DJC Green Building Blog

What Makes it Green is coming up…..

Posted on March 9, 2010
The San Juan Channel House on San Juan Island, by Anna Howlen, D + A Studio, was one winner of last year's WMIG competition
For everyone that does not yet know, the What Makes it Green final submittal deadline in this Friday. What Makes it Green is an AIA Seattle awards program that honors the best in local green design.

The program honors both projects that are already built and those that are "on the boards" or planned.

AIA Seattle will shortlist project teams between April 12 and 16. Then, those teams will go through jury interviews as part of the Living Future Conference in May. A celebration for the winners and a panel discussin will be held in Seattle in early June.

For information on last year's winners, click the tab 'AIA' below.

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The 10 Winners of What Makes it Green

Posted on April 30, 2009

The honors have been doled out. The party's done. And AIA's What Makes It Green is over for another year. To read my article in the DJC, click here.

There have been some interesting blog postings on this year's ceremony. Dan Bertolet's self-described rant at hugeasscity talks about the title of the awards, and whether, after all this time, we still don't know what makes it green. Dominic Holden at The Stranger also weighed in on the point of the awards here. The AIA Seattle COTE also live-blogged the process (go here if you want a full list of winners). 

Of the ten projects that won, it surprises me that six are in Washington. Two are in Seattle. If we're really looking at the greenest of the green, I would expect a wider range of geographic locations (considering the competition was open to designers and architects in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong and Japan). 

This year's project winners included one project in Leavenworth, one in Woodinville, two in Seattle, one in Olympia, one on San Juan Island, one in Victoria, B.C., one in Billings, Mont., one in Portland and one in Denver.

By way of comparison, last year's winners included one two from Seattle, one in Tacoma, one in Issaquah, one in Bremerton, one in Billings, Mont., one in Corvallis, Ore., one in Portland, one in Salem and one in Bend. 

(Incidentally, both winners in Billings went to the same architecture firm - High Plains Architects).

But here's the thing: an awards process is only as good as the entries it receives. And from what I've heard, it takes a lot of time and effort to put a project entry together. So what can you do?

I don't have the answer. But I do have winning project pictures. Here are a few of them: enjoy!

Miller Hull's Building #35, Natural Sciences Building at Puget Sound Community College in Olympia

Anna Howlen of D + A Studio's The San Juan Channel House on San Juan Island

High Plains Architects' Klos Building in Billings
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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greenest project of all?

Posted on April 27, 2009

Tomorrow, the Seattle Chapter of the AIA will announce its winners of the What Makes it Green Awards. The awards celebrate the greenest projects in the Pacific Northwest (and a few overseas countries. Still not sure on how the overseas aspect works but it does).

So before they make their big announcements, I wanted to ask you, dear readers.... what do you think are the greenest buildings of the past year?

Nationally, the AIA chose Weber Thompson's headquarters and Dockside Green (for more info, click AIA tag below). Who do you think the local awards will honor?

Just for fun, I'm including some randomly chosen images of green buildings I have reported on in the past year. Let me know if you think these - or any I haven't mentioned - will be winners:

The garage next to the future Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Headquarters.

Alley House, Sloan Ritchie's Leed platinum home project

Gerding Edlen's Bellevue Towers in Bellevue

Building Changes' LEED platinum Kenyon House in Seattle

Vancouver, B.C.'s Convention Centre West

P.S. For pictures of last year's winners, click the tag 'AIA' or 'Awards' below!

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AIA hands out the greenest of the green awards – are they achieving all they should be?

Posted on April 13, 2009

Today, the AIA's Committee on the Environment selected its top ten green projects. Tomorrow's DJC will feature a short story and slideshow of the images but there were so many great pictures, we couldn't include them all. Here, I give you some of the pictures we aren't about to run in the DJC.

Local winners of the awards are Weber Thompson for the Terry Thomas Building and Busby Perkins + Will for Synergy at Dockside Green.

...But before I give you the pictures, I wanted to remind readers of the jurying for last year's AIA COTE awards, which were held here in Seattle. That event last April was one of my most favorite green events ever because the judges were - at times - brutally honest about the state of green building and how nominees need to go further in the quest for green goodness.  (I wrote a story about it called 'U.S. green buildings don't go far enough, AIA award judges say'.)

Among their comments (remember, this is last year's judging for 2008, not 2009) judges said: "We saw very much less of what I would really liked to have seen" (Glenn Murcutt); "Projects that call themselves green are not green enough and in most of the work that we see we're not taking the big enough leaps that we need to make" (Jason McLennan); and "The last thing you want to do is have the environmental movement associated with things that are overbudget and with things that are ugly" (Rebecca Henn). Like I said, sometimes brual. But honest.

I blogged on last year's winners here.

Unfortunately, I did not get to attend this year's jurying as it was not in Seattle. I wonder if it was quite as critical or if the entries had improved from last year. If anyone attended, I would love to hear a short review below!

However, Rebecca Henn's comments about the separation between beauty and performance seem to be officially part of the judging process now. An AIA press release says "In architecture, performance and aesthetics are inextricably linked. The COTE Top Ten is one of the very few awards that evaluates performance and design," said jury members. "Other awards and organizations look strictly at performance without care for how a building looks."

The award winners might achieve this balance but it still seems to be a pretty big issue, and one that local award programs have struggled with as well. It will be interesting to see the AIA Seattle's COTE awards at the end of this month.... (on April 28 if you dont' already have it on your calendar).

As for performance, it looks like most of the award winners are LEED platinum.

So, did these winners achieve both performance AND beauty? You be the judge:

Dockside Green in Victoria, B.C., courtesy Enrico Dagostini

World Headquarters for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Yarmouthport, Mass., courtesy Peter Vanderwarker
Gish Family Apartments in San Jose, courtesy Bernard Andre Photography

Portola Valley Town Center in Portola Valley, Calif. Cesar Rubio, courtesy Siegel & Siegel Architeects

To read more about the award winners and to explore the jurying process, check out AIA's COTE page here.

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National energy shout out to Bellingham! Gooo B-ham!

Posted on October 27, 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency announced its 2008 Green Power Leadership Awards and the community of Bellingham is officially one of five national winners in the Green Power Partner of the Year Category. And the only winner (in that category) that is a city, or community as the case may be. And oh, by the way, it's the second year it has won this award.

For those of you who don't know, Bellingham basically rocks when it comes to

The beautiful city of Bellingham
The beautiful city of Bellingham

The beautiful city of Bellingham

renewable energy. In early 2007, the Bellingham local government chose to buy 100 percent green power for all city-owned facilities. Later the same year, the city helped launch the Bellingham Green Power Community Challenge, the goal of which was to increase green power purchasing among city residents and businesses to more than 2 percent of the city-wide electricity use. The community has surpassed the goal and buys more than 81 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy certificates; about 11 percent of the community's total electrical use. More than 2,400 households and businesses buy power through the challenge.

Portland General Electric won an award in another category - the Green Power Beacon Award. In part, the utility won the award for its GreenPowerOregon.com Web site, which features coupons, a power calculator and information.

Other winners in the award category included Intel Corp, University of Pennsylvania and Cisco Systems. Winners in other categories included The Estee Lauder Companies, PepsiCo., the Philadelphia Phillies.

Almost inspires you to pay that extra $3, $6 or $12 a month towards renewable energy, eh?

For more information, visit the city of Bellingham's Climate Protection Program.

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The best green products of 2008… but are they really the best?

Posted on June 24, 2008

I have a story in today's DJC on the year's 10 best new green products, according to (our kind of competitor) the Sustainable Industries Journal... but were they really the best?

The products range from odd to ordinary, at least in what their function is. Here are three of them:

I'd never heard of the Solar Tracking Skylight by Solar Tracking Skylights rooftop-z.jpgof Chicago but it sure sounds interesting. It's a self-contained, self-managed skylight with mirrors that move to adapt to the sun's position. It's designed to provide light all day, not just when the sun is shining directly above. They're half the size of typical skylights and customers include Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and the U.S. Military. ... and they also look like they came out of a space movie! Yea for space movie products! (If you want to see a video of how it works, visit the Web site at the above link).

Lamberts Channel Glass by Glasfrabriks Lamberts of Bavaria, Germany is a self-supporting column that can be used as interior or exterior walls. They're nelsonmuseumsmalssmal.jpgmade from 40 percent recycled glass and are decidedly pretty, judges said. At left is the product in use at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. One judge, Clark Brockman of Sera Architects in Portland, said, "Let's just face it, it's sexy."

Sexy. Usually a word NOT associated with green building products (or projects for that matter). But judge for yourself from the picture at left....

Then there's local winner Salvaged Hardwood Tables by Urban Hardwoods of Seattle. Urban Hardwoods has salvaged 3,000 trees, that would urbansmall.jpghave otherwise ended up being wasted,  and turned the wood into tables. This one was salvaged from Kirkland and costs $4,200 for the tabletop.

But like it or not, these are all the opinions of a handful of (granted knowledgeable) judges. Perhaps you too are a judge in disguise. If so, tell me about the best green product not on the list. Post your comments below.

SI assures us all the products are real green products rather than examples of great greenwashing. But how well green products work is also controversial. For more on that topic, click the tag green materials below and read the entry 'Green products not so great, says Gehry specifier,' and comments.

Other blog posts on this at Jetson Green and Portland Architecture.

These are three of the 10. To learn about the other seven, read my story here

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Is Kirkland really as green as it says it is?

Posted on June 18, 2008

Being a reporter, you learn a lot about your beat. But what you write on a day to day basis is often influenced by the press releases you get. It's unfortunate, but I simply have not found a way to be in five different places at once. Hence, a good PR person, whether private or government, can be a reporter's best friend (or worst nightmare).

kirklandsign.jpgToday I got a press release from the city of Kirkland on its sustainability efforts. So, just for being proactive, I'm going to tell you, dear reader, about all the things Kirkland is telling me.

First off, I don't live in Kirkland so I can't really understand the green things that they're doing... because I don't see it with my own eyes. But I do know that they're making a concentrated effort to become a green city. I also know other cities have complained that they don't have the time or money to think about green issues because they're thinking about things like affordable housing. Does the balance matter? You decide.

Recently, Kirkland comissioned a survey to study the "sustainability of its economy." Though I'm not positive what that means, it's certainly something. According to that press release the survey wanted to figure out where residents shop, what eco-sound products, services or practices should be available or practiced in Kirkland, etc. (P.S., Kirkland people, I'd love to learn more about these results.)

So here's what Kirkland wants you to know about it's green-ness: it has won three kirkland2small.jpgawards recently for everything from smart planning to counting its greenhouse gas emissions.

It won a 2008 Smart Communities Award from Gov. Chris Gregoire for city-wide zoning regulations that allow for cottage, carriage and two/three unit homes. It won a ICLEI milestone award for conducting a greenhouse gas emission inventory, after which Kirkland adopted reduction goals of 10 percent below 2005 emission levels by 2012, 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 2007 levels by 2050. And it won a Cascade Land Conservancy Stewardship Legal Award for the Green Kirkland Partnership. The partnership commits resources to remove invasive plants and replant parks with native trees and shrubs.

So is Kirkland really as green as it sounds, or does it just have a great pr machine? If you live there I'd appreciate your input, as I don't and therefore, do not know.

Want to know more about Kirkland's amazing green-ness? Check out the official site here. More for life in Kirkland? Check out The Eastside Life blog here. Want Kirkland news? Check out Kirkland Views here. And the Kirkland Highlands Real Estate Buzz has some green news here.

Live in another non-Seattle city that can never seem to get out of the Seattle sustainability shadow? Tell me about what your city's doing below, or e-mail me at katiez@djc.com. I'd love to know what I don't.

To learn more about the Smart Communities Awards, read the DJC's story here.

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Three Seattle groups (and Greensburg, Kansas) among international award winners

Posted on June 16, 2008

Seattle projects represent a third of nine prestigious awards given out in London yesterday by the Urban Land Institute and the Financial Times.  Winners are The Cascade Land Conservancy, Kennedy Associates and Vulcan.

greensburgsmall.jpgThe Seattle winners are in good company: a fellow winner is the city of Greensburg, Kansas (at right), the current poster child for just how far a city can go to rebuild itself green. If you don't already know this story, it's truly a fascinating one that is on its way to becoming a Leonardo DiCaprio-voiced documentary TV show.

Greensburg was a small farming town with a population of 1,389 when 90 percent of its building stock was destroyed by a tornado in 2007. The citizens of Greensburg used the traumatic incident as an opportunity and are rebuilding it as sustainably as they can.

But there's no place like home and the Seattle winners are also an interesting alley24small.jpgmix.  We've got Vulcan, and if you haven't heard about Vulcan's green accomplishments (and you're from this area) you might be living under a rock. The team is redeveloping South Lake Union as a pilot program for LEED for neighborhood development and uses a lot of green features, etc.

There's the Cascade land Conservancy who is well known in these parts and won for its 100-year visioning exercise to preserve 1.3 million acres of forest and farmland through incentivizing smart growth.

And there's Kennedy Associates who operates under the idea that buildings should be developed and managed sustainably because they have a competitive advantage over traditional structures.

The point of the awards was to honor global examples of "ongoing programs that exhibit new ideas and perspectives for best practices in sustainable land use." Each winner highlights the concept of sustainability in real estate.

It's some pretty interesting stuff. If you're interested, check out the winners here. And if you want to read more on what Vulcan's doing in this area, check out the DJC's stories. Go here for info on the Westlake/Terry building, go here for Vulcan's sustainable philosophy, go here for Alley24 (pictures above left) or click here for their award-winning pull-apart sales center.

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The point of green awards? Seattle experts weigh in

Posted on May 27, 2008

What's the point of green awards? I asked that question in a post last week and during an AIA panel discussion the following day,  a number of Seattle architects tried to answer the question (see the post for a list of architects on the panel).

urban1.jpgBut answers ranged across the board. So I asked, "If you could boil what you want out of the green awards down to one thing, what would it be?" (One of this year's award winners is at left - the planned Center for Urban Waters in Tacoma by Perkins + Will).

The response was that you really couldn't boil it down to one thing. Green awards are supposed to: inspire, train people, get people interested in green buildings, share project information, elevate Seattle's green building reputation, honor people equally that are pushing the envelope and just beginning to do green work, and change the way design is done.

Whew. Those are a lot of goals for one award program. But OK, assuming one program can achieve it all... how do you do it?

Here are some of the panel's ideas for making AIA Seattle's What Makes it Green Awards better, and for extending it's breadth so that next year, you, Seattle-area-architect-who-is-only-kind-of-interested-in-green-building, will want to go to the event, and begin designing green:

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Green building awards – do they matter?

Posted on May 20, 2008

Green awards, green awards. There's lots of them out there but what's the point? And what's the responsibility of people doling them out?

seed.jpgThat is the topic, to some extent, of an AIA Seattle forum I'm presenting at tomorrow. I am a guest panelist - the token architectural outsider - along with Lucia Athens of Seattle's Green Building Team and a host of locally known architects including Marc Jenefsky, Anne Schopf, Peter Steinbrueck, Dan Williams and Rick Zieve. Jerome Diepenbrock, chair of the AIA ethics and practice committee will moderate.

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