DJC Green Building Blog

More training needed to harness the value of green

Posted on July 10, 2012

The following post is by Kathleen O'Brien:

Last month in the DJC Green Building Blog, I discussed the smart move local leaders are making to help monetize social and environmental benefits available from real estate investment in new Living Buildings.  But getting true value out of existing buildings built to more established green building standards can still be a challenge.

O'Brien

Even when major multiple listing services (MLS) incorporated environmental/green (e-cert) checkboxes were introduced for existing green homes in 2008 — and this region was the first in the nation to do so — the appraiser would often end up valuing the home just as they would any other home.   So the added effort, and financial premiums invested in the home, would not be acknowledged. What a disincentive!

Two things were still needed to move the needle— credible data on the premiums for green buildings, and high quality education to produce appraisers competent in this building type. Not surprisingly, our region has been the first to coherently address these needs.

The Green Building Value Initiative — a collaborative effort of the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild, Built Green, Earth Advantage, and the Cascadia Green Building Council (GBC) — worked together between 2007-2009 hiring appraiser consultants to produce the first credible analysis identifying premiums for commercial buildings and green homes. Researchers were able to analyze green home sales because of the e-cert boxes on MLS forms. The resulting report and case studies for the residential sector are readily available from Earth Advantage Institute or SEEC LLC.  The resulting report for the commercial sector is available from the Cascadia GBC.

SEEC and Earth Advantage are also addressing the second need head on for the residential sector. Both offer highly respected appraisal education.  As a result there are now practicing appraisers that understand green building certifications and can effectively appraise homes that have earned them.

Photo courtesy of zHome

ZHome, a 10-unit townhouse development in Issaquah, was designed to be the country’s first net zero energy multifamily project.

True story: Fiona Douglas-Hamilton, principal of SEEC, reports that the homeowner of a Built Green 5-star home (the highest certification level in that program), hoping to refinance, recently met with an appraiser to get their home valuated.  As advised by SEEC, the homeowner had prepared a packet to give the appraiser.  Upon review, the appraiser declined the job, saying she was not knowledgeable enough about Built Green. The Appraisal Management Company (AMC) then made contact with SEEC, which maintains a list of appraisers who have completed their continuing education courses on valuing green homes.  The homeowners were able to get what they needed.

But appraisers are not the only sector needing information for green homes to be valued correctly.  What if our Built Green home example had been for sale?  It is the rare real estate broker who understands how to list correctly, let alone sell, this property type.  With the recent McGraw Hill report estimating green building market share rising to 38% by 2016, we need educated brokers.  There are, frankly, lots of courses for brokers on marketing green real estate and green building in general, but brokers still need something to help them prepare a green and/or energy efficient home properly for its appraisal — a hurdle every property needs to clear.  There's a new course launched this month that SEEC  has created specifically for this purpose: Appraising Green and ENERGY STAR Homes: How Agents Affect the Process.

This coming fall the Northwest EcoBuilding Guild's Olympia Chapter will be conducting a Green Valuation Symposium under the Chapter's Vision2Action Series.  Intended as a follow-up to a series of green valuation roundtables held in Washington and Idaho last year under the sponsorship of the Northwest ENERGY STAR Homes program, participants will develop action plans to resolve issues identified during the roundtables.

For someone who's been in the green building arena for nearly 30 years, it's a delight to see  the "links" in the green building market chain starting to get fixed.

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.

 

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Get a glimpse of green ‘pod’ home

Posted on April 20, 2012

A compact, green-built “pod” home designed by Ann Raab of Greenpod Development of Port Townsend is open to the public at the GreenDepot site until April 29 from 10 am to 6 pm M-F, 10-5 on Saturday and 11-5 on Sunday. Workshops will be offered daily.

Outside Waterhaus

The pod was part of last weekend’s Green Home Tour sponsored by Northwest Ecobuilding Guild, featuring new and remodeled homes designed for low energy use and built with nontoxic materials.

Raab’s 450-square-foot pod is factory-built using all green products. It can be delivered to any city in Washington.

Greenpod’s Waterhaus model has a Kangen water system with adjustable pH for drinking and cleaning. It also has a waterfall and living wall.

Waterhaus kitchen

Ann Raab said pods are meant to be low maintenance dwellings that are environmentally safe, healthy for occupants and “a joy to live in.”

The Waterhaus model uses multi-use furnishings, color, lighting and windows to make the living space feel larger. The waterfall and living wall are sculpted from metal by industrial artist Ray Hammar of Sequim. Michael Hamilton of Port Hadlock made the tables and benches. Seth Rolland of Port Townsend created the bathroom vanity from rock and fir. Wall textures are applied by artist Gail Miller of Whidbey Island. The interior is decorated with an exclusive line of organic fabrics by Suzanne DeVall.

The pods are built by Greg Barron of Greenpod Builders.

Waterhaus living area

They are built to meet King County’s requirements for an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and are aimed at people who want to downsize, age in place or care for family member in a separate unit. They also work as cabins, second homes, home offices and small commercial buildings. Pods can be stacked and configured to create communities. More information is at (800) 569-0831 or GreenPod.us.

 

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Tours galore including net zero energy zHome, Brightwater, Seattle Design Festival

Posted on September 20, 2011

September and October are always busy months in Seattle's green/sustainable scene. This fall, however, there seems to be a wealth of tours of really interesting projects.

  • zHome

One of the most interesting opportunities is the chance to tour Issaquah's zHome project. Issaquah says zHome is the country's first net zero energy multifamily

An aerial view of the zHome project. Image courtesy zHome.
complex. The 10-unit townhouse development in the Issaquah Highlands has truly been a labor of love. Originally set to be complete in the fall of 2009, the project has just opened after surviving three contractors and a devastating recession. Brad Liljequist, Issaquah's dedicated project manager, said each unit has been designed to use 5,000 kilowatt hours of energy a year compared to the 14,000 hours of energy a townhouse normally uses. The team began with tight design, and will produce needed energy from a 65,000-kilowatt-per-year solar array.

Free tours will be held on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until October 30.

 

  • Home Builders Association of Kitsap County Headquarters

Across the water in Bremerton, the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County has improved their headquarters in an effort to create a live demonstration of energy efficiency upgrades for builders and homeowners. The project used six strategies including better air sealing, adding more insulation and adding new efficient lighting to upgrade the space. Tours feature first-hand techniques on saving energy and lowering utility bills. Tours will be held hourly on Sunday, October 23 and Saturday, October 29 from 12 to 4 p.m. Tours are at 5251 Auto Center Way, Bremerton.

  • Seattle Design Festival

If you can't wait and want to see something now, I suggest you head on over to the Seattle Design Festival's website here. Though some tours have passed, a

photo-brightwater11
number are still to come including a tour Friday on art and architecture called "Let the Streets be Your Museum!" and tours Saturday and Sunday of Ravenna bungalows.

However the one not to miss is Saturday's grand opening of the Brightwater Center. It looks like the official Seattle Design Festival tour is sold out! However, the grand opening celebration is free, open to the public and features plant tours so you can still see the space if you're interested. More info here.

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Got extra paint? Give it to “the green man” this week for free

Posted on March 7, 2011

Painting is a fun, easy to do project. But once the job is done, excess paint often sits in the basement, dying a slow, slow death as the years pass by.

So today I was delighted to hear about "the green man," via a press release. The green man is an

paint-can-11-300x225

Image courtesy Ecoactionteams.ca

effort by Wallingford's Reed Painting Co. to gather all your old paint and recycle it. Each year, it says, at least 695,000 gallons of paint is wasted in Washington State.

Currently, King County suggests residents dry out latex paint, strain it and put it in the garbage with the lid off. But Cole Palea of Reed Painting said that wastes a good product, while taking up valuable landfill space. Instead, his organization is collecting paint, straining it, categorizing it by color and giving it away as recycled paint.

"The need is there," he said. "But there is no real solution out there. We're hopefully getting this conversation started around the community."

This is the second year Reed has held a paint drive. Last year, it collected almost 200 gallons just from Wallingford, Queen Anne and Capitol Hill. The drive is currently in its second week. Palea said Reed has already doubled the amount of paint it collected last year and plans to pick up an additional 200 gallons of paint this weekend, for a total of at least 600 gallons that would otherwise be in the landfill.

People can either drop off old paint at the Reed shop in Wallingford or call to schedule a $20 pickup this weekend.

Palea said he and business owner Randy Reed grew up in Hawaii where they were acutely aware of natural resource use. Palea is a certified sustainable building advisor and this effort is one way for Reed Painting to become a better steward of the environment. "We're not trying to greenwash and tell everyone we're 100 per cent green by no means, because we're not. But we're definitely taking steps further," he said.

Portland has successfully turned paint recycling into a business. To read more about that city's efforts, check out this excellent story from 2009.

Reed is a painting contractor that works on homes and commercial projects. It paints the interior of the Seattle Art Museum between exhibits.

To drop off your paint, visit the shop this Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is at 3668 Albion Place North, on the backside of the block. The front of the shop is along Woodland Park Avenue North and 38th. There are three garage doors painted red. Reed is behind the first garage door. For more information, visit http://www.reedpaint.com/ or call (206) 965-0504.

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AIA Forum on Integrated Project Delivery and Lean Construction

Posted on December 6, 2010

I'm not sure about you but things can get pretty slow around here during the holidays. If you're slowing down already, or if you are interested in an exciting winter event to jumpstart your green holiday season, check out the Integrated Project Delivery and Lean Construction program Dec. 13 and 14.

The event Dec. 13 is on IPD and runs from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event Dec. 14 is on lean

Collaboration!
construction basics. Both are at the Mountaineers Program Center. The AIA, AGC of Washington and Lean Construction Institute are putting on the program.

If you haven't heard of IPD at this point, I'm guessing you live under a rock. It contractually links the owner, architect and contractor with shared financial risk and reward on a project. The text of the program flier words it perfectly: "For some, IPD is just the latest buzzword for collaboration, the latest nuance to evolving project delivery; for others IPD heralds a transformation of the A/E/C industry, leading to new professional roles, collaboration techniques, design and construction process, and final product."

I wrote about "true integrated project delivery" last December in this DJC article on Children's Bellevue, an IPD collaboration between Seattle Children's Hospital, NBBJ, Sellen Construction and Seneca Real Estate Group. It's a fascinating project and a great read.

Sustainably, IPD has the potential to really change the game. Often a problem cited in green development is that teams are brought on too late. But with IPD, all team members are brought on from the very beginning and allowed to flesh problems out on the front end. From a green perspective, this means more efficient or cutting edge systems can be added in holistically and potentially more successfully.

Speakers at the event include AP Hurd of Touchstone, Eric Smith of the University of Washington Capital Projects Office, Jay Halleran of NBBJ, Ken Sanders of Gensler, Scott Redman of Sellen, Ted Sive of Ted Sive Consulting and more.  It costs $195 for AIA members and will be worth your time.

However, IPD is intrinsically connected to lean construction principles. The event on Dec. 14 will focus on lean construction basics. Registration for that is $525.

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Cameron Sinclair says culture needs to be a bigger part of sustainability

Posted on September 23, 2010

Cameron Sinclair spoke this morning at Sustainable Industries' Seattle Economic Forum. Sinclair is the co-founder of Architecture for Humanity and winner of the 2006 TED prize. Architecture for Humanity is also the creator of the Open Architecture Network, a fascinating open source community where professionals from around the world can share their designs dedicated to improving living conditions.

Sinclair, a visionary who wants to change the world through good design, spoke about Architecture for Humanity's work throughout the world.  About 30 percent of projects are on the West Coast of the U.S. while

Cameron Sinclair
the rest are international in counties from Brazil to Sri Lanka to Pakistan.

Sinclair said much of sustainability is centered on proving scientifically that it works through white papers and other research projects. But energy can just as easily be used to actually build a project and make a difference for people. Architecture for Humanity does this by building transformational projects and trying to find innovative solutions in materials and social cohesion. In places that need services, like Haiti or Pakistan after recent natural disasters, "it's not about airdropping professionals. It's about how can we empower local professionals with what they need to get stuff built." Culture, he said, is an element of sustainability and has to be part of the solution.

The organization began in 1999. It has built projects in 38 countries and 1.2 milion people are currently "living, healing or learning" in structures it has created, Sinclair said. Outside of the U.S., 110 are off the energy grid. Sinclair said its easier to build these type of projects outside the U.S. because people can easily see the value. Here, he said you must convince people that going off the grid doesn't mean "you're a crazy hippy that lives in Oregon, eats granola and smokes dope." It is currently building in 16 countries. In fact, he was jetting down to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil after his Seattle talk, to meet with team members there about a project.

Overall, Sinclair's message was centered on community cohesion through the design process. You can make a community better, he said, if you provide them with a needed structure that speaks to their cultural needs and involves them. Our western style of community engagement doesn't always work in other places, and doesn't always properly solicit the right ideas. His organization has drawn building plans on the ground for children to explore and used radio to get people in Brazil connected to a project's design.

Though much of what Sinclair was speaking about applies to his international projects, there are four over-arching points he mentioned that anyone can learn from:

* Integrate local culture into your process

* A strong society creates a strong economy

* Your client is your design expert

* We should be building community, not destinations.

For more information on Sinclair, check out his Web site, Twitter feed @CaSinclair or the most recent issue of Sustainable Industries.

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Recycle your bike tubes this weekend and next

Posted on September 14, 2010

Performance Bicycle, a specialty bike retailer, is sponsoring a bike tube recycling drive to coincide with a Seattle expansion, a new store in Tukwila and a new look in the Lynnwood location. The drive runs the weekends of September 17-19th and September 24th-26th.

You know you have some old bike tubes laying around...
During that time, the Tukwila and Lynnwood stores will host the Bike Tube Blow-Out, during which people can bring used or blown-out inner tubes to the store and receive up to three $5 gift cards for the tubes they recycle. The event is sponsored by Performance and Liberty Tire, which will turn the tubes into mulch for playgrounds, athletic fields, railroad ties and highway asphalt. Press materials for Performance say Liberty collects and recycles nearly one-third of the nation's annual scrap tire material.

The Lynnwood location is at 3225 Alderwood Boulevard. The Tukwila location is at 351 Strander Boulevard in the South Center Plaza.

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Missed Van Jones in Seattle? Watch a video of his talk here

Posted on May 28, 2010

Thursday morning, I attended Climate Solutions' morning breakfast and lecture with Van Jones. Jones spoke for 30 minutes about the Gulf oil disaster, where we can go next and how Seattle is leading the way. One of the things that stuck in my head is that he said the fact that the spill happened isn't a tragedy. The tragedy will happen if we don't learn from the disaster. He also said the oil situation is worse than Hurricane Katrina because it speaks to the endemic problem of oil use in our country.

Van Jones
If you missed it, you can watch a video of his whole talk here, courtesy of Climate Solutions. If you've never heard Jones speak before, you might want to set aside 30 minutes and give it a go. He is a funny, charismatic, impassioned speaker who was extremely gracious in his references towards the Obama administration. (However, after listening to him speak for 30 minutes, I couldn't help asking myself how much it cost to bring him out here). Watch the video here: http://vimeo.com/12117354 .

There's lots of commentary out on this in the Seattle media scene. Alex Steele, the eco-maven, wrote a great blog post here. The Seattle Times had a quick overview of a later talk at City Hall, while Joel Connely took his columnist stab at it here. There was also a lot of coverage via Twitter #VaninSeattle. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

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Interested in backyard cottages? Event May 24 is for you!

Posted on May 14, 2010

On May 24, Method Homes and Infiniti RED are holding an event that will showcase the work of 35 local architects and designers related to backyard cottages. It should be an interesting time.

At the end of 2009, the city of Seattle legalized backyard cottages on Seattle lots over 4,000 square feet. This

Image courtesy Infiniti RED
event, launched in April, asked local architects and designers to come up with innovative backyard design to offer for Method Homes customers.

Those who attend the event will see all the design challenge entries, meet the designers, participate in the awards ceremony and enjoy food and drink. A jury including David Cutler of the Seattle City Planning Commission, Robert Humble of Hybrid Architecture and Colleen Groll of O'Brien & Co. will judge the entries. Andrea Petzel, Seattle City Planner, will act as advisor to the judges.

There will be five awards given out. Awards will be given for overall best design, honorable mention for best design, most innovative, most sustainable and most adoptable.

The free event will be at 7601 Greenwood Ave. N. and begins at 5:30 p.m. For more information, contact Brian Abramson at Method Homes at (206) 790.2852 or Infiniti RED at (206) 235.6925. eva@infinitiRED.com.

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Next week is going to be crazy with loads of green events!

Posted on April 30, 2010

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

You\'ll be running from event to event next week!
you know of any others in the Seattle area, feel free to post them in the comments below.

  • 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 info@wffe.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.
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