Category Archives: Green materials

Need a building? You’ve got some new options

The following post is by Alaska Structures:

Much has been said about sustainable construction methods and how beneficial reclaimed and recycled materials can be to reduce the carbon footprint of a home or commercial construction project.  However, often overlooked are the many non-traditional building alternatives that provide an energy efficient shortcut to a complete building.

Shipping Containers

shipping container

Highly durable and too often wasted, these hulking containers aren’t just for subterranean bomb shelters anymore. DIYers and construction experts have been creating beautiful, functional, and livable buildings out of industrial shipping containers for several years now and we’re thrilled with the results.

By reusing the massive metal containers for home construction, homeowners are able to enjoy sturdy walls, cool interiors, and endlessly expandable layouts. While working with standard shapes may feel limiting, many experienced container builders have found ways to create ventilated rooftops and innovative, expansive rooms using multiple container sections, as well as beautiful outdoor decks and living spaces.

While it takes a lot of hard work and logistical planning, the benefits of designing a custom home without the need for producing additional materials will provide a level of satisfaction beyond what typical sustainable building practices often provide.

Tensioned Fabric Buildings

tensioned fabric building

Perhaps some of the most versatile structures available today, a high-end tensioned fabric building can sometimes outperform even a brick and mortar structure in terms of durability. These buildings can withstand significant snow load and high winds, will remain intact during natural disasters, and help lower insurance costs.

High-end fabrics can provide insulation and security in any climate on earth and some manufacturers go the extra mile with HVAC systems, electrical connections, and other custom options. The lightweight nature and ease of installation make these fabric buildings a great option for organizations on the move, but with so many foundation options, there’s no reason why you can’t install your fabric structure in place for good.

Worried about meeting building code? Depending on where you purchase your fabric building, the company’s engineers may be able to meet or exceed various building code requirements mandated by your city or state governments.

Modular Buildings

modular building

Shedding the misnomer of “pre-fab” buildings, modular constructions aren’t just for the temporary construction site, and are not like the double-wide trailers of 40 years ago. Entire hospitals, apartment complexes, and even hotels are being built using modular practices. By using modular methods, major projects have found success with reductions in construction time, site preparation, and shipping costs.

The production of modular buildings is more efficient, so they are a much more eco-friendly solution when compared with traditional construction. The construction industry accounts for about 40% of the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. By using off-site manufacturing methods, the UK’s Waste & Resources Action Programme suggests that construction site waste can be reduced by as much as 90%. Off-site construction also requires less heavy machinery use during the assembly process, further reducing emissions during the construction.

Modular buildings aren’t just greener during construction either – many modular constructions come with super efficient HVAC systems, zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and glass walls/open office layouts that utilize more natural light.

Alaska Structures has manufactured fabric buildings for industrial and commercial applications around the world since 1975.

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Seattle fills a few tree pits with Flexi-pave

Demonstration of Flexi-pave installation

Demonstration of Flexi-pave installation

K.B. Industries installed a new material called Flexi-pave around several trees in Seattle to demonstrate its use for trees in business districts. The company has provided the material to the city free of charge to show how it works and train local contractors to install it. Flexi-pave can also be used for trails and sidewalk projects.

Flexi-pave has been installed at eight trees along Pine Street – between Second and Third avenues – and at five trees in McGraw Square.

Here are some of the advantages of using flexible porous material in tree pits:

• A safe, stable surface for pedestrians
• Allows air and water to pass into the soil to keep street trees healthy
• No weed or debris removal
• Cheaper than traditional tree grates

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After a nine-year cleanup, Port of Everett site is a winner

ESY Before and NowThe Waterfront Place Central cleanup at the Port of Everett was named the Environmental Project of the Year by Washington Public Ports Association.

The site is a 65-acre former industrial property in the heart of the port’s 2,300-slip marina, which it says is the largest public marina on the West Coast. The site will become a new mixed-use development with public access, retail, commercial space and housing. Construction is expected to begin on that in 2016.

Between 2006 and 2015, the port has done cleanup projects across the 65-acre site, removing nearly 150,000 tons of contaminated soil, remediating groundwater plumes, dredging sediment from the bay, and removing failing bulkheads and other old creosote-treated wood structures.

Strider Construction did the upland cleanup, and Magnus Pacific did the in-water cleanup.

The port worked with Ecology to divide the 65 acres into six separate cleanup sites, with the ultimate goal of creating a new waterfront destination in Everett. The final, major cleanup at the site will be complete this month.

Port officials say Waterfront Place will unify the marina and surrounding property to create a unique community.

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16 reasons you’ll want to live in a shipping container

A new website offers plans, advice and a community of container home fans.

I’m Tom Woods.  I run Container Home Plans along with my assistant Claire.  I have a background in construction and studied sustainable development at Yale. Whilst studying, I developed my passion for sustainable buildings and this is what caused me to come across the idea of making homes out of recycled shipping containers. Earlier last year, I was browsing online to try and find more information on how to build shipping container homes and was frustrated because I couldn’t find much information out there. This is how Container Home Plans was born.

So I made the site to act as a central online resource for shipping container homes and to help people who are looking for detailed information on how to build their own. We feature on our site case studies of other people who have built their own container homes and go in detail, outlining the materials they used, the length of time it took them and the cost of the build. We also run a feature called container home of the week, where we show off the very best shipping container homes as inspiration for people! It’s our hope that Container Home Plans will act as a hub for the community of container home enthusiasts so they can share their experiences with other enthusiasts and help each other as they build their own.

We run the site because we believe that using shipping containers can be not only environmentally friendly but it can also be a very affordable option that allows people to make homes they otherwise couldn’t afford to if they used conventional building materials.

I’d be delighted to hear from people, so feel free to send any questions to me at:


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See the Super Bowl in a whole new light: LED

The following post is by Ephesus Lighting:

It’s not the first time a championship football game will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium and the two teams will not be there for the first time. But for the first time ever, the big game will be illuminated by high performance LED stadium lights from Ephesus Lighting,  which provides LED lighting for sports facilities.

Earlier this season, University of Phoenix Stadium became the first NFL venue to light its playing surface with LED lighting. Ephesus reports the lights have been a hit with fans, players, broadcasters and facility operators.

“This year LED sports lighting proved to be ready for primetime as we illuminated more than 1,000 sporting events with our Ephesus LED stadium and arena lights,” said Mike Lorenz, President of Ephesus Lighting. “It’s fitting that the biggest sporting event in the world will be lit by our LED lights, the future of sports lighting.”

City of Glendale

The new LED fixtures at University of Phoenix Stadium slash energy use by 75 percent.

Ephesus fixtures, which are powered by Cree LEDs, provide an increase in illumination compared to the traditional metal halide lights that were previously installed at University of Phoenix Stadium. LED lighting also provides brighter and more uniform light which eliminates shadows on the playing surface, creating a better stage for players and fans, both in the stadium and watching on high-definition television.

The Ephesus installation is well-suited to HDTV broadcasting and feedback from broadcasters this season has been positive. Not only is the light brighter and more uniform across the playing surface, but the new lighting ensures that colors are reproduced more accurately. Since broadcasters do not need to open the camera’s aperture as wide to let in more light, they can present a clearer picture, show greater field depth, zoom in closer and even offer more detailed slow motion replays.

“The capabilities of LED technology have changed the way we view sports lighting,” said Joe Casper, Founder and CTO of Ephesus Lighting. “There is no doubt in our minds that both the fans in the stadium and millions more watching on television will see the game in a whole new light thanks to our ground-breaking system.”

University of Phoenix Stadium installed 312 Ephesus Stadium fixtures to replace the 780 metal halide fixtures. The new system uses just 310,000 watts of energy as compared to the 1.24 million watts needed to power the previous system for a 75% reduction in overall sports lighting energy consumption.

Additionally, LED lights can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch, whereas metal halide fixtures require a 20-minute warm-up period. This on/off feature allows facility operators to create light shows for fan entertainment, and, if a power outage were to cause a blackout, like it did in 2013 at the Superdome, the LED lights can be turned back on immediately with the flick of a switch.

“As the host venue for the 2015 Super Bowl, we are excited about demonstrating the benefits of LED technology to a global audience,” said Peter Sullivan, General Manager and Regional Vice President for Global Spectrum at University of Phoenix Stadium. “The Ephesus Lighting LED solution has improved lighting for the athletes, fans and broadcasters, all while reducing energy consumption and eliminating conventional sports lighting maintenance expense.”

The University of Phoenix Stadium has a retractable roof and field. The multi-purpose facility, which opened on August 1, 2006, previously hosted Super Bowl XLII in 2008, two BCS National Championship Games (2007 & 2011), the annual Fiesta Bowl, and numerous international soccer matches. The 63,400-seat stadium, which is expandable to seat 72,200 fans, is owned by the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA) and operated by Global Spectrum.

Since lighting the first sports venue with LED technology in North America in 2012, Ephesus Lighting luminaires have been operational for over 300,000 hours in more than 100 indoor and outdoor sports and entertainment venues across North America.

Ephesus Lighting is a Syracuse, New York-based company that manufactures high-output LED lighting solutions for the industrial and sporting markets.


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Lush landscaping without all the water

The following post is by Jasmine McDermott:

Z Living Systems installed a water-saving, living wall crafted of 6,000 individual plants on a new resident activity club in Los Angeles. The building, which implements a number of sustainable features, achieving LEED Platinum, ultimately creates an “oasis in the middle of a city.” The 1,200 sq. ft. living wall, featured both indoors and outdoors, stretches the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool while only requiring less than half the amount of water an individual would use showering in one week.

This living wall in Los Angeles is the length of an Olympic swimming pool.

In response to California’s severe drought, Governor Brown’s office released regulations surrounding water conservation and is encouraging a number of water conservation practices. Z Living Systems incorporates a number of these practices into their living walls creating a sustainable alternative for landscaping.

Z Living Systems’ proprietary system takes plants, hardy drought-tolerant native species, which are first transplanted into the company’s living wall pots from their original nursery pots, delivers them onsite, and then hangs them onto a prefabricated structure. The system allows for first day, full coverage of vegetation. Following the installation, the company utilizes an irrigation controller that allows the control of irrigation remotely in response to weather conditions. In collaboration with Rios Clementi Hale Studios, there was an effort to blur the lines of indoor and outdoor by continuing the living wall through the exterior and interior of the building.

Firms involved

  • Architect- Rios Clementi Hale Studios
  • Contractor- Fassberg
  • Builder- Brookfield Residential

Water Conservation Practices Utilized by Z Living Systems Living Wall

  • Smart irrigation controller
  • Drip irrigation
  • Drought tolerant or native plants
  • Mulch
  • Watering once a week
  • Preventing runoff

Jasmine McDermott is a co-founder of Z Living Systems, a living-wall provider based in San Luis Obispo, California.

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Do rain gardens work at industrial sites?

The following post is by the Washington Environmental Council:

Rand Lymangrover thought he had tried everything. His company, Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE), was failing to meet benchmarks for their general stormwater permit for the runoff from their Port of Tacoma facility. The main problems were zinc and copper: two metals in abundant supply at an industrial terminal with lots of galvanized fencing and heavy vehicle traffic.

Before the rain gardens were installed.

After failing to get below benchmarks by cleaning up and installing stormwater vault filters, Lymangrover turned to rain gardens. If it worked, he reasoned, the company would save money: at $24,000, it would cost about 10 percent of a more traditional, industrial-scale filtering system.

The contractor was David Hymel with Rain Dog Designs. The rain gardens were installed with the help of Stewardship Partners, which is working with Washington StateUniversity to install 12,000 rain gardens in the Puget Sound region.

Three years later, the rain gardens are working perfectly and are a regularly visited by other industrial businesses, city council members and many others.

After the rain gardens were installed.

“In addition to getting us below the benchmark, the rain gardens have really improved how things look down here and show that this green infrastructure feature works at an industrial level,” Lymangrover said. “You can always find a place to do a rain garden.”

During heavy rainfall, the TOTE rain gardens can handle over 160 gallons of runoff per minute.

Lymangrover invites other industrial businesses that are looking for solutions to their stormwater issues to consider a rain garden – and visit the ones at TOTE. His ultimate goal: to eliminate all stormwater runoff from the terminal.

Washington Environmental Council is a nonprofit, statewide advocacy organization whose mission is to protect, restore and sustain Washington’s environment.



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New life for old wood at Stone34

The following post is by DJC staff:

Skanska USA crews recently finished the glass-enclosed staircase at Stone34 in Wallingford.

The stairwell is lined with fir wood salvaged from a pair of 1920s-era buildings that once stood on the site. The buildings were last owned by Fremont Dock Co., which acquired them in the 1980s.

Photo courtesy of Skanska

The wood is salvaged from a pair of 1920s-era buildings that once stood on the site.

Salvaged wood gives the staircase a look and feel that’s unusual for new construction, Skanska says.

The 129,000-square-foot project will house the Brooks Sports headquarters when it opens this summer.

Curious about the salvaged wood? Skanska passed along these tidbits:

• 45 pieces of lumber were salvaged before the old buildings were demolished. All the wood in salvageable condition was reused.

• Everett-based W.W. Wells Millwork did the milling and cutting. LMN Architects helped choose a milling profile and cut that would complement the wood’s appearance.

• Milling work requires a great deal of raw material, so the Skanska team turned to one of its other developments, 400 Fairview in South Lake Union, to supplement the supply with another 140 linear feet of wood.

•Using wood from the 400 Fairview site — also fir — was not easy since it had to match Stone34’s milling profile and be in good condition.

• The salvaged wood will also be used for slats beneath several glass canopies. On the north side of the building savaged wood is used as exterior cladding.

• 98 percent of the construction waste has been diverted from landfills.

• Non-salvaged wood at Stone34 is FSC-certified, meaning it was harvested from responsibly managed forests. Examples include Stone34’s outdoor benches and the lobby floor.


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That new desk might have been a telephone pole

The following post is by DJC staff:

Windfall Lumber was started in 1997 in Tumwater with one goal: to sell wood responsibly.

It uses reclaimed, salvaged and FSC-certified wood to make tables, countertops, architectural wall cladding, panel and flooring products.

Production of a Windfall Lumber table top.

Every piece handcrafted by Windfall Lumber has a story. Wood comes from telephone poles, gym floors, shipping pallets, hardwood scraps, trees downed by windstorms, deconstructed granary storage bins and warehouses, as well as FSC hardwoods grown in the Pacific NW.

Interior designers, architects, builders and homeowners have used Windfall Lumber products, and they can be found locally at Starbucks, Whole Foods, Amazon, Olympia Coffee Roasting Co., University of Washington, Washington State University, Seabrook and Clover Park Technical College.

Tables and countertops come with live-edge, end grain and butcher-block designs. Wall cladding comes in stained and textured finishes. New colored cladding is now available. Panelized wood, which is used for wall and casework covering, comes in several stains and texture finishes.

The wood ranges from Douglas fir, maple and Oregon black walnut to Pacific madrone and Oregon myrtle. Reclaimed material is sourced regionally close to the manufacturing facility. Design, saw milling, kiln drying and finishing take place under one roof.

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Take a free green home tour on Saturday

The following post is by DJC staff:

Here’s your chance to tromp through neighbors’ homes and check out what’s new in green building.

Northwest EcoBuilding and Built Green will hold their annual green home tour on Saturday, April 26, showcasing green remodels, new homes and energy retrofits.

This net-zero energy house in Issaquah is one of the stops on the green home tour.

The free self-guided tour covers 35 homes and 12 “sustainability stops” where visitors can tour green businesses, civic buildings and other attractions.

The event runs from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. No tickets are required.

Though most of the sites are in Seattle, the tour also has stops in Edmonds, Bothell, Issaquah and Shaw Island in the San Juans.

Participants can start the tour any site.

An organized 5-mile walking tour is also planned, beginning at 11 a.m. at Hale’s Ales, at 4301 Leary Ave. N.W. The four-hour tour will take participants through the Fremont, Phinney and Greenwood neighborhoods. A bus is available to go back to Hale’s after the last stop. Email or call (206) 652-2310, Ext. 5 for more information.


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