DJC Green Building Blog

Old warehouse becomes cool new school

Posted on September 13, 2013

The following post is by Dennis Erwood:

Once a year, a single school within the entire state of Washington is recognized by The Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) for its exemplary design approach. This year, the coveted “Polished Apple” was awarded to the Northshore School District for its newly opened Secondary Academy of Success (SAS). The school is no stranger to such recognitions. Since it opened in 2010, it has won accolade after accolade, which raises the question: What does it take to design an award-winning school?

Secondary Academy for Success

Adaptive re-use: With space as a major constraint for new schools, the school district looked outside the box for unconventional solutions, turning to a former warehouse for the site of the new school. The business park location also made sense for SAS, as the school partners with businesses to provide students with real-world opportunities and experience.

Adaptive design: The team also looked for creative ways to use existing infrastructure to avoid major modifications that would increase costs. The raised loading dock created a second entrance for middle school students.  Support columns and trusses were carefully blended as elements of the interior design. Windows, lighting, color and materials were reconsidered to create a space that would be inviting.

How it looked before the renovation

Sustainable solutions: With a commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, the school district also looked for ways to incorporate sustainable design. Wind-powered generators, solar panels, operable windows and high-performance glazing were integrated as cost saving and green solutions. Real-time energy and water usage is shared with students and teachers via “green dashboards,” providing data for use in curricula that paves the way for potential green jobs. Perhaps the “greenest” element of all is the re-use of a former space instead of using the natural resources required to create an entirely new one.

The resulting design approach successfully transformed a one-story, monochromatic, car-focused warehouse into a natural light-filled, two-story learning environment with an outdoor plaza, classrooms, dining and common spaces that invite learning and collaboration.

Dennis Erwood, AIA, leads the education studio at the Seattle-based architectural firm Studio Meng Strazzara. He can be reached at DErwood@studioms.com.

 

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BIG’s hilly courtyard tops a new gym

Posted on August 13, 2013

The following post is by DJC staff:

The Danish architecture firm BIG with CG Jensen + EKJ + Grontmij said it has completed a new multipurpose hall for Bjarke Ingels’ former high school north of Copenhagen. The project turned a courtyard into a new gathering point above an underground sports facility.
The space can be used for sports, graduation ceremonies and social events.

Photo by Jens Lindhe

Architect Bjarke Ingels says he considers the roof a giant piece of informal furniture.

BIG said in a press release the new hall is 16 feet below grade to ensure a good indoor climate and reduce its environmental impact. It is formed by beveled concrete walls and covered by a vaulted wooden roof made of curved glued laminated timber beams.

The roof functions as an interior and exterior skin, creating a hilly courtyard that can accommodate a number of activities from group work to larger gatherings.

The exterior surface is untreated oak and white enamel-coated steel benches that were designed by BIG. The only light sources at night come from the benches and seating, which are outfitted with LED lights underneath that brighten the entire courtyard.

The edge of the roof is a long bench with a lattice design that brings in daylight below. Solar panels around the buildings heat the hall.

Bjarke Ingels said, “Rather than placing the hall outside the school — and spread the social life further — we have created a new focal point and link between the school’s existing facilities. The roof forms a molehill that serves as a giant piece of informal furniture engaging and supporting student life.

“The main architectural idea emerged from the rules of handball as the soft, curved roof takes its form from the mathematical equation of the trajectory of a thrown ball. Form follows function. In an homage to my old math teacher, we used the mathematical formula for a ballistic arc to shape the geometry of the roof.”

A future phase will connect the courtyard and hall with sports fields and parking, and provide space for art classes and cultural activities.

BIG — Bjarke Ingels Group — describes itself as an international partnership of architects, designers, builders and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research and development.

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What can we learn from D.C.’s green building law?

Posted on February 4, 2013

The following post is by Danielle Rodabaugh:

It’s no secret that decisions made in Washington, D.C., frequently lead the way for progressive industry regulation overhaul. This time, however, the overhaul only affects the district’s construction market rather than the national industry — at least for now.

Photo courtesy of Architect of the Capitol

D.C.'s green building law may have ripple effects elsewhere in the U.S.

The district’s Green Building Act of 2006 was a revolutionary piece of legislation that changed the expectations construction professionals in the district must meet. Since its enactment, construction professionals working in Washington, D.C., have been adjusting to more stringent green building regulations that apply to a wider range of projects than ever before.

The GBA didn’t fully go into effect until Jan. 1, 2012, however, and industry stakeholders continued to scrutinize it through December 2011. Before we delve into how the GBA could affect the future of green building across the country, let’s review the history of this controversial law and take a look at its current state.

The GBA requires that all non-residential buildings within the district larger than 50,000 square feet be built to meet LEED certification standards. Before the GBA, various state and local government agencies across the nation had required that certain publicly funded projects be LEED certified. For example, Colorado has required LEED certification on all state buildings since 2005.  However, the GBA extended to include privately funded projects as well.

The U.S. Green Building Council developed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines as a way to identify practical and measurable green building strategies. LEED guidelines focus on design, construction, operations and maintenance. Developers, owners and construction professionals can submit their projects for LEED certification, which verifies that a building, home or community was designed and built using techniques aimed at achieving high performance in certain areas of human and environmental health.

The most controversial aspect of the GBA was that it originally included a stipulation requiring contractors to purchase a performance bond guaranteeing their intention to comply with LEED. To put it simply, the bond would hold the contractor financially liable for building a structure that met the minimum LEED standards.

Although performance bonds are commonly required for construction projects, both public and private, the “green performance bond” type required by the GBA simply was not feasible.

Based on the GBA’s initial wording, if a structure failed to meet LEED certification standards, the government could make a claim on the bond to collect money that would be put in a district fund. Construction professionals, surety providers and contract lawyers began discussing how to best handle the new, strange bond requirement. Ultimately, surety providers argued against it.

Because so many parties are involved with any one construction project, surety professionals asserted that the blame could not solely be placed on the lead contractor. As such, they made it clear that the risk associated with such a bond would be far too great for them to back. The state of the GBA remained in limbo for years as rumors and speculation ensued. Finally, less than a month before the GBA was scheduled to go into full effect, the council passed the Green Building Compliance, Technical Corrections, and Clarifications Act of 2012 as an amendment to the GBA.

With the amendment in place, contractors can now choose one of four ways to guarantee that structures will meet LEED certification standards:

• deposit cash in an escrow account (in a financial institution within the district) and name the district on the account

• provide an irrevocable letter of credit from a financial institution authorized to do business in the district

• provide a surety bond secured by the applicant to ensure compliance

• submit a binding pledge that the applicant will fulfill the current LEED standards for commercial and institutional buildings at the certified level within 2 years of receipt of the certificate of occupancy

No matter which option contractors choose, they guarantee that their structures will meet LEED standards. If they fail to do so, they’ll be held accountable for the consequences, financial and otherwise.

When sweeping changes are made to construction standards, a ripple effect frequently follows. Contractors across the country should keep their ears open for discussions about new LEED certification requirements in other areas. As a construction professional, the best way to plan for the future is by learning from the past. Such is the case with the GBA.

Whether you agree or disagree with the GBA, I encourage you to make sure you’re informed of similar changes that could affect your local construction industry. Then, make sure your voice is heard. Those who spoke out against the initial wording of the GBA were successful in arguing their cases.

Knowledge is power; the more informed you are about green building expectations, the better prepared you’ll be to deal with the inevitable changes.

Danielle Rodabaugh is the director of educational outreach at SuretyBonds.com.

 

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MCA holds its first ‘innovation event’

Posted on October 9, 2012

The following post is by DJC staff:

The Mechanical Contractors Association of Western Washington held its inaugural Mechanical Innovation conference in Seattle last week, with a speech by Denis Hayes of the Bullitt Foundation about his group’s net-zero headquarters under construction on Capitol Hill.

Hayes spoke about the worldwide market for net-zero buildings using his project as an example.

Panel session at the Mechanical Innovation conference.

The members of MCA are union plumbing, piping and HVAC contractors.

About 300 people attended the conference, which included sessions about embracing change, innovation and technology. The tech talk was by David Burczyk of Trimble Navigation, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm that provides advanced positioning systems that are used in a variety of fields including surveying and construction.

There was also a panel discussion about sustainable built environments and the participants are shown here: Yancy Wright (Sellen Sustainability), Craig Norsen (The Seneca Group), Robert Willis (PSF Mechanical), Ted Sturdevant (Washington State Department of Ecology), Steve Doub (Miller-Hull Partnership) and moderator Robert Tucker.

Tucker introduced and questioned the panelists about sustainable buildings. They talked about how and why to get involved, as well as the challenges and benefits of such types of projects.

Tucker also delivered the keynote address: “Innovation is Everybody’s Business.”

The breakout sessions included a leadership talk about "Unlocking Your Innovative Smarts" by Bill Stainton, who shared tools and techniques to help people think more creatively in problem-solving, embracing change and unleashing innovation. A technical session presented by Norman Strong of the Miller-Hull Partnership gave a glimpse into the direction of the AEC industry through the eyes of an architect.

 

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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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This is not your grandfather’s heavy timber structure

Posted on August 17, 2012

The following post is by Brad Kahn:

The last few months have been busy at the Bullitt Center construction site on Madison Street, with structural, glazing, mechanical and other systems taking shape.

Photo by John Stamets

Glaziers install windows on the sixth floor.

The Type-4 heavy timber structure is a first for Seattle since the 1920's, when heavy timbers were used in most commercial buildings. In the interim, the technology of heavy timber structures has advanced, with glued-laminated timbers replacing solid wood in many cases. Of course, forestry practices have also improved in the last 90 years, with 100% of the wood used at the Bullitt Center coming from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests.

At this point, the structural work at the Bullitt Center – designed for a 250-year lifespan – is largely complete, with the roof firmly in place.

With the structure complete, work turned to the curtain wall. Of particular note, the Schuco window system being used is arguably the most efficient in the world. Yet before the Bullitt Center, these windows were not easily available on the West Coast, since the manufacturer was in Germany – quite a distance to ship windows weighing hundreds of pounds each. To address this challenge, the team was able to connect Schuco with Goldfinch Brothers, a glazing company in Everett, WA. Now Goldfinch is the exclusive manufacturer of the Schuco window system on the West coast, providing windows for the Bullitt Center and other projects.

Photo by John Stamets

A rainwater collection and treatment system is being built throughout the project.

On the mechanical side, the rainwater collection and treatment system is being built throughout the project, from roof to basement. While approval to use rainwater for drinking is pending, it is our hope that the Bullitt Center can help demonstrate that ultra-filtration, UV and activated charcoal can treat water as well as – if not better than – chlorine (which can't be use in the project, because chemicals are not allowed for water purification by the Living Building Challenge).

At this point, the Bullitt Center is on track for completion later this year, with occupancy by commercial tenants starting in January 2013. Conversations with potential tenants are underway, and interested companies should contact Point32, the project development partner, for more information.

Brad Kahn is president of Groundwork Strategies. He manages communications for the Bullitt Center project.

 

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Heavy timber framing at the Bullitt Center

Posted on April 6, 2012

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

When the Bullitt Foundation began work on the Bullitt Center, Denis Hayes, the foundation's president and CEO, had a clear vision that the architecture should be regionally relevant. Noting that buildings in Seattle and Phoenix are too frequently designed in the same ways, Hayes set out to promote the idea of a "regional vernacular" in architecture that draws on the environment surrounding Seattle for guidance. And in the Pacific Northwest, there is no environmental feature more prominent than forests, making wood a logical building material.

Add in the fact that when it comes from a responsibly managed forest, wood is among the most environmentally friendly building materials, and it is only natural that the Bullitt Center is a heavy-timber framed structure.

As the first commercial building to pursue the Living Building Challenge, the Bullitt Center team is working hard to meet all 20 "imperatives," as the requirements are known. Included in this list is an imperative focused on "Responsible Industry," requiring that "all wood must be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)" or from salvaged sources.

With construction well under way, wood framing for the Bullitt Center has begun.

And anyone who has passed the job site on 15th & Madison has likely noticed the glued, laminated timbers, or "glulams" as they are known in the industry. Manufactured by Calvert Glulams in Vancouver, Wash., the glulams offer several environmental benefits, in addition to being stronger than traditional sawn timbers. First, they are from forests certified to the standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council, which is widely recognized to be the most rigorous and prescriptive benchmark for forest management globally. All wood for the project comes from within a 1,000-kilometer radius, as required by the Living Building Challenge. In the case of the glulams, the wood came from FSC-certified Douglas fir forests in Idaho, so the project is helping support a regional economy for wood from responsibly managed forests. And because the glulams are manufactured by combining smaller dimensional lumber, they reduce pressure to harvest larger, older trees that historically were needed to mill large dimension timbers.

Brian Court from Miller Hull Partnership addresses some of the other design considerations for heavy timber framing on the Bullitt Center blog.

Over the next few weeks, expect to see the Bullitt Center take its full form, as the six stories rise from the construction site. The project is on track to be completed later this year.

 

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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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Northgate – what exactly is light rail’s urban development responsibility?

Posted on November 30, 2011

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

ST PowerPoint Template
Panel meeting I attended. The panel, which reviews the station's design, had a lot of criticism that is detailed in the story. Their main point was that the structure wasn't living up to its responsibility in helping to transform the neighborhood.

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."

Image courtesy Sky-Pix
Big, boxy Thornton Place certainly isn't perfect but it's better than the empty parking lot that used to be there. At least the space now offers movies and a few retail and eating options. Whether you like it or not, it's there. The question is what happens next and what is the light rail station's responsibility in helping to guide that change?

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."

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