DJC Green Building Blog

Area’s first commercial building made of cargo containers up for sale

Posted on December 16, 2011

In February of 2010, I wrote this story about an office building in Georgetown that was constructed of reclaimed cargo containers. The owner, Jay Stark, said it was the first project of its kind in the country.  I also produced this video-tour of the space at the time. Here is our story from Dec. 16 about the sale.

Now,  nearly two years later, the space is for sale for $1.5 million. Sadly, it was a foreclosure. I

GeorgetownShowroomPhoto_big
haven't spoken to the owners so I don't know what happened but it's too bad things likely didn't turn out as planned.

The slight upside is that it will be really interesting to see who buys the site when it sells. I recently spoke to Evan Lugar of Kidder Mathews, who is representing First Savings Bank Northwest on the sale. He said the bank has owned the property since August. He also said it's a tricky space to sell because it isn't typical retail or commercial and is unique. He's targeting creative businesses.

The building is made of 80 percent recycled materials by weight. The complex has two buildings, which are each made of six cargo containers that came from the Port of Seattle. They have halogen and fluorescent lighting, an efficient reverse-cycle chiller HVAC system, and windows with argon gas sandwiched between the panes for increased insulation. There is a rooftop deck with views of downtown Seattle and Mount Rainier.

Typically - the super green, innovative projects that have been built have been created with the intent of the owner using it for many years. (Houses don't count). The greenest commercial projects I've profiled over the years have been built or are being built by the Bullitt Foundation, the U.S. General Services Administration, a consortium involving the city of Portland, universities or by firms that intend to stay in a space for a long time.

My point is: they don't turn hands. Because of that, there isn't much information about the resale value and market for super green projects in the U.S. created for a specific client. People hypothesize uber-green buildings hold their value better and that there's more demand, but it's hard to prove - without proof. No matter what, this is just one building. But the more sales we see, the more accurately we'll be able to guage the true value of innovative sustainable buildings and whether it's the LEED credential or a building's inherent sustainability that translates as value.

As a sidenote, this is the second time spaces made of cargo containers or using "cargotecture" has been in the news in a week. Earlier this week, the DJC covered a new pilot project Starbucks drive though in Tukwila made of cargo containers. Here's our story and here's the story the AP ran based on our story.

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6-acre green roof in Vancouver, BC feels amazing

Posted on May 21, 2010

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 story was carried by the AP and is currently in the Seattle Times, Seattle PI, Tacoma News Tribune and on Sightline, among other news organizations.

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!

The green roof, looking towards Vancouver

These are the four beehives

This is another portion of the green roof. The red is pretty striking!

Here I am, enjoying the view (and rain).

Yes, those are teeny, tiny people!
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Green Trends for 2010…. what’s going to be hot?

Posted on December 30, 2009
What does the future hold?
Generally, I'm not one for predictions. So I'm letting Parsons PR be psychic for me. Parsons, a local public relations group that only represents sustainable clients, recently issued this list of green trends for 2010. Here's what they think is going to be hot. What do you think? Do we agree?
According to Parsons, here's what we should be paying attention to:
  1. Green wallsGreen roofs were all the rage in 2009 and their numbers will continue to grow - but why stop there? Incorporating green walls into a building’s design creates additional opportunities to reap the benefits of vegetative surfaces: added insulation; reduced stormwater runoff; absorption of pollutants; natural habitat for birds, bees and butterflies; and reduced outside noise.
  2. Living Buildings – More comprehensive than LEED Platinum and beyond net zero, the Living Building Challenge is the highest standard of sustainability in the built environment. Functioning as complete, natural and self-sufficient systems, Living Buildings represent a radical step forward in green building when there is growing consensus that the time for baby steps is past. 2010 will be a big year for Living Buildings; four years after the launch of the Challenge, the first Living Buildings are finally expected to be certified.
  3. Green retrofitting – President Obama is planning a new federal economic stimulus plan that will train workers in home energy audits and green retrofits.  New and green is sexy, but the bulk of the opportunity to address energy efficiency lies with our existing inventory of buildings.
  4. Indoor Air Quality – With one in four Americans suffering from allergies and/or asthma and with Americans spending 90% of their time indoors, tighter and more energy-efficient homes demand more attention to IAQ.  The EPA has updated rules coming on line in 2010 with new requirements for remodeling work to reduce the harmful impacts on children and adults.
  5. Green neighborhoods – An individual green building is great, but again, why stop there? It’s time to make the whole neighborhood green too. Walkability, transit-oriented development, smart growth principles ? all elements of a green neighborhood.
  6. Green modular – Mostly factory-built and assembled onsite, modular housing poses several benefits - monetary savings, reduced material waste and less time onsite, for starters ? that will propel the green building movement forward in 2010.
  7. LED lights – Commercially and in homes, LED lights will become more mainstream in 2010. Previous problems in design and distribution are being corrected. And even though LED lights are still a little pricey, consumers are getting savvier about the life cycle assessment of the products they choose, as well as the long-term pay-off of using a more sustainable lighting alternative.
  8. Environmental labels – Like the nutrition labels on food, green building labels offer easy-to-digest data and performance metrics for building materials.
  9. Performance countsWe’ve seen the modeling for green buildings, now we want to see some results. In other words, prove it! In 2010, expect to see more and more studies from academia, non-profits and corporate America that document the rental premiums, cost savings, health benefits and long-term investment value of green.
  10. Updating community and homeowner association rules – Rules hindering environmentally-friendly behavior are being overturned: clotheslines are back, white roofs are okay, and compost bins and recycling containers are a point of pride, rather than hidden away.
P.S. If green trends is your thing, Sustainable Industries will be hosting a free Webinar on the topic Jan. 6. More info here.
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Vancouver’s Convention Centre West – and its six-acre green roof – is open

Posted on April 9, 2009

Last week, the 1.2 million-square-foot Vancouver Convention Centre West opened in Vancouver, B.C. The project is massive.

Built next to the existing east convention center, the new west building allows the convention center to triple its capacity. it will also be the broadcast media center during the 2010 Olympics where it will host 7,000 members of the media. It cost $883 million in Canadian dollars and was designed by Seattle's LMN Architects, who partnered with local firms Musson Cattell Mackey Partnership and DA Architects & Planners, who were prime architect.

On the green front, the center is shooting for LEED Canada gold and has two real stand-out features. One is the six-acre living roof, which press materials say is the largest green roof in canada and the largest non-industrial green roof in North America (does anyone know what the largest green roof is in North America, industrial or non-industrial?) You can't walk around on the roof but there is apparently a viewing space where visitors can see it.

The other is the building's consideration for local habitats. For example, the team worked with scientists to reduce the building's impact on marine animals (about half of the structure is built over water). The building has an underwater habitat 'skirt,' or an artificial reef that emulates a shoreline and provides habitat for barnacles, fish and other sea creatures, in addition to other restorative features.

My question is - does the inside of it feel green? McCormick Place in Chicago, for example, felt just like any other convention center. And having been to a conference in the Vancouver East Centre (which again, felt just like a regular convention hall) I am curious to see if any of the green elements that influenced the west building are visible to the general user. 

For more information, check out the DJC article here.

View of the green roof
Outer view of the center
Interior view
Outside view
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Photos of Seattle’s largest green roof at the Gates Foundation garage

Posted on March 2, 2009

About a month ago (Jan. 20) I wrote a story in the DJC on the green roof at the Gates Foundation's garage. At 60,000 square feet or about 1.4 acres, it is the largest green roof in Seattle by a landslide.

The garage is a crosswalk away from Seattle Center on the east side of Fifth Avenue North. It is located next to the future Gates Foundation headquarters and is kitty-corner from EMP. The garage is technically a public-private partnership between the Gates Foundation and the city of Seattle. NBBJ was the architect. Sellen Construction was general contractor. Gustafson Guthrie Nichol was landscape architect.

The roof itself is visible from the Space Needle, a consideration in its design. The roof has five inches of soil over a layer of synthetic drainage.

Here are photos:

A worker weeds the green roof
The green roof is clearly visible from the Space Needle's deck and vice-versa
A side view photo only begins to show how massive the roof really is
View from the street
Aerial view, courtesy Sky-Pix
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Pictures of the green roof at Olive 8

Posted on January 8, 2009

The green roof at Seattle hotel-condo project Olive 8 is being installed this week. It is one of the largest green roofs in Seattle at 8,355 square feet.

The roof is actually two green roofs so the developer, R.C. Hedreen, can test out which system it likes best. Above the chillers there is a sod-based green roof. On the actual fourth floor ground level, there is a tray-based sedum system. There is a lasting argument between which one of these techniques is better, which I will discuss in a later post at greater detail. For more on this project, or to learn about R.C. Hedreen's conversion to being a green developer, read the story in the DJC here.

R.C. Hedreen is also considering a second green roof on the 39th floor of Olive 8, though if it pursues that option it will need to be sod-based as David Thyer, president of the company, said the city is afraid the green roof trays will blow away at such a great height.

On Tuesday, I was fortunate enough to see part of the tray installation. Here are photos I took of the process:

Trays on the ground

Workers pick up a tray...

And load the tray into a pattern

The green roof from behind

 

Both green roofs

A close up of the sod-based green roof

For more on Olive 8, see the official page here. To see more photos, visit Eco Friendly Mag here.

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