DJC Green Building Blog

Built Green 2010 and David Orr’s talk

Posted on March 12, 2010

I spent my Friday morning at the 2010 Built Green Conference in Bellevue. Unfortunately, I had to skip out early. I did spend enough time at the conference to do some valuable things: I heard keynote speaker David Orr of Oberlin College & Conservatory, attended one session on water, caught up with some great people I haven't seen in a while and got to quickly run through the expo floor.

This is the third Built Green Conference I've attended. I went to sessions at last year's event in Seattle and

Oberlin is already known for its Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies but the school is aiming to go further - much further in its commitment to green buildings
attended the 2007 event in Everett. Over that time, I think the attendance and focus of the conference has changed a lot. From my perspective, the event has gotten smaller... but more focused. Granted, this is all based on my memory, but in 2007, I remember it as a really large event with a large expo floor and session topics that were all over the place. Today's event was smaller than what I remember in 2007. But it seemed like the people there had more experience or focused interest in green building. The session topics also provided a great breadth of experience and topics. Again, vendors on the expo floor were more targeted and focused towards green building products and materials rather than just having something to do (hopefully) with something green. Instead of trying to cram tons of topics into a short period of time, this conference seemed like it had thoughtfully gathered speakers and sessions. Then again, this is all just my perception.

Orr's talk was an interesting one. One of the things I found most perceptive, was his impression of the future. As climate change advances and we begin to see the effects, he said "the biggest issue we face is going to be despair." To counter that despair, we are going to need hope, he said - not optimism. Today, we are all optimistic, he said, though we don't realize it. "The sweet spot is hope but hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up," he said. "Despair you don't have to do anything. Just sit and marinate."

One of the things Orr spoke about that can lead to hope, at least in his community of Oberlin, Ohio is something called 'The Oberlin Project.' The project, one of 18 projects worldwide in the Clinton Climate Initiative, aims to show new ways that cities can grow in climate positive ways. The project is a revitalization of a 13-area block near the city center that will include the development or renovation of a dozen building in the next five to seven years, according to a press release from Oberlin College.

Orr said we need to move towards this type of community-wide development for green buildings. We're doing great on green structures and are improving on green neighborhoods. Now, we need to make the next step to looking at the green community, he said.

If you attended, what did you think of Orr's speak? What struck you most?

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Does Gerding Edlen’s Bellevue Towers make Bellevue any greener?

Posted on January 30, 2009

This week, I wrote an article in the DJC on Bellevue Towers, its developer, Gerding Edlen, and what the project represents for Bellevue.

Bellevue Towers is a two-tower luxury condo project with 539 units. According to

Bellevue Towers
Mike Brennan, director of Bellevue's Development Services Department, it is the most prominent green building in Bellevue and the first multifamily high-rise that has gone for LEED certification in the city. It is targeting LEED gold and is supposedly the largest LEED-certified residential project in the Northwest, according to press materials. It is also the first project Gerding Edlen has done in the Puget Sound region.

That's a lot of firsts. I'm wondering what this means for Bellevue.

Bellevue tends to have a mixed reputation when it comes to green buildings. In my wanderings, I've heard about city codes that make it difficult for projects to do low impact development, and green techniques that relate to stormwater. I've also heard disappointed reactions that the city wasn't more receptive to green building earlier.  (For a reaction on how Bellevue has been MIA, see the comments to a previous post regarding Kirkland here.)

But I wonder if that is changing.

Bellevue is the first city in the Puget Sound region to have a Gerding Edlen development. Gerding Edlen, Portland's premier green developer, is known internationally for its work. I'm sure Seattle and other cities would have appreciated one of its projects.

Phil Beyl, principal in charge of Bellevue Towers with architect GBD, said the city welcomed aggressive sustainable techniques "with open arms." Working on this project was exciting for him, precisely because he felt like he was bringing something new to the city: "We've been able to bring to Bellevue an elevated level of sustainability that now I think has raised the bar quite a bit higher... and that's very exciting."

Brennan said Bellevue is hoping this building will serve as an example and bring other green development to the city (though he also was unsure whether it actually would or not).

Incidentally, there are only two LEED certified buildings in Bellevue, according to the USGBC's registry. But there are 24 that are registered. Then again, some of the projects that are awaiting certification like the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center (wrote about it a year ago here in the DJC) are pretty darn interesting. 

Then there's my own experience with people that read this blog.

I like to track where blog readers come from, and believe me, there's been a dramatic shift. Last summer, I was surprised by how little readers I had from Bellevue (one here and there but virtually none). I even e-mailed certain city representatives to get them to read, but readers from Bellevue remained flat.

In the last two months, something changed. Now, Bellevue is consistently the third rated city, in cities that read this blog. (Behind Seattle, and then either Portland or New York, depending on the day.)

What the heck is going on?

Did something shift or did a whole lot of people from Bellevue start reading this blog for no reason? Was it the economy? Was it the change in presidents? I'm stumped.

What do you think? Is Bellevue getting - or going to be getting greener? Has anything changed or is this really just one LEED project? Comment below or answer my poll at right.

For more on Gerding Edlen, click the tab 'Gerding Edlen' below. Or check out SkyscraperCity and look under Bellevue Development or Bellevue Towers.

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