DJC Green Building Blog

Which Living Building are you most excited for?

Posted on May 25, 2011

In the Pacific  Northwest, there are a number of living buildings in different stages of development. But in Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, B.C., there are three projects that stand out and will be fascinating to compare.

The projects are Seattle's  Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction, Portland's Oregon Sustainability Center and Vancouver's Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability. Though each is very different, they are large and significant enough to be comparable.  Unlike most living buildings, which have to date been smaller structures in isolated landscapes, each of these is in the center of a city. Each are being built by nonprofit or educational organizations. Each will act as a nexus of sustainability for their respective communities.

Of the three, CIRS in Vancouver is furthest ahead, and should be ready for occupancy this summer. The 60,000-square-foot, four-story structure is a dry-lab research facility for the University of British Columbia. It's budget is $37 million Canadian. It was designed by Busby, Perkins + Will. I wrote a previous post about the project here.

Courtesy Perkins+Will Canada Architects Co.

Next, comes the Bullitt Foundation's headquarters in Seattle. The Bullitt project, on Capitol Hill, will be six stories and a basement over 52,000 square feet. It is designed by The Miller Hull Partnership and Schuchart is the general contractor. Point32 is the development partner. Completion is planned for next summer. Bullitt is not releasing its budget but plans to release other detailed information on performance and development. At the design presentation for the project earlier this month, Jason McLennan of the Cascadia Green Building Council said “I think this is the most important building being built in the country today,” he said. “It's going to open up a whole new set of eyes.”

Image courtesy The Miller Hull Partnership

Third, is the Portland project. It recently completed final design and should begin construction in early 2012, with an opening in late 2013. The team includes Gerding Edlen, SERA Architects, GBD Architects and Skanska Construction. The Portland Daily Journal of Commerce reported that the project's budget is $59.3 million, not including $4 million needed to align streetcar tracks beneath it. The seven-story building will be 130,000-square-feet. It's funded by the City of Portland, the Portland Development Commission and the Oregon University System.

Image courtesy Oregon Sustainability Center.

Though each is similar, a "green competition" has sprouted from the beginning between the Seattle and Portland projects. Time recently published a post on the "green war" here.

Though each building must accomplish the broad goals of the living building challenge (provide all energy, treat and provide all water) they are meeting the goals in different ways. In large part, jurisdictional codes and requirements have influenced design. The Vancouver building, for example, is essentially becoming its own waste treatment plant and will provide all its own water. The Bullitt project will use composting toilets, and is struggling with the ability to treat rainwater. I'm excited to see how each performs.

Which building are you most excited for? Which one do you think is the prettiest, or the one that you respond to best aesthetically? Answer our poll at right or comment below with your reasons!

P.S. For more on Seattle's first building designed to living building standards that is complete, the Science Wing at the Bertschi School, click the living building tab or go here. It hasn't received certification yet but is on track to do so!

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The 10 Winners of What Makes it Green

Posted on April 30, 2009

The honors have been doled out. The party's done. And AIA's What Makes It Green is over for another year. To read my article in the DJC, click here.

There have been some interesting blog postings on this year's ceremony. Dan Bertolet's self-described rant at hugeasscity talks about the title of the awards, and whether, after all this time, we still don't know what makes it green. Dominic Holden at The Stranger also weighed in on the point of the awards here. The AIA Seattle COTE also live-blogged the process (go here if you want a full list of winners). 

Of the ten projects that won, it surprises me that six are in Washington. Two are in Seattle. If we're really looking at the greenest of the green, I would expect a wider range of geographic locations (considering the competition was open to designers and architects in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong and Japan). 

This year's project winners included one project in Leavenworth, one in Woodinville, two in Seattle, one in Olympia, one on San Juan Island, one in Victoria, B.C., one in Billings, Mont., one in Portland and one in Denver.

By way of comparison, last year's winners included one two from Seattle, one in Tacoma, one in Issaquah, one in Bremerton, one in Billings, Mont., one in Corvallis, Ore., one in Portland, one in Salem and one in Bend. 

(Incidentally, both winners in Billings went to the same architecture firm - High Plains Architects).

But here's the thing: an awards process is only as good as the entries it receives. And from what I've heard, it takes a lot of time and effort to put a project entry together. So what can you do?

I don't have the answer. But I do have winning project pictures. Here are a few of them: enjoy!

Miller Hull's Building #35, Natural Sciences Building at Puget Sound Community College in Olympia

Anna Howlen of D + A Studio's The San Juan Channel House on San Juan Island

High Plains Architects' Klos Building in Billings
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Portland nonprofit needs your extra office supplies

Posted on April 7, 2009

When I was a kid, I remember buying stacks of colorful paper for projects. Despite my best intentions, I'd use a few sheets and the rest would - I'm guessing - end up in the recycling bin.

A Portland nonprofit knows this phenomenon and is targeting those stacks of paper

Courtesy of SCRAP
- or your extra office supplies - and turning it into a community benefit.

SCRAP, or the School & Community Reuse Action Project, was founded in 1998 by teachers who didn't want to throw extra classroom material away. The organization takes donations of office supplies (for which you receive a tax write-off) and then sells the material to crafty people or to schools. It diverts 65,000 pounds of material each year from landfills, and also provides art and environmental activity outreach.

With the recent recession, more and more people have been looking for cheaper forms of entertainment and SCRAP has seen more business. But an e-mail I received last week says it has been so busy that it is running out of supplies.

If you have been looking for a way to get rid of old calculators or letterhead from 1980, this might be a good tip for you.

A number of items are flying off SCRAP's shelves. They include out-of-date letterhead, unique paper stock and interesting fabric and yarn. Recent popular items have been X-ray images from head scans and old fencing masks.

Other items on the organization's wish list include: mannequin parts, calculators, staplers, hole punches, paper cutters, spools of wire, PVC pieces, certain promotional items, small discontinued accent items, coasters, jewelry and bead bits and "shiny, sparkly stuff."

For more information, visit SCRAP's Web site at http://scrapaction.org/.

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Portland chooses Gerding Edlen for $80 million living building

Posted on March 5, 2009

A proposed living building in Portland is moving along. This week, the Portland Development Commission announced its plans to award the project's feasibility study to Gerding Edlen Development.

A living building is a building that meets the Living Building Challenge. The challenge

In 2007, this was Mithun\'s award-winning concept of a living building
goes beyond LEED platinum. A living building is self-sustaining, and aims to produce and reuse all its resources like energy and water. Since the concept was introduced by Jason McLennan of the Cascadia Green Building Council in December 2006, a number of projects have taken the challenge on. Most of them are on the smaller side, or are residences.

What makes the Portland project unique is its size. The building would be around 220,000-square-feet.

The project, called the Sustainability Center of Excellence, is on a super fast track. It received proposals two weeks ago and held a public meeting last week. Yesterday, the PDC announced it intends to award the project to Gerding Edlen, along with SERA Architects and GBD Architects. The three main partners in the project are the PDC, the Oregon University System and the Living Building Initiative, a consortium of organizations focused on sustainability.

Gerding Edlen and its team will investigate whether the project is feasible. If it is, it will have the option to move ahead with project development.

The goal of the building will be to attract other sustainably-minded businesses to Portland and to Oregon. Do you think this is a good way to attract business? Should Seattle be following in Portland's footsteps, or are we too different to compare?

Locally, the Phinney Neighborhood Association hopes to turn the Phinney Neighborhood Center (everyone's favorite giant blue building) into a living building. The Bullitt Foundation has also purchased a property and is just in the beginning stages of considering whether to do a living building or not. Am I missing any local living building projects? If so let me know.

For more information or some interesting local opinions on this project, visit Portland Architecture here, the Burnside Blog here, or read this article in the Portland Tribune. Enjoy!

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National energy shout out to Bellingham! Gooo B-ham!

Posted on October 27, 2008

The Environmental Protection Agency announced its 2008 Green Power Leadership Awards and the community of Bellingham is officially one of five national winners in the Green Power Partner of the Year Category. And the only winner (in that category) that is a city, or community as the case may be. And oh, by the way, it's the second year it has won this award.

For those of you who don't know, Bellingham basically rocks when it comes to

The beautiful city of Bellingham
The beautiful city of Bellingham

The beautiful city of Bellingham

renewable energy. In early 2007, the Bellingham local government chose to buy 100 percent green power for all city-owned facilities. Later the same year, the city helped launch the Bellingham Green Power Community Challenge, the goal of which was to increase green power purchasing among city residents and businesses to more than 2 percent of the city-wide electricity use. The community has surpassed the goal and buys more than 81 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy certificates; about 11 percent of the community's total electrical use. More than 2,400 households and businesses buy power through the challenge.

Portland General Electric won an award in another category - the Green Power Beacon Award. In part, the utility won the award for its GreenPowerOregon.com Web site, which features coupons, a power calculator and information.

Other winners in the award category included Intel Corp, University of Pennsylvania and Cisco Systems. Winners in other categories included The Estee Lauder Companies, PepsiCo., the Philadelphia Phillies.

Almost inspires you to pay that extra $3, $6 or $12 a month towards renewable energy, eh?

For more information, visit the city of Bellingham's Climate Protection Program.

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Walkable Seattle, a task force to make Seattle ‘green capital’ and Cameron Diaz

Posted on July 23, 2008

I've been on vacation the last week in Chicago/Michigan/Indiana so here's some news items you might have missed:

small-greenlake.jpgSeattle is a walkable city!  According to Walk Score's listing of the 138 most walkable neighborhoods in the country, Pioneer Square hits number 18, Downtown Seattle (wherever that is) is 33, First Hill is 46, Belltown is 61, Roosevelt is 64, the International District is 83, South Lake Union is 85, University District is 86, Lower Queen Anne is 97 and Wallingford is 133. And overall, Seattle is the 6th most walkable city, following San Francisco, New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia. I don't know that I agree with the ranking, do you? For more opinion on whether Seattle reeeeallly outranks Portland, check out the Seattle Weekly here. For more on urban development visit Seattle MetBlogs here, and  Sightline's has more here with some pertinent reader comments!

The first meeting of the Green Building Task Force is tomorrow from  3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the downtown library. The goal of the force over the next six months is to figure out how to actually make Seattle task-force.jpgthe "green building capital," and help achieve Nickel's February goal of improving energy efficiency in commercial and residential by at least 20 percent. I wrote about that in the DJC here. They'll be looking at policy options, financing programs, efficiency incentives and regulatory mandates.

There will be two teams: one will work on existing building stock, the other will work on new. That's an important point, as many energy efficiency programs or government mandates only look at new projects, and not existing, even though there is by far much more to fix in existing buildings.

I love sources that provide a virtual who's who of green people and this task force does just that. Members include reps from AIA, AGC, BOMA, Master Builders, Mithun, NBBJ, Touchstone, Seattle Steam... you get the idea. To see the actual list, go here.

diazsmall.jpgIn other news, I learned on my trip that US Weekly has a spread in its current edition about green celebrity tips. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but if you (or your kids) want to know what Cameron Diaz does to go green, check it out. I must admit the part comparing carbon emissions from celebrity perks (like personal jets and yachts) to everyday life (coach seating, a little sailboat) was a tad - shall I say - enlightening (or depressing, take your pick). Treehugger covers it here.

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The best green products of 2008… but are they really the best?

Posted on June 24, 2008

I have a story in today's DJC on the year's 10 best new green products, according to (our kind of competitor) the Sustainable Industries Journal... but were they really the best?

The products range from odd to ordinary, at least in what their function is. Here are three of them:

I'd never heard of the Solar Tracking Skylight by Solar Tracking Skylights rooftop-z.jpgof Chicago but it sure sounds interesting. It's a self-contained, self-managed skylight with mirrors that move to adapt to the sun's position. It's designed to provide light all day, not just when the sun is shining directly above. They're half the size of typical skylights and customers include Whole Foods, Wal-Mart and the U.S. Military. ... and they also look like they came out of a space movie! Yea for space movie products! (If you want to see a video of how it works, visit the Web site at the above link).

Lamberts Channel Glass by Glasfrabriks Lamberts of Bavaria, Germany is a self-supporting column that can be used as interior or exterior walls. They're nelsonmuseumsmalssmal.jpgmade from 40 percent recycled glass and are decidedly pretty, judges said. At left is the product in use at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. One judge, Clark Brockman of Sera Architects in Portland, said, "Let's just face it, it's sexy."

Sexy. Usually a word NOT associated with green building products (or projects for that matter). But judge for yourself from the picture at left....

Then there's local winner Salvaged Hardwood Tables by Urban Hardwoods of Seattle. Urban Hardwoods has salvaged 3,000 trees, that would urbansmall.jpghave otherwise ended up being wasted,  and turned the wood into tables. This one was salvaged from Kirkland and costs $4,200 for the tabletop.

But like it or not, these are all the opinions of a handful of (granted knowledgeable) judges. Perhaps you too are a judge in disguise. If so, tell me about the best green product not on the list. Post your comments below.

SI assures us all the products are real green products rather than examples of great greenwashing. But how well green products work is also controversial. For more on that topic, click the tag green materials below and read the entry 'Green products not so great, says Gehry specifier,' and comments.

Other blog posts on this at Jetson Green and Portland Architecture.

These are three of the 10. To learn about the other seven, read my story here

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What does green developer Gerding Edlen think is next?

Posted on May 30, 2008

For those of you not from the Pacific Northwest, Gerding Edlen Development Co. is widely regarded here as one of the best role models for sustainable project development. People want to know what they're working on - and what they think is the next big thing in sustainability, as evidenced by my story on their Casey Condominium project being the DJC's most read and most e-mailed story on Friday. 

casy1.jpgSo when I spoke with Mark Edlen, Gerding Edlen's managing partner last week, and he said within a year LEED platinum would be "an absolute yawner" in his office, you better believe my ears perked up. Instead, he said it's on to net zero buildings that consume more trash than they produce!

We were talking about the platinum rating because The Casey (at right), a $60 million, 61-unit building, is supposedly the first LEED platinum multifamily high rise in the world.  

It's also the firm's first foray into "eco-luxury"  - a combination of ultimate ecological consciousness and luxury (something not often associated with green buildings).

In fact, it is widely agreed upon that the green building movement has done a particularly bad job of combining function and beauty, something that most agree must become a stronger focus. But Mark's focus behind developing green projects is that a project should not compromise anything from site to construction to occupancy comfort, just to be sustainable.

So why not go after green luxury, the same way you'd go after green office or hospital space?  What do you think? Can a building be both?

To read a local perspective, click here or here. For real estate stats, go here. For more go here. If you're interested in Gerding Edlen, you can read about another one of their project's in a December story I wrote here.

But if you want to learn more about the Casey, its green features, the difficulty of building green multifamily to such a high level, and the building's art component, there's only one place to look: the story in the DJC. Check it out here.

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How can Seattle stay ahead of the sustainable curve?

Posted on May 29, 2008

Last week I came up with my own "brilliant" idea: create an online forum where people that work in green buildings would record their experiences to create a better understanding of how green buildings really feel.

That post was in response to Weber Thompson's blog that is doing exactly that. If you missed it, that blog also answered my question on how the team is measuring their building's performance (see tag below for Weber Thompson).

Now I'm asking you what your brilliant ideas are?

It's no secret that Seattle (and Chicago, and Portland and New York etc....) are racing to be the greenest city in the country. So if Seattle wants to hold onto that goal, what should it do? Should density be the focus or should it be regulations through things like stricter energy codes?

On a broader scale, is urban planning the answer or is it more incentives?   

For a British perspective on what cities should do, see a BBC story here. For a video on the nature of sustainability and its future from the perspective of Sir Norman Foster, click here. Or you could check out Sustainable Ballard's Web site here to see what one Seattle neighborhood thinks, or Sustainable Capitol Hill's site here.

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Do you take Seattle for granted? Grist looks at lesser known green cities

Posted on May 15, 2008

I'll admit it: I often take Seattle's environmentally friendliness for granted, even though I know it's a leader in many areas.

Renewable energy? City buys it. Green building? City does that too. Recycling? Um, duh.

small-seattle.jpgSometimes, it takes an ice cold swim in reality to remember these things we take for granted, aren't commonplace. Today that dose of reality came in the form of a quiz from Grist.org. To take it for yourself, click here.

I took the quiz and for most of the questions I couldn't for the life of me click the obviously negative answers (excepting, of course, the traffic categories). I found myself naively wondering... are there actually places in the U.S. where all of these negative answers are normal? Keep reading to learn about the quiz and what lesser known green cities are doing

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