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July 6, 2018

City sweetens deal for green building projects

  • The 2030 Challenge pilot is a new incentive program for major renovations to existing buildings.
  • The six-story Bullitt Center on Capitol Hill is a model for ultra-green buildings, but five years after its completion few other Seattle projects have followed suit.

    A city report from February noted the Bullitt Center is one of only two projects to participate in Seattle's Living Building pilot program. The other is an apartment building in Fremont.

    The pilot program allows developers to request extra departures from the Seattle land use code, plus more height and floor area, for buildings that try to meet the Living Building Challenge.

    The Living Building Challenge is a certification program administered by the Seattle-based International Living Futures Institute that “defines the most advanced measure of sustainability for buildings and landscapes,” according to the city's website.

    The city report concluded that “current and prior pilot programs have not garnered the attention of developers or been used to the extent intended by the mayor or City Council.”

    So the city has unveiled a new pilot program that backers hope will garner more interest.

    On Monday, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan launched the 2030 Challenge pilot program — a new incentive program for major renovations on existing buildings.

    The 2030 Challenge pilot program will provide up to two additional floors and a 25 percent floor-area-ratio bonus (or 30 percent for unreinforced masonry buildings) in exchange for projects that meet the performance goals of the 2030 Challenge for Planning.

    The 2030 Challenge for Planning is an internationally recognized standard for “decarbonizing” the built environment. It calls for a 70 percent reduction in energy use, a 50 percent improvement in water management and a 50 percent decrease in transportation emissions from established baselines.

    The legislation provides eligibility criteria for participating buildings and allows for up to 20 pilot projects.

    It was passed by the City Council in June.

    Durkan said in a statement, “With building energy as a leading cause of pollution, our city can remain on the leading edge of construction and operation of buildings that meet the highest green standards while fostering a healthy environment.”

    Susan Wickwire, executive director of the Seattle 2030 District, said, “We really see the 2030 Challenge pilot as a catalyst for transformative change at scale by incentivizing developers and owners to make substantial green investments that make business sense.”

    The new legislation also includes updates to the Living Building pilot, changing the zoning incentives and penalty provisions to make them consistent with the 2030 Challenge pilot.


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