Tag Archives: Seattle

Seattle moving towards LEED gold city buildings. Is that a high enough standard?

The city of Seattle is planning to increase its requirement that city owned, financed or operated buildings larger than 5,000 square feet be LEED gold, up from LEED silver. Here’s my question: is it enough?

In 2000, Seattle broke some major ground when it required city buildings be LEED silver. If you go back to 2000, LEED was still really, really new. That’s reflected this  DPD data slide supporting policy changes here. Check it out, in 2003 and 2004 there were more city LEED buildings than those in the private sector. That switches in 2005 and after 2006, LEED in the private sector continues to grow by leaps and bounds each year.

I started this job at the DJC at the start of 2007 and in the time I’ve been here,

West Entry of the LEED gold Woodland Park Zoo, image courtesy Ryan Hawk, Woodland Park Zoo
I’ve certainly seen the switch. In early 2007, a story was news if a building met LEED silver or had targeted LEED gold. Then LEED platinum became the hot topic. Now, it’s net-zero energy and Living Buildings. That’s not to say that LEED is a dinosaur and that LEED platinum isn’t a big deal. It’s just that the really cutting edge projects seem to have moved beyond LEED. Silver just isn’t big news anymore.

Now, the city is looking to create a more robust policy, the outlines of which can be seen in that slide linked to above. There will also be a DJC story early next week explaining the likely changes. Generally, the city is going to require LEED gold for buildings where it previously would have required LEED silver. It also expands the program to consider major renovations and tenant improvements, sites and small projects. Sandra Mallory, DPD’s Green Building Team program manager, also said the city wants to pilot a living building and six Sustainable Sites Initiative projects, three of which are already in development. It’s some big changes. But are they big enough?

The question seems simple but also touches on the changing role of city government, especially because green building is so much larger today than it was back in 2000. Back in 2000, Seattle took a strong leadership role in its silver requirement. Making a similar, envelope-pushing switch today would likely require city buildings be net-zero energy or living buildings. Given today’s market, I’m not sure the city could make that change, even if it wanted to. Financially, I don’t know that it would make sense, or that it could even be feasible for all projects. Also, the private sector has already taken the lead in both these areas.

Then again, if Seattle wants to keep saying it is the “greenest city in the country,” something that seems to be getting a bit outdated as green and sustainable elements become mainstream, wouldn’t it have to make a ground-altering change like that? Additionally, most of its buildings in recent years have met LEED gold, though they weren’t required to. According to that slide, it still doesn’t have a LEED platinum project.

What do you think? Should the city have made a stronger stand or is LEED gold fair for now? Also, how do you think the city’s role in supporting green building should change in the future? Eventually, will the city require all its buildings be net-zero or meet living status? It’s a curious question and I’d love to hear your responses.

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

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

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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GSA’s $72 million Seattle HQ requires performance

Somehow, I missed posting about a recent story I did on GSA’s $72 million headquarters for the Seattle District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The story appeared in the June 27 edition of the DJC.

From a sustainable viewpoint, it’s a fascinating project to consider. It’s designed

Image courtesy ZGF Architects
by ZGF Architects and is being built by Sellen Construction.

The project aims to inspire a new era of sustainable workplaces with a goal of being the region’s most energy efficient air conditioned building. Models say it will have an energy score of 100, placing it in the top 1 percent of U.S. buildings for energy performance. It may reach LEED platinum, uses geothermal heating and cooling combined with structural piles and is heavily daylit.

Federal Building_14_small
The team also focused on bringing new technologies to the area, including underfloor air and radiant cooling and a phase-change material that allows cold energy to be stored for future use.

But what I think is one of the most interesting elements is GSA knew how much energy it wanted the building to use and asked competing shortlisted teams to demonstrate how they’d get there as part of awarding the project.  It went a step further by also requiring the project prove its energy performance during its first year of operation, basically requiring a guarantee from the team.

Generally, anything like this is a big no-no, as I understand it. Under no circumstance, from a legal perspective, should a team guarantee to meet a requirement related to LEED or sustainability. But this is the GSA, the largest

The site in April of this year. Image courtesy Sky-Pix Aerial Photography.
landlord in the county. And the project is backed by federal funds. One doesn’t really have a choice, other than to not compete, now do they?

As LEED continues to proliferate and green building fades into the background even further as just a part of good building, do you think this type of performance requirement will become more common? Or is this just a one-time deal?

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Northwest-based Green Sports Alliance gets lots of new members, grows

In March, I wrote a DJC article here on the Green Spots Alliance, a coalition of teams that aim to identify and adopt environmental initiatives while sharing best practices and experiences. It’s a really nifty concept with all  all-Northwest founding teams and venues including the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Storm, Safeco Field, Qwest Field and Qwest Event Center, KeyArena at Seattle Center, Portland Trail Blazers, Vancouver Canucks, the Rose Garden in Portland and Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

The solar photovoltaic system on the roof of Qwest Event Center. Image by Katie Zemtseff.
The group recently announced the six founding member teams have been joined by more than 20 professional sports teams and 19 venues, three professional leagues and two universities. All the new members are listed below.

At the March event, Scott Jenkins, vice president of ballpark operations with the Seattle Mariners, said the rest of the sports industry is not yet convinced. So having this many teams sign on and agree to participate could end up spurring change.

Jenkins said green initiatives are better for both the bottom line and the environment. Jenkins said then the Mariners have the lowest energy intensive footprint in baseball and still cut $500,000 from their water and energy budget in 2010. One thing the Mariners did is replace all old urinals with efficient ones that use 16 ounces per flush. But Jenkins said new sports construction projects still install urinals that use 128 ounces per flush, when it would cost the same to install efficient ones, saving operating expenses.

Here are the newest members of the alliance:

  • Minnesota Twins, Target Field
  • San Diego Padres, PETCO Park,
  • Washington Stealth, Everett Silvertips, Comcast Arena
  • Detroit Lions, Ford Field
  • Seattle Thunderbirds, ShoWare Center
  • St. Louis Cardinals, Busch Stadium
  • Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Clinic Courts and Lake Erie Monsters, Quicken Loans Arena
  • Florida Marlins
  • Kansas City Chiefs, Kauffman Stadium
  • Arizona State University
  • University of Washington
  • Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Pete Times Forum
  • Cleveland Indians, Progressive Field
  • Tampa Bay Rays, Tropicana Field
  • Philadelphia Flyers, Wells Fargo Center
  • Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park

In early August, the group will hold a three day summit in Portland. For more information on the event or the alliance, go here.

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Want to laugh? Watch this video on stormwater in the Puget Sound

Feel like laughing this gorgeous afternoon? Check out this viral video called “Dog Doogity,” about the importance of cleaning up after your pup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDh12w-jcfs&feature=youtu.be.

Despite the laughs  you’ll likely have by watching it, the video has a serious purpose: it

Jasper Dog

This is my fashionable dog, Jasper. I clean up after him. You should clean up after your dog too! Image by Katie Zemtseff

is meant as an educational spot to convince people to clean up their dog doo. Puget Sound Starts Here, a coalition of state and local agencies dedicated to the protection of Puget Sound, launched the video. The press release reminds us that pet waste is no joke. It’s raw sewage containing disease-causing organisms like fecal coliform, roundworm and salmonella that flow into Puget Sound in stormwater when it rains. Stormwater is one of the biggest pollutants of the Sound, which is in need of a serious cleanup.

The video is a parody of the 1996 BlackStreet hit “No Diggity” and was produced by Seedwell, a digital creative studio (and viral video creator) based in San Francisco whose founders are from the Seattle area.  It starts musician and actor Martin Luther McCoy. It was shot on locaion in Seattle, Tacoma and Everett.

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