DJC Green Building Blog

Which Living Building are you most excited for?

Posted on May 25, 2011

In the Pacific  Northwest, there are a number of living buildings in different stages of development. But in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C., there are three projects that stand out and will be fascinating to compare.

The projects are Seattle's  Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction, Portland's Oregon Sustainability Center and Vancouver's Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability. Though each is very different, they are large and significant enough to be comparable.  Unlike most living buildings, which have to date been smaller structures in isolated landscapes, each of these is in the center of a city. Each are being built by nonprofit or educational organizations. Each will act as a nexus of sustainability for their respective communities.

Of the three, CIRS in Vancouver is furthest ahead, and should be ready for occupancy this summer. The 60,000-square-foot, four-story structure is a dry-lab research facility for the University of British Columbia. It's budget is $37 million Canadian. It was designed by Busby, Perkins + Will. I wrote a previous post about the project here.

Courtesy Perkins+Will Canada Architects Co.

Next, comes the Bullitt Foundation's headquarters in Seattle. The Bullitt project, on Capitol Hill, will be six stories and a basement over 52,000 square feet. It is designed by The Miller Hull Partnership and Schuchart is the general contractor. Point32 is the development partner. Completion is planned for next summer. Bullitt is not releasing its budget but plans to release other detailed information on performance and development. At the design presentation for the project earlier this month, Jason McLennan of the Cascadia Green Building Council said “I think this is the most important building being built in the country today,” he said. “It's going to open up a whole new set of eyes.”

Image courtesy The Miller Hull Partnership

Third, is the Portland project. It recently completed final design and should begin construction in early 2012, with an opening in late 2013. The team includes Gerding Edlen, SERA Architects, GBD Architects and Skanska Construction. The Portland Daily Journal of Commerce reported that the project's budget is $59.3 million, not including $4 million needed to align streetcar tracks beneath it. The seven-story building will be 130,000-square-feet. It's funded by the City of Portland, the Portland Development Commission and the Oregon University System.

Image courtesy Oregon Sustainability Center.

Though each is similar, a "green competition" has sprouted from the beginning between the Seattle and Portland projects. Time recently published a post on the "green war" here.

Though each building must accomplish the broad goals of the living building challenge (provide all energy, treat and provide all water) they are meeting the goals in different ways. In large part, jurisdictional codes and requirements have influenced design. The Vancouver building, for example, is essentially becoming its own waste treatment plant and will provide all its own water. The Bullitt project will use composting toilets, and is struggling with the ability to treat rainwater. I'm excited to see how each performs.

Which building are you most excited for? Which one do you think is the prettiest, or the one that you respond to best aesthetically? Answer our poll at right or comment below with your reasons!

P.S. For more on Seattle's first building designed to living building standards that is complete, the Science Wing at the Bertschi School, click the living building tab or go here. It hasn't received certification yet but is on track to do so!

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Comments (7) Trackbacks (1)
  1. Portland project is hands down the most exciting and possesses the most integrated design with the street car access through the building. Also worth noting is that they have the largest budget.

  2. i think the goals of LBC are headed in the right direction, but i’ve been struggling with several aspects lately – especially related to community and global equity. specifically, the issues of site net zero and site net water – and what that means for infrastructure.

    If LBC buildings are allowed to get by without paying for water connections and infrastructure, the burdens of maintenance fall harder on those that can’t afford the expensive upgrade to LBC.

    similarly, LBC requirement of site net zero energy don’t make sense. for starters, having individual buildings throw up massive PV arrays is not necessarily a cost effective utilization of resources (natural or economic). if the option for 100% carbon neutral energy can be supplied to the building through off-site means, why is this not allowed? this only rewards those that can afford the expensive first costs, which again comes back to the equity problem. this inequity is so high, some LBC projects aren’t even releasing costs.

    i don’t believe that massive PV arrays (aka “putting a bird on it”) are necessarily the best approach for site net zero. i also don’t understand why site net zero (which still allows for release of tons of carbon annually) is the goal of LBC – should it not be carbon neutral or carbon negative (reducing)? if the goal of LBC is a “restorative future” – site net zero certainly doesn’t get us there.

    the other aspect issue for the insolation-challenged northwest, is the absurd amount of PV needed – resulting in these unattractive PV… chapeaus.

    fortunately, the folks in Vancouver seem to better integrate the PV to be less obvious for the CIRS (or maybe my euro-Passivhaus leanings severely bias me).

    i guess that means go perkins + will!

  3. I completely agree they all are meeting goals but I like Portland project its has great view, I am completely amazed with the design and want to salute Gerding Edlen, SERA Architects, GBD Architects and Skanska Construction good work..
    Keep it Up. . .

  4. I am most excited on Portland’s Oregon Sustainability Center. It allocated the biggest budget and broadest space for the project which may simply means that they purchase high quality materials for the project.

  5. We’re most excited for Portland’s Oregon Sustainability Center!

  6. Hi Katie, These are all really neat and creative building designs. I think I like the Vancouver building the best..it’s really neat how they are going to provide its own water and waste treatment plant, too. That’s breakthrough design and very neat! Thanks for the post!

  7. I personally feel that sustainable development should exist for better tomorrow. So, I believe in a building that’s providing such thing. For this very reason I used http://bccomfort.com/ services.


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