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.
For those of you that don't live in the area, Yesler Terrace is a 28-acre publicly subsidized housing community owned by the Seattle Housing Authority. It is in the process of being redeveloped.
District energy systems are common in Europe, especially Denmark. They allow buildings to connect to each other, increasing efficiency and reducing costs by letting several buildings share energy from a main source, such as steam, geothermal, biomass or waste heat.
But they are often cost prohibitive because streets must be torn up for a network of pipes to be built underground.
Steve Moddemeyer, principle of sustainable development at CollinsWoerman, said according to a CollinsWoerman study for SHA, a district water system could cut water use by half for Yesler Terrace and reduce wastewater flows by 70 percent for the same or less cost as a traditional system. Just imagine if you could do that for an entire city!
The fact that Yesler Terrace is considering a water and energy district is really exciting. But what's more interesting is what it says about Seattle. District energy has long been a buzz-term in the city's green community. It seems like we might finally be moving towards getting momentum on new projects.
The city of Seattle hired AEI and Cowi to study district energy opportunities for the city. They are looking at where these systems would be feasible and will identify the top three places. Moddemeyer has seen such interest in district energy and water, he said Yesler Terrace might not be the first project to employ the system. If private developers move forward, he said district systems could be the norm within five years. (Can you even imagine that scenario...?!)
Separately, the city is also working with Trent Berry, a partner with Vancouver, B.C.'s Compass Resource Management. Berry is also providing expertise on district energy systems.
The city of Bothell is also looking at installing a district energy system.
The new projects point in the direction Seattle is heading. But we are also lucky to have Seattle Steam here. Seattle Steam, a district heat provider for 200 downtown buildings, has been around for over 100 years. I'm sure there's a lot of experience they can add to this discussion.
It seems like Seattle has an opportunity here to be a real leader.
Moddemeyer said the biggest obstacle to progress is our faith in the current system. Projects like King County's $1.8 billion Brightwater Treatment Plant put all our water treatment eggs in one basket, betting that water will continue to be treated the way it is in years to come.
What do you think?
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I'm at the Globe Conference in Vancouver, B.C. and I'm attending a number of sessions on two themes: water and cities and urbanization.
I'm attending the urbanization sessions because it important to see how cities plan to grow more sustainably, and how they plan to be restructured over time. I'm attending water sessions because water is always
The session I'm in right now is called "Water Efficiency: Managing a Valuable Resource." Sonia Lacombe, senior manager, climate change and sustainability at Ernst & Young in Toronto, spoke about how businesses look at water and said it's changed a lot in the past few years. "In the past a lot of corporations were not dealing with water like they are now," she said. "This is now a topic that interests more and more board members."
Ernst & Young is a professional services firm. She said clients are looking for more information on managing water risk, disclosing water information, regional differentiation such as regional impacts and what regional actions are being done etc. Things driving this concern are consumer concern, competition amongst companies and the business case that companies internally see in water efficiency.
Samir Brikho, chief executive of Amec in London, said his company recently identified water issues as one of the most important areas to focus on because it sees the potential for it in the future.
Joe Deutscher of Dow Chemical Canada said competition is a big driver. His company recently created a water treatment system that replaced an outdated product that created many, many gallons of wastewater, and saved the company 25 percent in capital costs. It was industry competition that drove this innovation, he said, adding that competition is the best way to drive change. "Industry has to collaborate."
A number of companies, Lacombe said, are considering water impacts even though they are not required to do so via regulations. She is working with a few large European breweries that have considered how to produce goods with the least amount of energy and water possible. "In the absence of regulations, some corporations are really getting organized ahead of time."
Have you seen companies increasingly looking at water issues?
However change happens in the reuse and efficiency of water operations, one thing is clear amongst everyone who has spoken here: water rates need to grow dramatically for anyone to care about water efficiency and reuse issues, and for change to happen. We pay far more for our cell phone and cable bill than we do for water. How much would you be willing to pay and what would you want your government to be doing with the revenue from increased rates?
This week, the DJC ran an excellent article from Arthur H. Rotstein with the Associated Press called "Commercial projects in Tucscon must start harvesting rainwater." The article says that the Arizona city has enacted the nation's first municipal rainwater harvesting ordinance for commercial projects. The ordinance requires developers building new business, corporate or commercial structures to supply half of the water needed for landscaping from harvested rainwater starting next year.
Apparently, landscaping accounts for about 40 percent of water use in commercial
The article also mentions that a half-dozen other communities in Arizona are looking at replicating the approach, and that rural Santa Fe County in New Mexico has required harvesting using cisterns or similar structures for commercial and residential development since last year.
Which brings me to the next question: why isn't this a requirement everywhere? Water is cheap, yes. But even though it is cheap, it still costs money. If Tucscon - which the article says gets 12 inches of rain a year - requires rainwater harvesting, why don't we? (Other than little details like the state owning the rain that drops down from the sky....)
Now I know Tucson and Seattle are very different. I know Tucson uses so much water on landscaping because the city is in a desert, which means for most anything to grow, it is going to need extra water. But the underlying principal is the same. Water is a free resource. When water falls on the ground, it flows along roadways, picking up dirty icky things like metals and nutrients, eventually ending up in a water body like the Puget Sound, where it
It just seems like a really wasted resource.
Where am I wrong here? Please tell me why this would not work.
By the way, water is going to become an even greater issue of importance as more people move to the Pacific Northwest. I wrote this article a couple weeks ago that discusses the challenges between the desire to get off the water grid and traditional infrastructure.
In that story, a number of experts from our region discussed where we are going with water treatment and the difficulties that lie ahead. It covers a range of opinions but all speakers could agree on one thing: water needs to be more expensive for change to happen.
Kurt Unger of the Department of Ecology pretty much spoke for the crowd when he said "Water is too damn cheap... We need to assess a fee on water to enable so many more things to happen."
This is from a series of guest posts by representatives of the Northwest Building Efficiency Center. This post was written by Vicki Zarrell.
I recently had a chance to tour the Washington Public Utility Districts Association (WPUDA) building in downtown Olympia, the first building in Washington to be certified LEED Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council. The WPUDA moved into the new building late in 2007, occupying the second floor.
The first thing I noticed when walking up the steps from the sidewalk was an
For those times when there is TOO MUCH water from the roof or hardscape, a natural-looking swale along the east side of the building filters the runoff and recharges the groundwater. This entire system is a win-win for the City of Olympia and the WPUDA since it eliminates run-off to the city’s stormwater system and no municipal water is needed for landscaping or the water feature.
Another obvious exterior feature of the building is the large array of photovoltaic solar panels on the roof. According to the WPUDA, solar will supply about 40% of the building’s energy needs and surplus power produced by the panels will be sold to Puget Sound Energy through net metering.
Inside the building the individual carpet squares caught my eye, which are easy to replace if damaged and are part of the building’s emphasis on materials and paints with low toxicity. I also noticed exceptional views of the capitol campus and surrounding neighborhood. With generous use of windows and skylights—and with work spaces primarily arranged around the perimeter of the building and bay-type windows jutting out from the structure—90% of work spaces in the building receive natural light. Yet there seemed to be no glare from windows or light fixtures. The windows are super energy efficient and designed not to reduce visibility the way tinted glass does.
Other elements contributing to LEED certification were the fact that most of the construction materials came from 500 miles or less, that the lumber was FSC certified, and that 75 percent of all construction waste was recycled. The area of the roof without solar panels is a light colored “cool roof” that reflects the sun’s infrared rays, reducing the building’s “heat island” effect and air conditioning costs.
This is a building that made me think, “I’d like to work here.” Besides its pleasing atmosphere, knowing that the building is efficient and well designed contributes to its desirability as a workplace. For a video describing the building, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFefP7Ft1gg
If you haven't guessed by now, I really have fun with calculators. Yes, I know they aren't always accurate. Yes, I know they often are designed to inflict guilt (and are
So today, my calculator of choice measures a "water footprint". The calculator, presented by a New York-based project called H2O Conserve, asks you a number of questions. You answer and BAM! Your water use gets compared to that of the typical American, all accompanied by handy and sometimes cute graphics. My favorite is the one that accompanies the 'I don't brush my teeth' answer. (Which I do, by the way. I just wanted to see the graphic....)
I am below the national average, but just barely at an individual water use of 1,072.20 gallons per day. Written out, that seems staggering.
The calculator also offers handy suggestions of how to decrease my water use, but some of them are just plain against my cultural habits. For example, it says I can save 10 or more gallons of water a day by not flushing the toilet and "letting it melow" instead. Somehow I don't think that would fly with my colleagues at work.
But some of the tips are also interesting. For example, the calculator says I can save water by getting an efficient dishwasher, rather than washing dishes by hand.
If you want to see how much water you use, click here. And if you missed it, click the tag 'calculator' below to find out what an ecological footprint is... and how you measure up!
After a tumultuous year, the zHome project has started off on a new foot with its Monday groundbreaking. The project is a 10-unit townhome development in the Issaquah Highlands that uses smart design and technology to create all the energy it consumes. It plans have net zero carbon emissions and cut water use by 60 percent.
I first wrote about the project last December here when Noland Homes was thehere) it "takes my breath away a little bit" to be at this stage in the project's life.
zHome has a nifty Web site that can answer all and any of your questions from what materials are being used to how they're doing it to how to buy into it. For more information, visit it here.