DJC Green Building Blog

Heavy timber framing at the Bullitt Center

Posted on April 6, 2012

Photo by John Stamets
The following post is by Brad Kahn, president of Groundwork Strategies. He manages communications for the Bullitt Center project.

When the Bullitt Foundation began work on the Bullitt Center, Denis Hayes, the foundation's president and CEO, had a clear vision that the architecture should be regionally relevant. Noting that buildings in Seattle and Phoenix are too frequently designed in the same ways, Hayes set out to promote the idea of a "regional vernacular" in architecture that draws on the environment surrounding Seattle for guidance. And in the Pacific Northwest, there is no environmental feature more prominent than forests, making wood a logical building material.

Add in the fact that when it comes from a responsibly managed forest, wood is among the most environmentally friendly building materials, and it is only natural that the Bullitt Center is a heavy-timber framed structure.

As the first commercial building to pursue the Living Building Challenge, the Bullitt Center team is working hard to meet all 20 "imperatives," as the requirements are known. Included in this list is an imperative focused on "Responsible Industry," requiring that "all wood must be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)" or from salvaged sources.

With construction well under way, wood framing for the Bullitt Center has begun.

And anyone who has passed the job site on 15th & Madison has likely noticed the glued, laminated timbers, or "glulams" as they are known in the industry. Manufactured by Calvert Glulams in Vancouver, Wash., the glulams offer several environmental benefits, in addition to being stronger than traditional sawn timbers. First, they are from forests certified to the standards set by the Forest Stewardship Council, which is widely recognized to be the most rigorous and prescriptive benchmark for forest management globally. All wood for the project comes from within a 1,000-kilometer radius, as required by the Living Building Challenge. In the case of the glulams, the wood came from FSC-certified Douglas fir forests in Idaho, so the project is helping support a regional economy for wood from responsibly managed forests. And because the glulams are manufactured by combining smaller dimensional lumber, they reduce pressure to harvest larger, older trees that historically were needed to mill large dimension timbers.

Brian Court from Miller Hull Partnership addresses some of the other design considerations for heavy timber framing on the Bullitt Center blog.

Over the next few weeks, expect to see the Bullitt Center take its full form, as the six stories rise from the construction site. The project is on track to be completed later this year.

 

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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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New Puget Sound Energy wind farm gets first turbine

Posted on April 6, 2011

Because wind energy is such a trendy topic with so many arguments for and against, it's easy to put the turbines that actually generate electricity to the back of your mind. We don't stop to think about how massive these things actually are.

This week, I came across some gorgeous images to illustrate just how gigantic these things can be - and what a huge operation it is to install them.

The project is Puget Sound Energy's third wind power plant, called Lower Snake River Wind Project, near Pomeroy in Garfield County. It recently erected its first wind power turbine. The project should be operating in spring of 2012 with 149 wind turbines, enough to create 343 megawatts or enough energy to power 100,0000 homes. Here is the first turbine:

The first turbine to be installed. Image courtesy PSE.

To install this sucker, huge cranes with booms extending 390 feet in the air set the turbines' lower sections, nacelles and three-blade rotors in place. Many of the nacelles, which contain the turbines' gear boxes and power generators, are being made at a Siemens plant in Kansas. A Siemens factory is Iowa is producing all the turbine blades.

Lifting part of the turbine.

Each rotor is 331 feet in diameter, more than a football field's length. The turbine towers are bolted to concrete foundations taht are up to 8.5 feet thick and weigh more than 600 tons, equal to the weight of more than 100 bull elephants, according to a PSE press release. The turbines weigh more than 240 tons.

A giant crane lifts the turbine's core.

The project began in May of 2010. RES America is PSE's lead contractor. To see more photos, click here. It also includes a 15,000-square-foot operations and maintenance building that will have office, warehouse and workshop space. Opp & Seibold from Walla Walla is PSE's general contractor. About 25 permanent employees will occupy the building when it opens this fall.

Check out those blades!
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King Street Station rehabilitation on track for platinum

Posted on March 11, 2011

This week, I toured King Street Station. For those of you who aren't aware, the 1906-built-station is in the midst of a $50 million renovation. The project is absolutely, totally and utterly incredible.

The main thrust of the project is a much needed seismic renovation. Seriously, the tons of steel being put into this project are indescribable. But King Street Station is also a historic building and must be maintained as such. Once the rehabilitation is complete, it will be very sustainable: it's on track to meet LEED platinum, up from a goal of LEED silver. Last year, the project's sustainable efforts were honored by AIA Seattle with a gold level award from the What Makes It Green event. ZGF Architects is the architect. Sellen Construction is general contractor.

Obviously, the most sustainable thing about the project is the fact that it is a historic renovation of an old structure, which retains the embodied energy inherent in the building. But the team went much further. Geothermal wells in the building will likely provide all heating and cooling. The main waiting room will return to its 100-year-old state of being naturally ventilated. Incredible effort has been spent to save, clean and better old building materials. All of these elements will be detailed in a future DJC story.

For now, I'll whet your interest with some photos of the space. As you can tell, I got to tour the inside of the clock tower, which is not part of the current project's phase. However it is really cool. To see more photos of the clock tower or tour, follow my page on Facebook here. And if you haven't voted for this blog yet as best of the web, please do so. For more info on that, see the post below.

Enjoy!

The brown section above is original plaster work. The white part below is where the original plaster was ripped out and replaced mid-century. The white section will be renovated to match the brown section. All images copyright Katie Zemtseff.

This entryway has been hidden for decades. It will be cleaned up and opened to the public as part of the rehabilitation.

This is me behind one of the clock faces in the clock tower. This is not part of the current rehabilitation project (but it is awesome!)

Water pouring down a staircase that has been closed to the public for decades. It will be opened up as part of the project.
This is the office space on the station's third floor. In recent years, it has been the home of pigeons and dust.
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Visit Seattle’s first (likely) living building

Posted on February 22, 2011

Recently, the Restorative Design Collective completed what will likely be the first living building in Washington State at the Bertschi School. Of course, we won't know whether it meets living building certification until it has operated for a year. But the project is designed to provide all its own energy, treat its own water and lay light on the land. It is called the science wing and will be a scientific learning area for students.

This is the first living building project to target the 2.0 version of the challenge (a tougher standard than the original), and the first project to be built in an urban area. The project was built largely through volunteer work, organized by a group called The Restorative Design Collective. The project cost about $1 million but members of the collective donated about $500,000 in pro bono time in addition to that.

Stacy Smedley, of KMD Architects and co-founder of the collective, said it is important to have a living building in the region where the challenge was born. Jason McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Green Building Chapter, published the challenge at the end of 2006. Chris Hellstern, the other co-founder of the collective, is also at KMD.

The DJC story on the finished product is here, a story written last June details the founding of the collective and design plans here. If you don't have a DJC subsciption, this story is unlocked (meaning anyone can read it). It's a really interesting personal look at problem solving issues on the project. We also covered the installation of the building's SIPS panels on the Green Building Blog here.

For instance, the team focused heavily on water and has a system in place that would treat collected water to potable standards. But before it can do that, it must wait for state and local rules to change. A runnel, cut in the ground, will allow children to see flowing rainwater.

Bertschi will offer tours of the building, though it will usually be a science wing for students' education so tours must be pre-arranged. For more information, call Bertschi at 206-324-5476.

If you're interested in learning more about living buildings, check out the fifth annual Living Future (Un)Conference. This year it is in Vancouver, B.C. from April 27-29. As someone who has attended each of these conferences so far, I can say it is an incredible time.

Here are some pictures of the finished product. More pictures on my Facebook page here.

The exterior of the science wing, Image courtesy Katie Zemtseff

The living wall and area where children will do plan and animal experiments, image courtesy Katie Zemtseff
Closeup of the living wall. Image courtesy Katie Zemtseff.
A runnel where students will be able to watch rain water flow, like a river. Image courtesy Katie Zemtseff.
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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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AIA hands out its green awards… and none are from Seattle! Eeek!

Posted on April 23, 2010

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.)

Pacific Plaza used to be an ugly parking garage. Image courtesy BLRB.
Though the Northwest is often considered a leader in the green building movement, it's not too surprising that no Seattle project won an award this year. As far as super green projects goes, it seems to me like Seattle is in the middle ground right now. Last year, a number of high profile green projects in the region (some of which 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,

This Georgetown office project is made of re-used cargo containers
this seems like a really big way to do that. To see a video I created on the project, 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.

355 11th Street in San Francisco, a restaurant, office and industrial space. Designed by Aidlin Darling Design. Photo by Matthew Millman

Two images of Kaust, a school campus in Thuwal, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Designed by HOK. Photo by J. Picoulet.

Manitoba Hydro Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba. An office space. Designed by Kuwabara Payne Mckenna Blumberg Architects. Image by Paul Hultberg.
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Green buildings: shooting for the stars or arriving at average?

Posted on July 23, 2009

What is the purpose of a new green building aesthetically? Should it look like every other energy hog on the block? Or should it look different to call attention to the fact that it's special?

That's what I'm wondering after your comments to the post below, regarding the new LEED platinum headquarters building for the U.S. Green Building Council. Holz says "it's got no soul," while a conversation between Nate and I revolved around the image that the USGBC is trying to project. Nate says "USGBCs goal seems to be to bring green to the mainstream, and thus it is not surprising that they wanted their office building to look like a traditional office building."

But why go traditional when you can go exciting?

I don't even work in the field and I can come up with a number of reasons. It's less of a risk if you design something that looks like everything else. And while many people might think the idea of LEED is great, there are also people out there who think it's a load of hogwash. And heck, if you're standing in a standard-looking building, you've got to search out the single USGBC plaque and know what it means before realizing you're in a green building. What percentage of the population would even recognize the seal if they saw it?

But if you've got a green building that's obviously a green building from its architecture, who knows how it will be accepted? Who knows if people will like it, or if tenants will choose it over a more common counterpart. It's also more obvious to nay-sayers that the people who developed the building - and use it- are committed to green practices (or at least want to appear that they are).

Then again, one has to assume that if you're going to the USGBC's offices, you know that the people you're about to be speaking with are green-minded.

And if the envelope is never pushed, you won't get buildings like this:

The roof of the LEED platinum California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco by Renzo Piano
 

or Nate's favorite:

CK Choi Building for the Institute of Asian Reserach by Matsuzaki Architects

or possibly the first living building in the country....

The Omega Center for Sustainable Living by BNIM Architects

Or the LEED gold Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 headquarters in Denver. From the outside...

From the outside, designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects
And from the inside

Though to be fair, all the above photos are of buildings for private institutions or agencies that don't really have to worry about market forces.

What do you think? Should really green buildings look like everything else or do they need to look mainstream for reasons of marketability, etc.? Answer my poll at right or share your thoughts below.

And if I missed a great example of a green building that pushes the aesthetic envelope, please comment with a link to a photo of it.....

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USGBC headquarters gets LEED platinum – is this enough bling?

Posted on July 20, 2009

The U.S. Green Building Council sent out a press release this morning announcing that its headquarters in Washington, D.C., has been certified LEED platinum under the new version of LEED. It also sent out a whole powerpoint presentation of photos, which gave the viewer a pretty good idea of what the space looks like.

But before I show you the eye candy, please stop and take a moment to think about what you think the headquarters should look like. First, it is important to know that the USGBC is the creator of LEED, the environmental rating system which has produced some really innovative and exciting pieces of green architecture. So it stands to reason that their building should be the epitome of everything green that it possibly can. Second, it's also important to understand the building's context before you judge it. The office is 75,000 square feet that is divided between two floors and connected by an open staircase. It's also in an urban area, so realistically, this building was going to look like an office building from the outside.

Here's what Rick Fedrizzi said he wanted it to be: "The vision of the space was to exemplify everything a LEED building is: high-performing, resource-efficient, healthy and productive."

Alright. Look at the photos below and tell me: did they suceed? Is this how you imagined it would look? If so, what did they get right? If not, what would you have done differently?

This is the exterior view. Rendering courtesy Envision Design

Entering the office... all photos by Eric Laignel
The stairway and conference area

A giant USGBC seal
Happy colorful cubicles

 

Colorful chairs and a flat screen TV. I hope it's an efficient model...

So readers, what do you think?

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greenest project of all?

Posted on April 27, 2009

Tomorrow, the Seattle Chapter of the AIA will announce its winners of the What Makes it Green Awards. The awards celebrate the greenest projects in the Pacific Northwest (and a few overseas countries. Still not sure on how the overseas aspect works but it does).

So before they make their big announcements, I wanted to ask you, dear readers.... what do you think are the greenest buildings of the past year?

Nationally, the AIA chose Weber Thompson's headquarters and Dockside Green (for more info, click AIA tag below). Who do you think the local awards will honor?

Just for fun, I'm including some randomly chosen images of green buildings I have reported on in the past year. Let me know if you think these - or any I haven't mentioned - will be winners:

The garage next to the future Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Headquarters.

Alley House, Sloan Ritchie's Leed platinum home project

Gerding Edlen's Bellevue Towers in Bellevue

Building Changes' LEED platinum Kenyon House in Seattle

Vancouver, B.C.'s Convention Centre West

P.S. For pictures of last year's winners, click the tag 'AIA' or 'Awards' below!

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