Category Archives: Germany

This is not your grandfather’s heavy timber structure

The following post is by Brad Kahn:

The last few months have been busy at the Bullitt Center construction site on Madison Street, with structural, glazing, mechanical and other systems taking shape.

Glaziers install windows on the sixth floor.

The Type-4 heavy timber structure is a first for Seattle since the 1920’s, when heavy timbers were used in most commercial buildings. In the interim, the technology of heavy timber structures has advanced, with glued-laminated timbers replacing solid wood in many cases. Of course, forestry practices have also improved in the last 90 years, with 100% of the wood used at the Bullitt Center coming from Forest Stewardship Council certified forests.

At this point, the structural work at the Bullitt Center – designed for a 250-year lifespan – is largely complete, with the roof firmly in place.

With the structure complete, work turned to the curtain wall. Of particular note, the Schuco window system being used is arguably the most efficient in the world. Yet before the Bullitt Center, these windows were not easily available on the West Coast, since the manufacturer was in Germany – quite a distance to ship windows weighing hundreds of pounds each. To address this challenge, the team was able to connect Schuco with Goldfinch Brothers, a glazing company in Everett, WA. Now Goldfinch is the exclusive manufacturer of the Schuco window system on the West coast, providing windows for the Bullitt Center and other projects.

A rainwater collection and treatment system is being built throughout the project.

On the mechanical side, the rainwater collection and treatment system is being built throughout the project, from roof to basement. While approval to use rainwater for drinking is pending, it is our hope that the Bullitt Center can help demonstrate that ultra-filtration, UV and activated charcoal can treat water as well as – if not better than – chlorine (which can’t be use in the project, because chemicals are not allowed for water purification by the Living Building Challenge).

At this point, the Bullitt Center is on track for completion later this year, with occupancy by commercial tenants starting in January 2013. Conversations with potential tenants are underway, and interested companies should contact Point32, the project development partner, for more information.

Brad Kahn is president of Groundwork Strategies. He manages communications for the Bullitt Center project.


Don’t be a massive louse – check out the passive house!

A few years ago during an interview, I spoke with a source who told me about something called “passivhaus.” I remember listening attentively and I remember being surprised and impressed with the ideas behind the method, specifically the tight, efficient envelope it supports. I can’t recall who my source was. But I do remember getting this Feb. 2009 notice that the Passive House Institute U.S. was going to be speaking in Seattle. In fact, I was registered but did not attend.

Now, almost two years later, the first passive houses are completing construction. One of them is currently located in a very public space – at the parking lot of the Phinney Neighborhood Center. The project, called “Mini-B” (for mini bungalow) was developed by Joe Giampietro, director of housing at Johnson Braund Design Group. Turns out Joe was at that passive house meeting and was so inspired, he became a passive house consultant. Then, he chose to build mini-b as a demonstration project to show others just how cool the system is.

Mini-B is a 300-square-foot dwelling designed to meet the city’s requirements for a backyard cottage on a single-family lot. It has a bathroom, kitchenette and sleeping area. The project will have a grand opening at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15. Then, it will be open for weekend open houses starting the weekend of Jan. 29 and lasting for six months. After that, it will be sold. Partners in the project include  South Seattle Community College and the Phinney Neighborhood Center. After paying  back development costs, any profits will go to those partners and to a nonprofit housing organization, Giampietro said. The goal is provide exposure for the method. Giampietro thinks similar units could be developed for $80,000 each and thinks it has potential for affordable housing units. Weekday tours will be available by appointment.

Giampietro said there another passive house in South Seattle is nearing completion, and that there are 12 others in the works in the area. He said there are about 40 passive house consultants in the area. There’s also this organization – Passive House Northwest – which holds really fascinating conferences from time to time on the passive house method.

For more information, visit the project’s Web site. PhinneyWood also had a really nice write-up of the project last month, available here.

How green is too green?

Whenever a room of business people start arguing about green building, at least one ends up saying government should incentivize change rather than mandate it, otherwise green requirements will cause that other kind of green to dry up.

It turns out that in far-away Germany, a small town called Marburg is dealing with

Coutesy of The New York Times

these same problems. According to an Aug. 7 story by Nicholas Kulish in the New York Times, the decision of the town council to require solar-heating panels has caused some to call the town a “green dictatorship.”

In happened in June: the council switched from encouraging citizens to install solar panels to making it an obligation. It requires solar panels on new buildings, and on existing homes that undergo renovations or get new heating systems or roof repairs. There’s a 1,000 euro fine for projects that don’t comply, as of Oct. 1.

Here in Seattle, changes like this don’t seem real. Our politicians put a 20-cent fee on paper and plastic bags from the grocery store and the news and anger generated by the action is overwhelming. A change of the magnitude of Marburg’s decision is certainly nowhere near occurring in Seattle.

But if it were, would this be the way to go? Where is the line between a green haven and a green dictatorship, considering many in this city would already consider it the later?

Let’s take a small break from reality and imagine that Seattle was going to require something like this. I’m guessing solar panels might not have the greatest impact (considering our famously overcast weather) so then what would? Insulation, windows, green building materials, indoor air quality? What revolutionary change would you suggest the city take on? Answer my new poll to the right, or share your thoughts below.

For more on this topic, visit Smart Economy, Support the Warmth, Truemors or the Huffington Post.