In Fremont, a different kind of living building is in the works: it's being built by a private developer.Skanska USA’s first development effort in the Seattle market. (Talk about a way to come to the market with green guns-a-blazing!)
Brooks Sports is the anchor tenant and will take 80,000 square feet and move 300 employees into the space in late 2013. Skanska said it would lease the site from the owner, Fremont Dock Co. The site is at 3400 Stone Way N., next to the Burke Gilman Trail and near Lake Union.
This project is of course fascinating because it’s a living building, widely considered the toughest green building certification on the planet. But another thing that makes it stand out is who’s building it. All living buildings on this coast that I'm aware of are built by schools (University of British Columbia's CIRS project); nonprofits (the Bullitt Foundation's headquarters in Seattle); consortium's of city groups or donors (The Bertschi School Science Wing); or partnerships involving all of the above (the Oregon Sustainability Center in Portland). There's also a few home projects thrown in. These groups have various resources (tax credits, donors, endowments etc.) that a standard developer doesn't have access to.
Skanska's project in Fremont is the first I'm aware of to be built by a commercial developer on its own. Granted, it is being self-financed. But the fact that Skanska is building it means the company sees a future in living buildings. It's taking a chance! In the scale of things, it will be incredible to see how this project works out because it will inevitably be used as a living building test case for other developers.
Living buildings are fascinating creatures but they're not cheap. Generally, I'm hearing that developing a living building costs a third more than a standard project. Schools and nonprofits are willing to make that investment. But the formula gets more complex with private development. Adding to the complexity, Skanska is aiming for its project rents to be market rate.
Chris Rogers of Bullitt’s development partner Point32 says Bullitt's space will be market rate too, though it's being marketed towards environmentally-minded businesses and organizations. The Cascadia Green Building Council is one tenant. For these organizations, the environment is a critical part of what they do. For Skanska's more mainstream tenants, locating in a living building says they care. But Skanska's also got to do more convincing.
In this DJC article from last June, Peter Busby of Vancouver's Busby Perkins + Will said it cost his team $100,000 to go to living building status on two Vancouver projects. He said it generally costs $40,000 to have a project certified LEED gold. The Bullitt Center project is costing about $30 million, with Bullitt putting up half that amount and borrowing the rest from US Bank. Rogers of Point32 says a lot of the cost is a first-cost premium, because it’s the first time his team (or any team) is moving through a living building project of this size with the city. But there’s still a premium.
According to the International Living Future Institute, it costs $20,000 for living building certification of a building that is between 107,640 and 538,195 square feet.
Skanska’s project is also interesting because of what it could bring to the neighborhood. The end of Stone Way near Lake Union has a handful of stores but is kind of a dead zone. In a Seattle Times story, Ryan Gist, a neighbor called it "an odd, pseudo-industrial street that really doesn't do much for the neighborhood."
Once complete, the ground floor of this building will house Brooks' first ever retail concept shop. The goal is for the shop to act as a gathering place for the community and trail users.
There are some neighborhood concerns about the structure's height. Here's hoping a clean agreement can be made on that topic so this revolutionary project can move forward.
By the way, back in January, I wrote this post about the launch of Skanska's Seattle commercial development division. In it, I said:
"I'm curious to see what kind of projects they pursue, what kind of sustainable goals they target, and what kind of green technologies they might choose to pursue that others wouldn't be able to. Of course, they could simply go the LEED gold route. Or they could build something really innovative."
I don't want to say I told you so but it's fair to say this project falls to the later half of that spectrum. Now the question is to see how it plays out.
P.S. It's interesting to see the architecture firms with living buildings under their belts. This project is being designed by LMN. Bullitt's is designed by Miller Hull. The Bertschi project was designed by members of KMD Architects. I'm going to be waiting to see how long it takes for the area's other big green architecture firms to add a living building to their project list. At the current pace, I'd bet we'd see another two or three pop up.
Next week, there is an insane amount of green building events. Having so much in one week makes it really tough to decide what to attend. I have an idea of where I'll be, what about you?
Here are the green events I know about. I'm sure there are a number of others that are just not on my radar. If
- Cascadia's Living Future Unconference will run from May 5 to 7 at The Westin Seattle. This is the fourth Living Future and the first time it will have made its circular round back to the same city (it began in Seattle in 2007, then was in Vancouver, B.C. in 2008, then was in Portland in 2009. I've been to each conference and would highly recommend it). The conference costs $695 for Cascadia members and $760 for general registration. Speakers include James Howard Kunstler, Jason McLennan, Pliny Fisk, John Francis and Bill Reed.
- AIA Seattle's What Makes It Green? Judging will be held next week, in conjunction with Living Future. The event costs $5 for members of AIA and other organizations and $20 for non-members. Judges include Bob Berkebile of BNIM, Donald Horn of the General Service Administration's Office of Federal High Performance Green Buildings, Claire Johnson of Atelier Ten and Alex Steffen of Worldchanging. The talk will be moderated by Nadav Malin of BuildingGreen. The event runs from 1 to 4 p.m. at Seattle City Hall on Wednesday.
- Also connected with Living Future is King County's GreeenTools Government Confluence. This conference focuses on sustainability at the government level but has a stellar line up of speakers. Speakers include Bill Reed of the Integrative Design Collaborative, Lucia Athens of CollinsWoerman and Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University. There are a number of registration opportunities and fees that vary, based on whether you are a King County employee or not and whether you are attending Living Future. Click on the link above for more info
- On May 5, the Washington Foundation for the Environment is holding a talk on the region's environmental protections. The talk beings at 7 p.m. and will be at the K&L Gates Offices at 925 Fourth Avenue on the 29th floor. Speakers include Washington State Department of Ecology director Ted Sturdevant and Environmental Protection Agency Region X director Dennis McLerran. The two will discuss their plans to protect the region's waters, air and land. The event is free but RSVPS are required. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Next week is also Seattle Sweden Week. There is a conference called Business Focus-Edays, which focuses on clean technology, sustainable development and global health. There are a number of interesting sessions. For more on the conference, go here. As part of Seattle Sweden Week, there will also be a talk at the University of Washington on May 5 from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in Parrington Hall. The talk is called Narratives on Sustainability: Gustav Froding, Thomas Transtromer and others. More info on that here.
How will the recession affect green buildings, codes and development?
It's a timely question and one I've been wondering about for some time. It also happens to be the topic of a panel discussion I am moderating on Thursday evening for the Cascadia Region Green Building Council at
The event features a number of great panelists: Michael Weinstein of the Urban Innovations Group, Bruce Herbert of Newground Social Investment, Jayson Antonoff of the City of Seattle Green Building Program, Ric Cochrane of King County Green Tools Program and Aaron Fairchild of G2B Ventures. Come eat, drink and discuss with us! The discussion costs $10. To register, go here.
However, our event is not the only good thing happening on Thursday evening. If you're not at Greenbuild, here are a number of local things to keep you interested:
On Wednesday and Thursday, Alex Steffen of Worldchanging.com will host a two-day lecture to flesh out a pathway to a great sustainable future. On Wednesday, the lecture is called "A new Global Future," and on Thursday it is called "Seattle's Bright Green Moment." Each lecture costs $5.
On Thursday, Tacoma will host a talk on its Center for Urban Waters. The center, an environmental research space, is seeking LEED platinum certification. The talk costs $10 at the door or $7.50 in advance. More info here.
On Friday and Saturday, the Northwest Energy Coalition is hosting its fall conference on energy efficiency. The conference features a keynote talk by Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist for Microsoft, and multiple panel discussions. More info here.
If you (like me) are busy thinking about Greenbuild, the Cascadia Chapter of the USGBC is way ahead of you: they're thinking of next May's Living Future Conference and they want your presentation submissions. Now.
For those of you that have never been, Living Future is an "unconference," meaning that it is presented in a
unique, somewhat non-traditional way (while still being a conference by definition of course). Living Future is a bit like your eclectic cousin - the one that wears vintage shirts from the 1960s, pants from the 1980s, fancy modern shoes and weird jewelry from who knows when. They might look a little odd but they always say interesting things. In comparison, Greenbuild is the buttoned up family patriarch.
Anyway, if you have something to share that's innovative, creative or a bit off center, Living Future is looking for conference submissions. Entries are due by Oct. 30 and priority will be given to localized, community level efforts to solve "the problems we face." Examples may be urban food production, decentralized water and energy production, eco-districts and local economies.
This year's conference will be held in Seattle (the conference alternates every three years from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., to Portland) and I'm excited for it to be back in my home town. It runs from May 5-7. This year's theme is "Building Hope, Revaluing Community."
To learn more, click here. If you want to speak with a person about this opportunity, contact Jon Gordon at JGordon@brn-engineering.com.
Speaking of Living Future, I have attended all three so far. If you have been to multiple Living Future Conferences, which one was your favorite?
On Thursday, the DJC published an article I wrote on a new report that says codes are getting in the way of cutting edge green buildings. This, in itself, is really nothing new. Last August, I wrote this article about the city's Priority Green program. In it, DPD's Peter Dobrovolny (whose last name is almost as difficult as mine!) said many projects consider innovative ideas but drop them when they realize how much extra time it will take under city code. However, having the problems and possible solutions written down in an actual report - well that is new.
However, the report. Is. Huge. If you dare to read it, click here . It manages to be very
I spoke with one of the study's primary authors, David Eisenberg of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology, this week. Essentially, he said codes are built incorrectly in that they are hundreds of ad hoc responses to problems. Codes, he said, should instead be built comprehensively to support a specific kind of development or project. Basically, he said the entire system needs to be rebuilt.
In Seattle, it can take months or years for changes (especially large ones) to occurr. Can you imagine what it would take to wipe out all the city departments responsible for allowing development to get built... and then to rework the system from scratch?
Eisenberg said he realizes that what he's asking might be impossible. But even if it is impossible, by voicing the idea, he hopes to get people talking about it. Everyone - he said - whether it's greenies or permitting people or anyone really - wants healthy buildings. And our current code system does not encourage healthy buildings because it pawns risks relating to climate change and environmental degradation off on future generations.
What do you think about all of this, dear readers? Is there any possibility that our overall codes could be reworked and if so, what would you want them to encourage? Here in Seattle (where we are pretty progressive in environmental issues, at least compared with some parts of the country) do we even need to be considering reworking the system or do we need to tweak it? If you could totally rework one code or issue, what would it be?
Want a job? How about becoming chief operating officer for the largest regional green building nonprofit? Well, then this is your lucky month because the Cascadia Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is hiring.
That's right. They're looking for a new COO as current COO Brandon Smith is moving to the position of vice president of business development.
The new COO will be based in either Portland or Seattle and will be in the post by August 1st. The deadline to apply for the job is June 30.
Cascadia is also searching for a new administrative assistant. This is a part time position of 20 hours per week. It will remain open until filled with a tentative start date of July 20.
For more information or to apply, visit Cascadia here.
This morning, the Cascadia Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council announced the birth of the International Living Building Institute. The institute will oversee the global development of the Living Building Challenge.
Cascadia launched the challenge, developed by Cascadia CEO Jason McLennan, three years ago. Since then, the idea has spread around the world with 60 proposed living buidlings in different stages of design or development in the U.S. and Canada. The furthest along of these is the Omega Center for Sustainable Living in Rhinebeck, NY, which is nearing completion. A living building works like a natural system, is designed to go further than LEED platinum and must meet a rigorous set of requirements. For more info on it, click the living building tag below.
For the time being, Cascadia will continue to oversee the Living Building Challenge. But the institute is in the process of becoming a formal nonprofit, and will soon have its own board of directors.
Some keynote speakers leave you satisfied, some leave you disappointed and some leave you angry that you just wasted two hours of your time. Then, there are keynote speakers like Janine Benyus that leave you wanting more.
Benyus spoke last night at the Living Future Conference in Portland. Her talk was warm, personal, funny
and informative. Having never heard Benyus speak before, I now understand why she's considered such a big deal. The talk was pretty amazing.
The talk began with Sam Adams, Portland’s mayor (who is funny!!!), welcoming people to Portland. He was pretty straightforward about the general fear that you can’t make any money being green. Not true, he said: “If you take nothing else away from your trip to Portland, take this away: you can make money being very, very green.” Portland, he said, keeps millions in its economy because of its public transportation and green business.
Jason McLennan, Cascadia’s CEO then glowingly introduced Benyus, saying “I think you’re one of the most important figures in the planet today, period… I think you represent our species really well.” Not every day you hear that!
Then Benyus took the stage. She said the uncertainty in today's financial markets can be used to the benefit of biomimicry, building design and creating a better world. When cultural certainties disappear, she said, so does arrogance. She said the recession is creating a similar attitude that happened after the World Trade Center attacks – where “the world is open to listening to the next question ... As long as they’re listening, let’s make the vision as big as we can."
In this same vein, she said building models for a place can be created by looking at how natural organisms in a location treat things like fire, wind etc. “Our buildings could have general organisms as their models.”
Benyus said she hopes we will be able to fly over cities in the future, and have them be functionally indistinguishable from the natural environment. That, she said, would be sustainability.
Benyus also plugged a tool she has been working on for the past year called asknature.org. The tool, she said, allows designers to ask how nature would fix a problem and learn from it. She also discussed how future areas of technology can be inspired by animal organisms. She and Paul Hawken, for example, are working on a new solar cell that is inspired by photosynthesis.
But in the end, she said, new technology or new laws aren't going to save us from ourselves. She said the only thing that can save us is "a change of heart and a change of stance towards the rest of the world."
These are just a few of the items she discussed. For more, stay tuned to a future story in the DJC. If you attended the talk, please comment below and tell me what you thought of it – or what you’ve thought about Benyus’ previous talks. If you didn’t attend the talk, I'd love to hear your comments. Is mimicking nature the future of building? How important is it compared to meeting netzero energy or netting zero water?