the buildings.

Photo courtesy of Harbor Urban

Rooftop gardens and greenhouse at Columbia City's GreenHouse Apartments.

The site is near the Columbia City light rail station and the farmers’ market.

Harbor said half of the units were leased before the building officially opened.

Harbor Urban, LLC is the developer, Exxel Pacific built it and Runberg Architecture Group was the architect. The landscape architect was Hewitt and the structural engineer was CPL. LEED consultant was O’Brien & Co.

Martha Barkman, director of design and construction for Harbor Urban, said, “We spent a lot of time early in the entitlement stages to make sure it was something that would be accepted by and truly fit into the existing community, which is a unique treasure.”

Harbor said GreenHouse is the first new market-rate apartments in Columbia City since 1969.

GreenHouse has 124 units, 20 percent of which are designated affordable under Seattle’s Multi-family Tax Exemption program.

This post has been updated since it was first published to name additional project team members.

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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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Canadian Building aims to be greenest in North America

Posted on April 27, 2011

Living Future 2011 in Vancouver, B.C . could have begun better. My first event was a tour of the new Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability space at University of British Columbia.  To get there, all 30 of us had to wait 20 minutes, get on a 40 minute bus ride and then trudge through 15 minutes of pouring, pouring rain. Needless to say, I should have remembered my umbrella. A kind soul on the tour (not from the Northwest, obviously, who

The inside of the CIRS building, as it looks today
DID remember her umbrella) gracefully let me half-hover under hers. Despite that, I am currently totally soaked through though my shoes and coat are now drying out.

Thankfully, the tour was totally worth it. The CIRS Center is poised to be an incredible project, once complete. The four-story, 60,000-square-foot dry-lab research building has targeted both the Living Building Challenge and LEED platinum. Its goal is to be the most innovative building in North America. The building should be ready for occupancy by the end of May. It was designed by Busby Perkins + Will.

When designing and building it, the team concentrated on equally balancing the need to be net positive, or to give back more energy and environmental benefit than the building took from the grid; to be humane, or being constructed and thought of with the best impacts on humans possible; and being smart, or cost effective and adaptive.

The inside office space of the new CIRS building. It is shaped like a horseshoe.
To do that, this building functions on a greater scale than just its footprint in two big ways. It captures wasted heat from the building next door and uses some of it to fully heat the CIRS building before giving the rest back. Doing this allows the building next door to reduce the amount of steam it requires for heat, which reduces money the university spends on natural gas, saving money and creating a net positive effect.

It will capture all rainwater, treat it and use it as potable water for those in the building to drink (this is what the Bullitt Foundation's Cascadia Center targeting living building status in Seattle wants to do, though code rules are making it tough). It will also treat all wastewater generated in the building and use it to flush toilets, urinals and for drip irrigation. This was a difficult thing to permit, said Alberto Cayuelo, associate director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative. All water will be treated, drank, reused, treated, reused and treated again. This is the first building in Vancouver, the team said, to do this. Water that hits the building's hardscapes will be redirected into the aquifer.

The building's price is $37 million Canadian, with a $22 million construction budget. Cayuela said the project will cost between 20 and 30 percent more than a LEED gold building.

“I’d be lying through my teeth if I said this building came in at no premium,” he said. “(But) on a total cost of ownership basis, we can recoup that investment in a few years.”

The project should save money through energy and water initiaves.

There’s a lot more that I can and will say about this project. But I’ m about to hear Majora Carter speak, so more info will have to wait for another story!

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Tom Douglas’ 3 new restaurants in South Lake Union historic renovation

Posted on March 22, 2011

I attended a press event this morning for the completion of Amazon.com's fourth phase of headquarters work. Attendees were invited into the historic renovation of the Terry Avenue Building next door. Terry Avenue, located on Terry Avenue North between Thomas and Harrison streets,  is soon to be the home to three (!!!) new Tom Douglas restaurants. Terry was designated a historic landmark in 2008. It was built in 1915, and was a hardwood flooring and cabinetry warehouse until the 1950s.

Surprisingly, the press release doesn't say much about the building's sustainable elements (other than it has the first green roof on a historic building in the city). Terry was part of Amazon's phase four and the release does say phase four buildings targeted LEED gold certification. From a sustainable standpoint, the fact that it is a historic renovation automatically buys the building some credibility. I asked Douglas why he liked the space. He pointed to the 1908 wooden pillar I was leaning against and said projects don't get much better than that.

Douglas also said the building is the first place he'd head during an earthquake, due to the extensive seismic renovations that went into it.

The three restaurants will all be open by mid-April. Cuoco, on the ground floor, will serve fresh pastas made in an open kitchen and will seat 100. Ting MoMo, a Tibetan dumpling cafe led by longtime Douglas chef Deyki Thonden, is to the east of the second floor and will seat 40. The Brave Horse Tavern, to the west of the second floor, will seat 150 and serve Americana food. Cuouco should open the last day of March or first few days of April. The other two restaurants will open the following week.

At the event, Ada Healey, vice president of real estate at Vulcan, said a number of things still have to happen in the neighborhood, including an up-zone. I chatted with Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin briefly at the event and he said council is trying to balance the needs of a new urban neighborhood with the need to protect the area's heritage. It is an especially pertinent time to discuss this topic as The South Lake Union Height and Density Alternatives Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which addresses this issue, is accepting comments until April 11. What do you think? Should South Lake Union be allowed to go higher? Or are there heritage elements in the neighborhood still to protect? Would love to hear your thoughts.

In the mean time, here are pictures! To see more, check out my Facebook page here.

The Terry Building from the outside, amongst Amazon.com projects. Images courtesy Katie Zemtseff.

Inside of The Brave Horse Tavern. That's Tom Douglas, behind the horse.
Inside of TingMomo Cafe (Tibetan dumplings!)
A bull statue in Cuoco.
Shuffleboard at the Brave Horse Tavern.
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6-acre green roof in Vancouver, BC feels amazing

Posted on May 21, 2010

In case you missed it, we had a story in this week's DJC about the six-acre green roof on top of the Vancouver Convention Centre West. I toured the roof during March's Globe Conference and finally got around to writing the article and editing the video.

The story was carried by the AP and is currently in the Seattle Times, Seattle PI, Tacoma News Tribune and on Sightline, among other news organizations.

The article provides a nice overview of the green roof, its story and its ambiance. Basically, it felt unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The meadow is quiet and calm. When you are up there, you feel like you are in the county or on a mountain that happens to be surrounded by a bustling city, rather than actually being a part of the city. It's a pretty amazing experience.

However, when I was there, I was struck by what a wonderful space it could be for weddings or events or even soccer games. It seemed strange that so little visitors would be able to experience it the way I had. When I spoke with Bruce Hemstock of PWL Partnership, he gave me the whole reasoning behind why the roof is closed off. It's basically to create ecology for urban creatures such as bees, birds and insects. A city by nature takes habitat away from these creatures and keeping humans off the roof was one way to give it back. He provided a pretty convincing argument. There's more detail in the article.

If you have time, click on the video link to watch my (slightly bumpy) video tour. I'm still learning about videos here and am not yet an expert. Plus it can be a tad tough to take down note, take pictures and take video.

Speaking of pictures, here are some that did not make the cover of the DJC. There are more on my Facebook page here. Hope you enjoy!

The green roof, looking towards Vancouver

These are the four beehives

This is another portion of the green roof. The red is pretty striking!

Here I am, enjoying the view (and rain).

Yes, those are teeny, tiny people!
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Green buildings: shooting for the stars or arriving at average?

Posted on July 23, 2009

What is the purpose of a new green building aesthetically? Should it look like every other energy hog on the block? Or should it look different to call attention to the fact that it's special?

That's what I'm wondering after your comments to the post below, regarding the new LEED platinum headquarters building for the U.S. Green Building Council. Holz says "it's got no soul," while a conversation between Nate and I revolved around the image that the USGBC is trying to project. Nate says "USGBCs goal seems to be to bring green to the mainstream, and thus it is not surprising that they wanted their office building to look like a traditional office building."

But why go traditional when you can go exciting?

I don't even work in the field and I can come up with a number of reasons. It's less of a risk if you design something that looks like everything else. And while many people might think the idea of LEED is great, there are also people out there who think it's a load of hogwash. And heck, if you're standing in a standard-looking building, you've got to search out the single USGBC plaque and know what it means before realizing you're in a green building. What percentage of the population would even recognize the seal if they saw it?

But if you've got a green building that's obviously a green building from its architecture, who knows how it will be accepted? Who knows if people will like it, or if tenants will choose it over a more common counterpart. It's also more obvious to nay-sayers that the people who developed the building - and use it- are committed to green practices (or at least want to appear that they are).

Then again, one has to assume that if you're going to the USGBC's offices, you know that the people you're about to be speaking with are green-minded.

And if the envelope is never pushed, you won't get buildings like this:

The roof of the LEED platinum California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco by Renzo Piano
 

or Nate's favorite:

CK Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Reserach by Matsuzaki Architects

or possibly the first living building in the country....

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living by BNIM Architects

Or the LEED gold Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 headquarters in Denver. From the outside...

From the outside, designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects
And from the inside

Though to be fair, all the above photos are of buildings for private institutions or agencies that don't really have to worry about market forces.

What do you think? Should really green buildings look like everything else or do they need to look mainstream for reasons of marketability, etc.? Answer my poll at right or share your thoughts below.

And if I missed a great example of a green building that pushes the aesthetic envelope, please comment with a link to a photo of it.....

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Photos of Seattle’s largest green roof at the Gates Foundation garage

Posted on March 2, 2009

About a month ago (Jan. 20) I wrote a story in the DJC on the green roof at the Gates Foundation's garage. At 60,000 square feet or about 1.4 acres, it is the largest green roof in Seattle by a landslide.

The garage is a crosswalk away from Seattle Center on the east side of Fifth Avenue North. It is located next to the future Gates Foundation headquarters and is kitty-corner from EMP. The garage is technically a public-private partnership between the Gates Foundation and the city of Seattle. NBBJ was the architect. Sellen Construction was general contractor. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol was landscape architect.

The roof itself is visible from the Space Needle, a consideration in its design. The roof has five inches of soil over a layer of synthetic drainage.

Here are photos:

A worker weeds the green roof
The green roof is clearly visible from the Space Needle's deck and vice-versa
A side view photo only begins to show how massive the roof really is
View from the street
Aerial view, courtesy Sky-Pix
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Pictures of the green roof at Olive 8

Posted on January 8, 2009

The green roof at Seattle hotel-condo project Olive 8 is being installed this week. It is one of the largest green roofs in Seattle at 8,355 square feet.

The roof is actually two green roofs so the developer, R.C. Hedreen, can test out which system it likes best. Above the chillers there is a sod-based green roof. On the actual fourth floor ground level, there is a tray-based sedum system. There is a lasting argument between which one of these techniques is better, which I will discuss in a later post at greater detail. For more on this project, or to learn about R.C. Hedreen's conversion to being a green developer, read the story in the DJC here.

R.C. Hedreen is also considering a second green roof on the 39th floor of Olive 8, though if it pursues that option it will need to be sod-based as David Thyer, president of the company, said the city is afraid the green roof trays will blow away at such a great height.

On Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to see part of the tray installation. Here are photos I took of the process:

Trays on the ground

Workers pick up a tray...

And load the tray into a pattern

The green roof from behind

 

Both green roofs

A close up of the sod-based green roof

For more on Olive 8, see the official page here. To see more photos, visit Eco Friendly Mag here.

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