Chihuly offers lessons in green to 400,000 people a year

The following post is by Kathleen O’Brien:

In recent coverage of the new Chihuly Garden and Glass located at the Seattle Center, much has been said about art — both the art it displays and the dramatic artistry of the building design itself. While art is said to sustain the mind and soul, this particular building goes further, by employing sustainable techniques and taking the opportunity to educate its visitors as to their value.

In spite of a challenging design and an even more challenging schedule — 7 months to TCO — the project is slated to garner a LEED Silver Certification this fall. “LEED can be challenging even under normal circumstances,” according to Jason Sturgeon, PM with Schuchart, the project’s GC. “The aggressive schedule meant intense planning and coordination to assure that subcontracts were properly bought out and executed to follow guidelines imposed by LEED certification.” Sturgeon adds that “it helped that there was significant harmony” between the players regarding implementing LEED.

In addition to Schuchart the team included Owner, Center Art, LLC, Development Manager Seneca Group, and Owen Richards Architect. (Full disclosure: O’Brien & Co. provided technical consultation on the LEED Certification process to the project team.)

When asked why make a fairly complicated project even more complicated, Seneca Group Principal Bob Wicklein cites the opportunity “to educate over 400,000 visitors expected each year about the environment and green construction.”

As with many projects, a good percentage of the effort  towards the LEED green building certification is not visible once the building is complete.  Signage and tours will provide visitors with the story behind the story.  Visitors will experience a lush garden but they will also learn that this area was formerly an acre of pavement.  And those who “mourn” the Fun Forest” will be happy to learn that it has a second life — 100% of the Fun Forest exterior walls, roof, and floors were reused in the interior exhibition spaces, cafe, and gift shop.

Chihuly Garden and Glass under construction.

Adapting rather than demolishing the old building not only kept tons of materials out of the landfill, it also saved the energy and water used to manufacture new materials and construct a new building. Overall, 97% of all the waste from construction of this project was diverted from the landfill, about 250 tons.

Signage will also point out that The Glasshouse, which was conceived as an indoor-outdoor space, is not fully heated or cooled in a conventional way. It uses natural systems to efficiently moderate temperatures while allowing the indoor temperatures to fluctuate along with outdoor conditions. Using high-efficiency boilers and chillers and other energy efficiency strategies, the rest of the building exceeds local energy code requirements. The restrooms feature low-flow fixtures that reduce water use by more than 30% over standard fixtures, saving an estimated 160,000 gallons of water per year in this building alone.

For each station on the tour, pertinent tips will be provided.  One hopes that while every visitor will be inspired by the space and glass art to be creative, they will take  some of that creative energy to green up their businesses and homes.

Kathleen O’Brien is a long time advocate for green building and sustainable development since before it was “cool.” She lives in a green home, and drives a hybrid when she drives at all. She continues to provide consulting on special projects for O’Brien & Company, the firm she founded over 20 years ago, and provides leadership training and mentoring through her legacy project: The Emerge Leadership Project.