DJC Green Building Blog

Light recycler helps businesses dispose of fluorescent lights

Posted on January 7, 2013

The following post is by DJC staff:

People and businesses in Washington are now required to recycle fluorescent light bulbs and tubes. The new law covers residences as well as government, commercial, industrial, office and retail facilities.

Fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) save energy but each light contains a small amount of mercury that can be harmful to humans and wildlife if it is not disposed of correctly. The mercury content in fluorescent tubes ranges from 3.5 milligrams to 8 milligrams or more for older lamps.

You can't throw these away now.

The most common types of lights that must be recycled include CFLs, fluorescent tubes and HID (high-intensity discharge) lights, such as mercury vapor, sodium vapor and metal halide lamps. It is now illegal to knowingly place mercury-containing lights in waste bins or landfills. All mercury-containing lights must be placed in a recycling container specifically designed to prevent the release of mercury. Mercury inside a light does not pose a concern while the light is in use and unbroken, but during disposal and waste handling, lamps are broken, releasing mercury vapor and potentially exposing waste handlers or others to mercury.

Mercury in the atmosphere is ultimately deposited back to the earth, rivers and lakes, where it can enter the food chain and accumulate in fish, which humans and other animals eat.

EcoLights was created in 1996 to recycle mercury-containing lights and both PCB and non-PCB ballasts. The company said it is a licensed “final destination” light recycler in Washington state.

Ecolights said almost every component of a fluorescent lamp can be recycled, including metal end caps, glass and the mercury phosphor powder. When lamps are recycled properly, they are crushed and the materials are separated under a continuous vacuum filtration process.

Glass, aluminum and phosphor powder are captured and recycled. Mercury phosphor powder is sent to a mercury retort for recovery of the mercury and rare earth metals in the powder.

EcoLights sells a pre-paid box for recycling. The company ships the box, protective inner bag, and instructions to users, who fill the box with lamps, and return it to EcoLights for recycling. EcoLights then e-mails a certificate of recycling to the user. The company said currently there are no fines or other legal consequences associated with non-compliance.

“EcoLights is committed to being a resource for helping businesses throughout the region understand and comply with the new law,” says Craig Lorch, EcoLights founder. “We want to make sure everyone is prepared for the transition.”

Information about the new law is available on the state Legislature website or at EcoLights.com.

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Scrap metal demolition is green, but not always easy

Posted on December 20, 2012

The following post is from Elder Demolition:

About 40 percent of the solid waste produced in the U.S. comes from construction and demolition debris. In 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that the debris generated from construction and demolition projects totaled 136 million tons. Since then, this figure has increased by 25 percent. Building demolitions are responsible for about 48 percent of this waste, while renovations contribute about 44 percent. Since steel is one of the most popular materials used in construction, green scrap metal demolition is getting a second look.

Scrap metal recycling can reduce disposal fees and demand for raw materials.

Builders are diverting metals harvested during demolitions from landfills for reuse in new projects. Instead of tearing down a building as fast as possible, builders deconstruct them in order to salvage parts they can reuse, recycle or sell. Scrap metal recycling isn’t a new concept in the metal industry. Here’s why:

It reduces demand. Steel and other metals have valuable minerals in them, such as nickel and chromium. By choosing to recycle scrap metal waste, you can help reduce the demand for raw materials and the energy required to refine them.

It saves money. Often you can reuse the metal salvaged during a green demolition, thus reducing disposal fees. If there’s metal that you can’t repurpose, there’s the option of selling it or making a tax-deductible contribution to a non-profit building supply company.

You can earn green points. A green demolition may qualify your project for LEED points or a related certification. Builders can also earn points by planning new construction with a future green deconstruction in mind.

Salvaging scrap metal is a time- and work-intensive process. When dismantling an aluminum plant, for example, our company harvested 35,000 tons of structural steel. This involved using steel shears to cut the larger scraps into smaller pieces for transporting. Then the smaller pieces must be gathered and separated from the rest of the construction debris — in many cases, this requires a crew to comb through the site and separate the materials by hand, which is dangerous as well as time-consuming. We’ve found the use of magnets to be the safest and most efficient way to extract scrap metal from a site.

One rookie error demolition companies commonly make is not properly sorting the different types of metal. It’s usually fairly obvious that any copper, aluminum or other precious metals should be separated. However, once these materials have been removed, many crews will simply gather the remaining metals into one load. That means heavy structural steel often gets mixed together with ductwork, metal wall studs, light fixtures and other less valuable metals. At the scrap yard, just a few pieces of these undesirable materials can diminish the value of the heavy steel as much as 20 percent — that’s $25-50 per ton. When you’re hauling 10-12 tons of scrap metal for resale, this can be a costly mistake.

For more information about scrap metal demolition, and site management, stormwater management and eco-friendly opportunities in the area, the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center and the EPA provide a list of green building resources and certification programs available in Oregon and Washington.

Portland-based Elder Demolition has experience with scrap metal demolition, scrap metal recycling and LEED-certified green demolitions.

 

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What would you do with the old floating bridge?

Posted on June 22, 2012

Sara Strouse, an architecture grad student in the WSU School of Design and Construction, has organized a design competition — there’s no contract at the end but the winner gets a $3,000 prize — to find creative ways to reuse waste material when the old SR 520 floating bridge comes down in 2014.

Photo by WSDOT

A press release from WSU about the competition said replacing the bridge is expected to create enough waste material to fill 67 Boeing 747s.

Strouse said as her final design project for school she wants to see if having a competition will get more people thinking about adaptive reuse — and get a little more attention for her thesis. She hopes to get between 50 and 100 ideas from design teams and individuals.

Submissions are due Aug. 15.

Strouse said she initially thought she would come up with ideas for reusing the bridge materials but she wanted to reach a broader audience and get an up-close look at how design competitions work so she decided to launch the contest. It has been a struggle to get sponsors and design the website herself, but it is giving her an opportunity to network with people and companies in the Seattle design community, where she eventually hopes to land a job.  She graduates in December.

Her father is a local architect, William Strouse of KSI Architecture and Planning.

The contest sponsors are NBBJ, KSI Architecture and Planning, WSU School of Design and Construction, and Kiewit/General/Manson, which is the bridge project contractor.

The new bridge is scheduled to open in 2014. After that, the old bridge will be removed.

Paul Hirzel of the School of Design and Construction said, “Infrastructure is of big interest in the U.S. right now, and encouraging the reuse of an existing structure versus demolition contributes to sustainability measures that are becoming more and more critical.”

The jury includes WSU graduate and architect Robert Hull.

For more information on the competition, see www.rethinkreuse.org. Winners will be announced by Peter Steinbrueck at the Seattle Design Festival Sept. 21. Winning entries will be displayed at the AIA Seattle Gallery from Sept. 18 through Oct. 26.

 

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Roof going on at Bullitt Center

Posted on May 16, 2012

The following post is by Brad Kahn, president of Groundwork Strategies. He manages communications for the Bullitt Center project.

The roof of the Bullitt Center on East Madison Street is under construction now and all the structural elements are in place.

Skylights are being framed into the roof to maximize daylight and reduce the need for lighting.

Photo by Sky-Pix

Today President Rosen Plevneliev from Bulgaria, who is a former real estate developer, will tour the Bullitt Center as part of a trade mission to Seattle.

After campaigning for president on a platform that included energy efficiency in buildings, Plevneliev will be in Seattle today before heading to the NATO summit in Chicago next week. His visit to Seattle is focused on international trade and economic development. In particular, he is interested in learning about green building and clean energy technology, which is why he is touring Bullitt Center, the world’s greenest office building.

In the next few weeks, we will begin outreach to brokers to begin marketing office space inside the Bullitt Center. It will be marketed at rates comparable to new class-A space in downtown.

Photo by John Stamets

The HVAC system is going into the building, including the six-story composting toilet system.

McGivra Place, the park next door, now has a final design direction and the process is moving forward, with re-development expected later this summer or early fall. The park project is the first to pursue the Living Building Challenge for landscapes.

 

 

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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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Be the change you want to see… ok, so how do we do that?

Posted on April 29, 2011

A big theme of this conference so far, has been changing your thinking. More than anything, it seems like speakers keep saying over and over that change can happen -- but you must believe it can and start making personal changes. However, speakers have also been quite vague about how exactly that change will come about. There's been great ideas, quotes and anecdotes, but no real concrete steps.

At last night's Big Bang Dinner as a 15 Minutes of Brilliance presentation, a student group from Jasper High School in Alberta did a cover of Arcade Fire's Sprawl II song, during which students with glowing lights danced throughout the audience. It got the crowd excited for the next part of the presentation, the really incredible part. During this, students alternated speaking while a creative and hilarious video of animation illustrated their ideas. Overall, students said the way education works today is meant to turn out the same type of student. But students don't learn the same way. Education encourages learning in a way that doesn't encourage creativity or thinking outside the box. Youth want to learn, they said, and are a huge resource but education stifles that desire to learn. The educational system needs to change to encourage creativity, rather than regurgitation.

Margaret Wheatley
Then this morning, Margaret Wheatley spoke about the way change is created throughout the world. As a society, she said we expect change to happen vertically through an organziation. But that's not how it works in reality. Really, she said, change happens when a small group of people identify similar ideas, gather with friends and inspire change. Change happens horizontally. And it's hard. But perseverance can create incredible results. Personally, she said, think about what's stifling you. Then imagine it changing. Even that action, she said, can have a profound effect.

To create change, Wheatley said other people including those we love will continue to dissuade us. We must stick to our convention anyway, she said, find our "tribe" of like-minded individuals (i.e. everyone else at this Living Future Conference) and concentrate on making change. As a connected network full of meaningful relationships, people can "grow the new."

Wheatley had an inspirational, spiritual presentation that included personal steps to identify and support change. But it was short on concrete steps. Over on Twitter, Jon Hiskes at Sustainable Industries tweeted that he's really glad another conference session "is laying off the vaguely inspiring aphorisms. I can't take it any more." I don't think he's the only one who feels that way.

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Got extra paint? Give it to “the green man” this week for free

Posted on March 7, 2011

Painting is a fun, easy to do project. But once the job is done, excess paint often sits in the basement, dying a slow, slow death as the years pass by.

So today I was delighted to hear about "the green man," via a press release. The green man is an

paint-can-11-300x225

Image courtesy Ecoactionteams.ca

effort by Wallingford's Reed Painting Co. to gather all your old paint and recycle it. Each year, it says, at least 695,000 gallons of paint is wasted in Washington State.

Currently, King County suggests residents dry out latex paint, strain it and put it in the garbage with the lid off. But Cole Palea of Reed Painting said that wastes a good product, while taking up valuable landfill space. Instead, his organization is collecting paint, straining it, categorizing it by color and giving it away as recycled paint.

"The need is there," he said. "But there is no real solution out there. We're hopefully getting this conversation started around the community."

This is the second year Reed has held a paint drive. Last year, it collected almost 200 gallons just from Wallingford, Queen Anne and Capitol Hill. The drive is currently in its second week. Palea said Reed has already doubled the amount of paint it collected last year and plans to pick up an additional 200 gallons of paint this weekend, for a total of at least 600 gallons that would otherwise be in the landfill.

People can either drop off old paint at the Reed shop in Wallingford or call to schedule a $20 pickup this weekend.

Palea said he and business owner Randy Reed grew up in Hawaii where they were acutely aware of natural resource use. Palea is a certified sustainable building advisor and this effort is one way for Reed Painting to become a better steward of the environment. "We're not trying to greenwash and tell everyone we're 100 per cent green by no means, because we're not. But we're definitely taking steps further," he said.

Portland has successfully turned paint recycling into a business. To read more about that city's efforts, check out this excellent story from 2009.

Reed is a painting contractor that works on homes and commercial projects. It paints the interior of the Seattle Art Museum between exhibits.

To drop off your paint, visit the shop this Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is at 3668 Albion Place North, on the backside of the block. The front of the shop is along Woodland Park Avenue North and 38th. There are three garage doors painted red. Reed is behind the first garage door. For more information, visit http://www.reedpaint.com/ or call (206) 965-0504.

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Bertschi living building gets SIPS panels

Posted on November 5, 2010

Last week, the team building the Bertschi School's new living building science wing installed its structurally insulated panels.

The project, on target to be the first living building in Washington State, should be complete in December. It was designed pro-bono by the Restorative Design Collective, a multi-discliplinary team led by KMD Architects and founded by Stacy Smedley and Chris Hellstern. I wrote a story in June about this project and

A rendering of what the completed project should look like, courtesy KMD Architects.
the collective here.

To  achieve 'living' status, a building must meet and prove all requirements of the challenge through a full year of occupancy and operation. A living building must generate all its own energy, and capture and treat all its own water among other requirements.

SIPs provide airtight insulation through a super tight envelope, reduced on-site construction waste and time as they are prefabricated in a factory and enhanced energy efficiency.

To watch a great video showing SIPs installation, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfS61INhv3w.

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Bullitt wants to go off the water grid: realistically, will it be able to?

Posted on March 17, 2010

I have a story in today's paper on The Bullitt Foundation's proposed living building on Capitol Hill. The project is fascinating: it aims to create all its own energy, produce and treat all its own water and re-energize the neighboring park among other points.

The project has a lot of interesting aspects. However the one I'm most interested in is the water angle. The building hopes to break the mold by capturing all its rainwater off the roof, which will be held in an underground cistern, according to Colleen Mitchell, project manager with 2020 Engineering. Then, some of the water will be treated by UV filters, pumped to faucets throughout the building and used as potable (or drinking) water. Some of the water will be sent to toilets, which will use one pint per flush. All waste from the toilets will be sent to a composting container in the basement, where it will slowly compost and be used for the building's greenhouse. The greenhouse will run up the south side of the building with plants on each level. Urine from the toilets will go to four tanks in the basement where it will stabilize and be sterilized over a three-month time period. After three months, one part urine will be mixed with eight parts greywater (or the water that goes down faucets). That mix will be sent to the greenhouse where it will be evapotranspired by plants with nutrients from urine being used for fertilization.

I've got a rendering of what the system will look like here:

This is what the water system will look like. Click on image to enlarge.

Image courtesy 2020 Engineering

The system is incredibly cutting edge and will set an amazing precedent if permitted. And the 'if,' dear readers, is a big 'if.'

Unfortunately, the precedent is one of the things that probably has permitting agencies worried. Last June, I attended a forum on water attended by a number of speakers. One of them was Steve Deem of the state health department. Going off the water grid is great in theory, he said, but architects, developers and engineers don't generally understand that if a project provides water, it is responsible for the building's water forever. That raises a lot of health and safety issues.

Secondly, there's the issue of charges and rates. King County is in the process of building Brightwater, its massive, multi-million-dollar water treatment plant outside Woodinville. Brightwater gets paid for in part by capacity charges, fees and rates from users. From what I've heard from multiple sources, projects are welcome to go off the water grid, as long as they pay those hook up fees and charges. For most developers, this is a turnoff because they are paying twice - once for the water system and once for the hook up. Bullitt has yet to finalize these details with the county. Chris Rogers of development partner Point32 said, "There will be conversations with the county and other players to understand what sort of levies there will be for something that we don't use."

At that same June meeting, Christie True, director of the King County Wastewater Treatment Division, said it's a social justice issue. If developers don't pay for wastewater infrastructure, people with fewer resources will end up paying more.

Last April, Ray Hoffman, acting director of Seattle Public Utilities, said on-site water treatment is not moving forward in the Puget Sound area because of bureaucracy. "There are institutional barriers on both the public and private side that prevent things that are readily available from getting off the shelf and into the ground."

These are some of the issues Bullitt faces in trying to go off the water grid. I don't envy them the process but it will be an amazing achievement if they succeed.

When I asked him about the difficult code issues he was about to face, Denis Hayes of Bullitt said all agencies are on the same page in wanting to see innovative projects happen. "We’ll take that robust optimism until somebody in authority says we shouldn't have it."

What do you think, readers? Just how important is this project and what kind of a precedent will it set? Will it succeed in getting off the water grid and are the health and social justice issues valid concerns? I'd love to hear from you on this topic.

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