Category Archives: Puget Sound

Get a glimpse of green ‘pod’ home

A compact, green-built “pod” home designed by Ann Raab of Greenpod Development of Port Townsend is open to the public at the GreenDepot site until April 29 from 10 am to 6 pm M-F, 10-5 on Saturday and 11-5 on Sunday. Workshops will be offered daily.

The pod was part of last weekend’s Green Home Tour sponsored by Northwest Ecobuilding Guild, featuring new and remodeled homes designed for low energy use and built with nontoxic materials.

Raab’s 450-square-foot pod is factory-built using all green products. It can be delivered to any city in Washington.

Greenpod’s Waterhaus model has a Kangen water system with adjustable pH for drinking and cleaning. It also has a waterfall and living wall.

Ann Raab said pods are meant to be low maintenance dwellings that are environmentally safe, healthy for occupants and “a joy to live in.”

The Waterhaus model uses multi-use furnishings, color, lighting and windows to make the living space feel larger. The waterfall and living wall are sculpted from metal by industrial artist Ray Hammar of Sequim. Michael Hamilton of Port Hadlock made the tables and benches. Seth Rolland of Port Townsend created the bathroom vanity from rock and fir. Wall textures are applied by artist Gail Miller of Whidbey Island. The interior is decorated with an exclusive line of organic fabrics by Suzanne DeVall.

The pods are built by Greg Barron of Greenpod Builders.

They are built to meet King County’s requirements for an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and are aimed at people who want to downsize, age in place or care for family member in a separate unit. They also work as cabins, second homes, home offices and small commercial buildings. Pods can be stacked and configured to create communities. More information is at (800) 569-0831 or


Puget Sound Partnership gets in hot water with state audit

This morning, KUOW 94.9 aired a pretty hard-hitting piece on the Puget Sound Partnership and a recent state audit of the agency. John Ryan (who worked here at the DJC years ago, if you didn’t know), covered the story in a clear way that left me with one word on the tip of my tongue after he finished: “Wow.”

According to the audit, the “partnership circumvented state contracting laws, exceeded its purchasing authority and made unallowable purchases with public funds.”

I just spoke with Frank Mendizabal, spokesperson for the partnership, who said the agency has made a number of changes already in response to the audit but will continue “tweaking” its operations in the future.

For more information, check out the KUOW story here.

Rainwater harvesting: to require or not to require

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 development and for 45 percent of household water consumption in Tucson. That. Is. Crazy.

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 does real damage or at a treatment plant, where it goes through an extensive process to get clean. So why don’t we, as a country, require that at least some of that water is captured and used for something productive?

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.”

The 10 Winners of What Makes it Green

The honors have been doled out. The party’s done. And AIA’s What Makes It Green is over for another year. To read my article in the DJC, click here.

There have been some interesting blog postings on this year’s ceremony. Dan Bertolet’s self-described rant at hugeasscity talks about the title of the awards, and whether, after all this time, we still don’t know what makes it green. Dominic Holden at The Stranger also weighed in on the point of the awards here. The AIA Seattle COTE also live-blogged the process (go here if you want a full list of winners). 

Of the ten projects that won, it surprises me that six are in Washington. Two are in Seattle. If we’re really looking at the greenest of the green, I would expect a wider range of geographic locations (considering the competition was open to designers and architects in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong and Japan). 

This year’s project winners included one project in Leavenworth, one in Woodinville, two in Seattle, one in Olympia, one on San Juan Island, one in Victoria, B.C., one in Billings, Mont., one in Portland and one in Denver.

By way of comparison, last year’s winners included one two from Seattle, one in Tacoma, one in Issaquah, one in Bremerton, one in Billings, Mont., one in Corvallis, Ore., one in Portland, one in Salem and one in Bend. 

(Incidentally, both winners in Billings went to the same architecture firm – High Plains Architects).

But here’s the thing: an awards process is only as good as the entries it receives. And from what I’ve heard, it takes a lot of time and effort to put a project entry together. So what can you do?

I don’t have the answer. But I do have winning project pictures. Here are a few of them: enjoy!

Poisons in Puget Sound: where they come from

When it rains in Seattle (as it often does) water flows along city streets and sidewalks, picking up toxins, before it is sent to a storm drain and eventually ends up in Puget Sound. This is the largest polluter of the Sound, sending 52 million pounds of pollutants into it every year.  That’s a conservative estimate but it’s nothing new

What is new is a map, produced by a team of GIS students from the University of Washington that shows where the storm drains – that send the water into Puget Sound – are. Turns out there are 4,500 public manmade storm drains, according to the team. The map was produced for People for Puget Sound, a nonprofit that advocates for healthy policies for the sound. The map also includes 2,123 natural drainages that receive inputs from the watershed system of additional drains, and 297 storm drains from the Washington State Department of Transportaion and 70 bridges. Industrial and private drains were not included in the project.

What poisons end up in the sound? Yummy things like copper, zinc, mercury, flame retardants, PAHs, and petroleum hydrocarbons. Some of these pollutants, like phthalates, which are found in plastic bottles and packaging, get dissolved in stormwater, making them hard to remove, if not impossible.  Pleasant.

Why should we care? Because, on a very base level, the Puget Sound is a huge economic driver that helps support our local economy. Not to mention the environmental aspects. 

So what does the image look like? Here it is…

Bruce Wishart, policy director for People for Puget Sound, said the map shows the enormity of the stormwater problem which impacts the sound.

Heather Trim, urban bays and toxics program manager for the organization, said the students went well beyond their class project to create a terrific map that advances knowledge of stormwater inputs. “We have been told by agencies that it would be years before we could get this map and yet the students have produced this tremendous resource.”

How about it readers, is this image a tad surprising? Or is it what you would have expected?