One of the hottest real estate stories of the week is the news that Skanska is bringing its commercial development division to Seattle, signifying it sees growth in the regional market.
My colleague at the DJC, Benjamin Minnick, reported the news here. In the story, he reports that
The move is especially notable because Skanska will self-finance all its projects and says it won't necessarily develop projects owners are currently doing, such as apartments in today's times. Instead, the story says Skanska will look at the long term and what is a good buy now.
That's interesting obviously, because of the freedom Skanska has to build what it wants. But it also speaks to the potential for sustainable buildings.
Most developer's green goals are constrained by the cost of super green technologies. I've been told that green projects up to around LEED gold can be done at cost if you begin early. But if you want to go for the super green stuff - net zero energy, Living Building certification, fancy new technologies - there's still a hefty premium, even if there's a huge benefit.
According to the story, Skanska has already said all its projects built locally will meet LEED gold or higher standards, and will be located in urban core areas with strong employment growth. To read the company's sustainability policy, click here (beware- it's pretty overwhelming).
By self-financing its own projects, Skanska, already a leading green general contractor, has the opportunity to do some really incredible things. Additionally, if they plan to hold onto projects for a long time, rather than flip them, they have more of an incentive to invest in green technologies that only pay off over the long term.
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.
If projects were self-financed and held onto for a longer amount of time, do you think we'd end up with a larger quantity of super green buildings? Or do you think teams would stick to the status quo?
A few years ago during an interview, I spoke with a source who told me about something called "passivhaus." I remember listening attentively and I remember being surprised and impressed with the ideas behind the method, specifically the tight, efficient envelope it supports. I can't recall who my source was. But I do remember getting this Feb. 2009 notice that the Passive House Institute U.S. was going to be speaking in Seattle. In fact, I was registered but did not attend.
Now, almost two years later, the first passive houses are completing construction. One of them is currently located in a very public space - at the parking lot of the Phinney Neighborhood Center. TheJohnson Braund Design Group. Turns out Joe was at that passive house meeting and was so inspired, he became a passive house consultant. Then, he chose to build mini-b as a demonstration project to show others just how cool the system is.
Mini-B is a 300-square-foot dwelling designed to meet the city's requirements for a backyard cottage on a single-family lot. It has a bathroom, kitchenette and sleeping area. The project will have a grand opening at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15. Then, it will be open for weekend open houses starting the weekend of Jan. 29 and lasting for six months. After that, it will be sold. Partners in the project include South Seattle Community College and the Phinney Neighborhood Center. After paying back development costs, any profits will go to those partners and to a nonprofit housing organization, Giampietro said. The goal is provide exposure for the method. Giampietro thinks similar units could be developed for $80,000 each and thinks it has potential for affordable housing units. Weekday tours will be available by appointment.
Giampietro said there another passive house in South Seattle is nearing completion, and that there are 12 others in the works in the area. He said there are about 40 passive house consultants in the area. There's also this organization - Passive House Northwest - which holds really fascinating conferences from time to time on the passive house method.
On Dec. 7, Greenfab's first modular project will be put together in Seattle's Jackson Place neighborhood and they are inviting you to come. Interested? Show up at 1827 South Lane Street near Boren Ave South and Rainier Avenue from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Transported via truck from an Idaho factory, six boxes measuring 12 feet wide, 20 feet long and 16
GreenFab has done a great job documenting their process with the home to date. They've got videos documenting everything from site excavation to the foundation pour. Check them out here.
*If you plan on attending, note that South Lane Street will be closed. Visitors can park on nearby streets.
In case you missed it, we had a story in this week's DJC about the six-acre green roof on top of the Vancouver Convention Centre West. I toured the roof during March's Globe Conference and finally got around to writing the article and editing the video.
The article provides a nice overview of the green roof, its story and its ambiance. Basically, it felt unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The meadow is quiet and calm. When you are up there, you feel like you are in the county or on a mountain that happens to be surrounded by a bustling city, rather than actually being a part of the city. It's a pretty amazing experience.
However, when I was there, I was struck by what a wonderful space it could be for weddings or events or even soccer games. It seemed strange that so little visitors would be able to experience it the way I had. When I spoke with Bruce Hemstock of PWL Partnership, he gave me the whole reasoning behind why the roof is closed off. It's basically to create ecology for urban creatures such as bees, birds and insects. A city by nature takes habitat away from these creatures and keeping humans off the roof was one way to give it back. He provided a pretty convincing argument. There's more detail in the article.
If you have time, click on the video link to watch my (slightly bumpy) video tour. I'm still learning about videos here and am not yet an expert. Plus it can be a tad tough to take down note, take pictures and take video.
Speaking of pictures, here are some that did not make the cover of the DJC. There are more on my Facebook page here. Hope you enjoy!
At the end of 2009, the city of Seattle legalized backyard cottages on Seattle lots over 4,000 square feet. This
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.
This week, the AIA's national Committee on the Environment handed out its top ten green awards. And for the first time in two years, there isn't a project from Seattle! (There is however a project from Portland -Twelve/West by ZGF Architects - on the list so the Northwest didn't entirely miss out this year.)did win AIA COTE awards like Dockside Green in Vancouver, B.C. and The Terry Thomas in Seattle) finished up. And a number of cutting edge green projects are just getting planned or are about to be completed (Urban Waters in Tacoma, The Bullitt Foundation's Headquarters).
That's not to dismiss projects that were completed this past year. There has been some amazing work in the region (though a number of really cool projects are on a smaller scale or are different projects than AIA COTE traditionally honors). If you had to pick a project or two that was completed in the past year that exemplifies green design in the Pacific Northwest, what would you pick?
Off the top of my head, a couple projects come to mind. One is Pacific Plaza in Tacoma (rendering above). The project targeted LEED platinum and turned an old, ugly parking garage into a useful, efficient green building. If we're looking for models of what we can achieve with our existing structures, one need look no further than this.
The other is the headquarters of DA Stark Interiors in Georgetown. Made out of cargo containers, this project's structure is recycled and thus, inherently green. If we're really looking at reusing existing materials,go here.
However, more than the national COTE awards, I look forward to the regional AIA What Makes it Green Awards. These awards are limited to projects in the Northwest and the Pacific regions. They are judged locally by high profile experts, often during an open process where viewers can listen in and hear what judges are looking for and what they are impressed by. I highly recommend attending the event, which will be held May 5 at Seattle City Hall from 1 to 4 p.m.
Until then, I'm posting a few winners of the AIA COTE honors below. If you want more info about any of these projects or want to see more pictures, visit the AIA's very informative Web site.
Tomorrow and Saturday, Martha Rose (the "queen of green") will be hosting wine and cheese parties at her
To watch a video about the project (with a really catchy song), click here. To learn more about the project, visit the project Web site here or click the tab 'green developers' below to learn more about this project.
I've had a few interesting articles in the DJC this week. If you're not a subscriber, you've been missing out!
First, an article published on Monday discussed what local green contractor Martha Rose had to do to get financing for her latest 4-home project. Turns out she had to fund part of the project herself and educate (many, many) bankers on just how sustainable a builder she is. (Rose believes in continually improving her green credentials. Her latest projects employs a number of Passive House techniques and is striving to be a net zero development). That story was carried by the AP - so anyone can read it, even if you don't have a subscription. The story is located here at The Tacoma News Tribune and here at The Seattle PI (who do you want to give your advertising dollars to?)
Second, an article I wrote appeared in yesterday's (Jan. 5) edition regarding the first straw bale structure in Seattle to receive a permit. The project was completed last fall and was built by the community via a number of different work parties. As part of my reporting, I visited the home addition, which has a bedroom in it. The space was beautiful but what struck me most about the space was how different it feels... it somehow seems more safe and secure than your stick built home (likely thanks to the walls that are around 20 inches thick!) It also is extremely, extremely quiet... and comforting.
Have you been in a straw bale house? What was your experience?
There were a number of photos I didn't get to include in the story so I'm including them below for your enjoyment:
Third, also in the Jan. 5 edition, I wrote a story about Art Stable, a new development in the Cascade neighborhood of South Lake Union. More on this later but the team is using an innovative combination geothermal and piling technique, which allows the system to make sense financially. Fun stuff!
Apparently, Living Future has a theme of people taking their shirts off. Last year it was Sim Van der Ryn. This year it's the people introducing the 15 Minutes of Brilliance (though to be fair they said they were just getting more casual and only stripped to their t-shirts under dress shirts).
(By the way, the audience is whoot-whooting like in the Arsenio Hall show....)
So 15 minutes of Brilliance lets a few pre-chosen teams to get up and share their brilliant ideas in 10 minutes or less. Excuse me if the below information is a tad fragmented.
The first item was presented by Geof Syphers, chief sustainability officer of Codding Sonoma Mountain Village, a 200-acre factory site in California into an urban neighborhood that will be leed nd, leed platinum and will meet the OnePlanet sustainable criteria. The project is 100 percent solar powered. The team is regrinding 40,000 tons of asphalt to recreate roads. It has a biodiesel factory. What's brilliant, Sypher said is looking at the impacts of a project through this tool, we have to set impact design goals for projects, and we have to measure the end impacts of projects. "Leed platinum isn't always better than LEED silver," he said... but this tool will help get projects greener.
Aurora Mahassine of Habitile The Hanging Gardens went second. She said we need to re-think what our home is, what we value as a society and our connectivity with the Earth systems we evolved with. She said we need more curves, holes and places for life to happen in our landscape. Quote of the day? "fertility begins with a hole." If we keep telling ourselves stories of an apocaypse, she said, we will get there but if we re-embrace gardens with our hands, touch life and reinsert ourselves into the natural lifecycle, our future won't be an apocalypse. Reintegrating ourselves. Habitile itself create vertical modular living systems that become a living wall.
Jim Estes of Inhabitability dicussed the Greensburg Living Building Challenge Competition. Two years ago, a tornado decimated Greensburg, Kansas. As they recovered they
The fourth idea was presented by Bryony Schwan, executive director of the Biomimicry Guild. Scwan said if we could use biomimicry to create change in the built environment, we could effect real change to help prevent climate change. Animals, she said, do more with less while humans problem solve in a completely different way. For example, she said, we thought until recently that flat surfaces were easier to clean. But we looked at lotuses, which had tiny rivets that allowed water to roll off the leaf and clean it. The guild is hosting the Green Building Design Challenge, to look at the connections between design and nature. There are three parts to this challenge: on Wednseday, the guild hosted a design charette to tackle the problem. Now, the challenge will be available online for comment and the third part will be taking designs to market. The challenge will be at asknature.org.
Sara Garrett, director of the Motivespace Coalition spoke about community asset funds and growing community space. Motivespace asks how space can motivate change through community asset funds. The first step in developing a fund is is to stay positive. The second is to support each other. The third is to know your value. The fourth is to cooperate. No one person or gorup could build a thriving community asset fund alone, Garrett said. Because time is money, neighbors can work together to get projects done, bank extra hours and use the extra time they've banked for yard work, neighborhood massages or other work. In this system, any person can seed a project and the best projects will rise to the top and draw the neighbor's assets and skills.
..... and that's it!