DJC Green Building Blog

Cascadia launches Groundswell to amplify its regional collective impact

Posted on December 2, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

You could say it's just a party, a fundraiser, or an awards ceremony. You could say that, but you'd be wrong. According to Mona Lemoine, VP and Executive Director of the Cascadia Green Building Council, "Groundswell"  is all that, but more.  According to the dictionary, "groundswell" means a sudden gathering of force.  Lemoine stresses that the December 12th event in downtown Seattle is designed to showcase a "call to action that intentionally energizes the region's grassroots and takes the green building movement to the next level."  The council plans to repeat the event on an annual basis, offering new challenges each time to galvanize and amplify regional collective impact.

In an interview with Lemoine at Greenbuild in November, Lemoine was quick to say "there has and continues to be lots of green building activity in the Cascadia Region. We could be satisfied with that. But the Council can play a special role stimulating and supporting new grass roots initiatives."

Of all the US Green Building Council Chapters, Cascadia has tended to be the first out of the block with new ideas and action to suit.  (Unlike most other chapters, Cascadia was founded based on bioregional boundaries, not geopolitical ones.) In fact, it's safe to say we have a bit of a "renegade" reputation within the larger organization.  So it's no surprise that the Council has invited "innovators, rulebreakers, and changemakers" to this part celebration, and part instigation event.

Michelle Long

This year the call to action will be framed by keynote Michelle Long, Executive Director of BALLE, which uses collaboration to identify and promote "the most innovative business models for creating healthier, sustainable, and prosperous communities."  Cascadia members will be asked to enlarge their thinking (and scope) beyond (green) bricks and mortar to include sustainable business development with the goal of "transform(ing) the communities where we work and live."  BALLE, which stands for Business Alliance for Local Economies envisions "a global system of human-scale, interconnected local economies that function in harmony with local eco-systems to meet the basic needs of all people, support just an democratic societies, and foster joyful community life."  By inviting Council members to consider this vision, Cascadia's leadership is seeking to expand on the collective impact that members have already had on the built environment.

David Barmon, a permaculture designer based in Portland, and Naomi Wachira, a local folk singer with African roots will round out the program.  And yes, there will be awards. All with a mind on acknowledging, but also inspiring, grassroots action. For the first time, Cascadia will be presenting Emerging Professional, Branch Collaborative, and Public Sector Leadership Awards.  Cascadia Fellows will be recognized at Groundswell as well. Fellows are local leaders recognized for catalyzing transformative advancements in green building at the local and national level. And yes, Groundswell is a fundraiser: $50 of every ticket is a tax-deductible donation to support the mission of the Cascadia Green Building Council. And, yes, it will be a party. According to the website, dress if "formal." Hmm..dress jeans?

Registration closes December 9, 2013. Click here for more information on the event and award nominees.

Kathleen O'Brien is a long time advocate for and prolific writer about green building and sustainable development since before it was "cool." She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. Recently retired from O'Brien & Company, the green consulting firm she founded over 22 years ago,  she is now the Executive Director of The EMERGE Leadership Project, a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate life-sustaining solutions in the built environment through emergent leadership training.

 

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Deconstructing sustainability

Posted on November 13, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

There's some discussion among professionals and sustainable building advocates about market "fatigue" as regards green building.  Given the tendency of many in the industry to value and use green building techniques for their marketing benefits above all else, this is no surprise.

Author Lance Hosey warns that if sustainability is treated as a style, then it can go out of style.

In his recent book, The Shape of Green, Lance Hosey notes that "associating sustainability with its trappings rather than its principles risks looking passé."  When sustainability is treated as a "style," says Hosey, "it can go out of style."  He describes the unfortunate and conspicuous use of green technologies such as solar panels or a green roof on buildings that are pronounced sustainable, but have little to say for themselves other than the "green bling" they are sporting.

But Hosey does far more than bemoan this circumstance, and he doesn't suggest tossing out the concept of sustainability because some marketers are onto the next new thing, or some architects continue to view (wrongly) that sustainability is inelegant and antithetical to high design.  In my view, Hosey returns sustainability to its rightful place when he reminds us that sustainability  is a set of "principles and mechanics for making design more responsive and responsible, environmentally, socially, and economically."   Designers need "an aesthetics of ecology" that can "guide designers to make things more environmentally intelligent, humane, and elegant all at once."

Hosey is asking us to shift our perspective from technological design to ecological design, and offers three principles that together result in sustainable solutions:  conservation, attraction, and connection.  Well worth the read.

Kathleen O'Brien is a long time advocate for and prolific writer about green building and sustainable development since before it was "cool." She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. Recently retired from O'Brien & Company, the green consulting firm she founded over 22 years ago,  she is now the Executive Director of The EMERGE Leadership Project, a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate life-sustaining solutions in the built environment through emergent leadership training.

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What nature can teach us about sustainability

Posted on October 29, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

Shifting perspectives and enriching our view of sustainability is the aim of "Finding the Balance: Restorative Development & Regenerative Design" — a panel to be held November 12th at the Bullitt Center. It will feature local thought leaders: Architect Jennifer Barnes of 55-5 Consulting, Engineer Colleen Mitchell of 2020, and Real Estate Developer Eva Otto of Infiniti RED.

Photo by Benjamin Benschneider

A panel on sustainable development will be held from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 12 at Seattle's Bullitt Center. The event includes a tour of the building.

Barnes will be speaking about learning from and then emulating nature's strategies in order to solve our own problems more sustainably, and her own experience applying the biomimetic framework at the urban scale through the project Urban Greenprint. According to Barnes, "When we live with intention and empathy for the planet and for each other, we will feel more connected with life, which in turn will compel us to live with more intention and empathy."

Mitchell will be discussing her work engineering living systems using regenerative technologies. The venue for the panel is apt, as Mitchell was the "water engineer" for the net zero water project.

Otto will be discussing how traditional feminine values could help us redefine the discussion of sustainable development from a balanced perspective.

The event is sponsored by the Women's Network for a Sustainable Future, the Bullitt Foundation, and The EMERGE Leadership Project, and will include a tour of the Bullitt Center, which was designed to the Living Building Standard.

Kathleen O'Brien is a long time advocate for and prolific writer about green building and sustainable development since before it was "cool." She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. Recently retired from O'Brien & Company, the green consulting firm she founded over 22 years ago, she is now the Executive Director of The EMERGE Leadership Project, a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to accelerate life-sustaining solutions in the built environment through emergent leadership training.

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4,800 new lights save money at the Paramount

Posted on October 15, 2013

The following post is by DJC staff:

The Paramount Theatre has installed new lights that will reduce energy consumption and save $43,000 a year.

Paramount chandelier after an LED retrofit.

It cost $438,000 to replace about 4,800 lights, including huge chandeliers, with energy efficient LEDs, compact fluorescent lamps and T-8 tube lighting. About $136,000 came from Seattle City Light energy efficiency incentives.

“When you consider the number of bulbs in this theater and what it takes to simply keep them all in good working order, this project is just good dollars and sense,” Seattle Theater Group Executive Director Josh LaBelle said.

Seattle City Light said in a press release that this is the second lighting upgrade it has been involved with at the Paramount. Incentives also helped to fund a retrofit of the Paramount’s neon sign in 2009. Both upgrades were made while preserving the historical character of the theater.

More information about City Light incentives for businesses and homeowners is available on its website.

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45 mini-parks pop up on city streets

Posted on September 20, 2013

The following post is by DJC staff:

Two Capitol Hill residents, Gillian Graham and Isabel Blue, moved their living room out onto the street at Pine and Boylston as part of PARK(ing) Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. The annual event gives city residents the chance to temporarily turn a parking space into a park.

A mini-park takes over a bit of Capitol Hill street parking.

It gets people thinking about how we use space and how much of the public space is devoted to storing and driving cars. And it raises awareness about what makes cities livable and healthy.
SDOT says on its website that the idea originated in San Francisco and has grown into a global movement, with close to 1,000 parks in more than 35 countries last year.
SDOT approved applications for 45 parks around the city this year.
This year PARK(ing) Day 2013 is part of the Seattle Design Festival, which runs from Sept. 13 to 22.

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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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The next big thing in energy conservation? Small commercial buildings

Posted on June 11, 2013

The following post is by the Preservation Green Lab:

A new report released by the Preservation Green Lab in Seattle says an array of energy savings in small commercial buildings across the United States could profitably yield more than one quadrillion Btu annually, which translates into more than $30 billion in annual cost savings and improved financial performance for small businesses.

Conservation efforts commonly focus on larger structures, but 95 percent of all commercial buildings are less than 50,000 square feet. This is a massive and largely untapped opportunity for new energy savings.

“The energy savings detailed in our report represent the equivalent of 580,000 permanent new American jobs,” said Mark Huppert, Director of the Preservation Green Lab, and a lead author of the report. “Harvesting energy efficiency from small buildings is like striking oil, except it’s domestic, clean and keeps dollars in our local economies. The savings will produce real jobs that can’t be offshored or outsourced.”

www.sxc.hu

Ninety-five percent of all commercial buildings are less than 50,000 square feet — a largely untapped opportunity for energy savings.

The report, “Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Small Buildings,” was produced by the Green Lab in partnership with the New Buildings Institute, a nonprofit that works collaboratively with commercial building interests to remove barriers to energy efficiency. The analysis was funded jointly by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Here are the key findings:

  • Small buildings are responsible for 47 percent of the energy consumed by commercial buildings.
  • Small businesses or firms with fewer than 500 employees own 84 percent (3.7 million of 4.4 million total) of small buildings.
  • Potential energy savings in small buildings range from 27 to 59 percent, depending on the building type. This represents 1.07 quadrillion Btu annually or 17 percent of commercial energy use.
  • Small, neighborhood businesses such as restaurants, grocers and retailers can improve profitability by more than 10 percent through smart investments in energy savings.

The report recommends that utility regulators create incentives for energy efficiency to unlock the potential savings in these smaller buildings. Pilot projects that pay customers for measured energy savings could demonstrate how the private sector can drive down energy costs while utilities continue to earn a profit. These innovative programs also offer utilities the opportunity to burnish their images.

Some utilities are already embracing this approach. “I believe the cleanest power plant that I will build in the future is the one that I don’t build,” said Duke Energy CEO James E. Rogers during a 2012 address to the Urban Land Institute.

Programs that engage small businesses owners represent a big opportunity for the financial sector, as well as for the businesses themselves. “Since 2005, Wells Fargo has financed more than $21 billion for “green” businesses, “green” buildings, and “clean” energy customers, including $900 million in loans and investments benefitting low-income communities or housing projects,” said Andrew Kho, senior vice president with Wells Fargo Commercial Banking. “These investments can help our customers reduce their monthly operating expenses and support a transition to a “greener” global economy.”

The Preservation Green Lab is a sustainability think tank focused on the reuse and retrofit of older and historic buildings. A project of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Green Lab was launched in 2009 and is based in Seattle.

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Your patio can also be a power plant

Posted on May 17, 2013

The following post is by Silicon Energy:

Two Washington-based companies said they are joining forces to make solar systems easier to install and more flexible than traditional roof- or ground-mounted modules.

Silicon Energy, a solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer, and CrystaLite, a skylight and sunroom manufacturer, will create pre-engineered, integrated-PV systems. The new structures — including patio and carport coverings, electric car charging ports, and picnic shelters — will let solar contractors offer customizable, durable PV systems.

Silicon Energy said the modules are strong enough to withstand harsh weather and were recently rated the most durable among competitors by the federally funded National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

They were introduced at the recent Living Future's unConference in Seattle.

PV systems can be installed on different types of structures.
The structures are offered in modular 4-foot widths, and can incorporate CrystaLite railing systems with glass panel, aluminum pickets or stainless steel cable railings. Silicon Energy and CrystaLite PV-integrated structures can be grid-tied or battery-backed to generate electricity in remote locations.

Silicon Energy said its double-glass design allows light transmission through the PV module with a mounting system that fully encloses and protects the system wiring, delivering an aesthetically pleasing and practical shelter. The open-framed, shingle-like mounting of the Cascade Series PV Module and Mounting System maximizes shedding of snow, dirt and debris from the modules, which optimizes performance.

Silicon Energy’s modules come with a 30-year power warranty, a 125-psf load rating and Class-A fire safety rating.

"A paradigm shift is needed in how we look at PV,” said Silicon Energy President Gary Shaver. “We need to think beyond the roof and fields and integrate PV even more into our local communities, bringing the beauty and benefits of distributed generation of PV into our built environment.”

The systems will be available starting in July.

Silicon Energy was founded in 2007 and is located in Washington and Minnesota. More information is at www.silicon-energy.com.

Founded in 1982, CrystaLite is a Washington-based manufacturer of roof glazing, sunrooms and railing systems that are built by local employees. Primary vendors are in Portland and Hood River, Ore., and the company says 80% of its raw materials are from Washington and Oregon. For more information about CrystaLite, Inc., visit www.CrystaLiteInc.com.

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Living Future a Deep Dive into What’s Possible…and Necessary, says Noted Paul Hawken

Posted on May 9, 2013

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

Seattle. May 15-17. Living Future 2013 marks the 7th annual deep dive into the Living Building Challenge and high performance building.

Paul Hawken

With more Living Buildings coming on line (such as the recently LBC-certified Bertschi Science Wing and the Bullitt Foundation headquarters here in Seattle), the vision of a Living Future becomes more and more possible. It's not just a pipe-dream! In remarks keynoter Paul Hawken e-mailed to me this morning, he comments:

"We are in an intense period of cultural and structural change, the depth of which is obscured by our tendency to cling to the past. Fundamental to cultural change is a complete transformation of the built environment, as different today from buildings of the past as a smartphone is from a rotary dial landline.

"In a world of increasing resource constraints, buildings are changing from structures that sit upon and harm the land to systems that interact with and support the biosphere. This is what the Living Building movement represents. Today, buildings are sinkholes for energy, water, and toxic materials. From what has been learned and implemented in the past ten years, we know conclusively that buildings can be the source of energy, water, and purification of in- and outdoor air."

Hawken is one of three celebrated keynoters for the conference (David Suzuki and Jason McClellan being the other two), which has as its theme "Resilience and Regeneration."  In his e-mailed remarks to me, Hawken argues that it's not just possible, but absolutely critical to restore the qualities of resilience and regeneration to our built environment:

"These qualities are inherent in all living systems, organisms, and the planet as whole. Without them, life could not have evolved to what we see today. What we have witnessed and participated in during the past 200 years is a thermo-industrial system that ate its host—cultures, land, riparian corridors, topsoil, watersheds, coral reefs, and more. In the process, innate attributes of life were eroded and stripped away. Given the disruptions that we can now easily foresee with respect to climate disruption and its myriad impacts on food, water, cities, and people, it is imperative that we reach deep into the playbook of nature and reinvent what it means to be a human being living on the only earth we will ever have."

Over 1,000 green building professionals and thought leaders will be at the conference hoping to learn and share cutting edge knowledge. Although most attendees will be from the Northwest, if last year is any indication, the gathering will include delegates from all over the world.

Kathleen O'Brien is a long time advocate for green building and sustainable development since before it was "cool." She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. She continues to provide consulting on special projects for O'Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project. She'll be conducting an introduction to the EMERGE Leadership Model at Living Future this year.

 

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