Tag Archives: Business and technology

Tom Douglas’ 3 new restaurants in South Lake Union historic renovation

I attended a press event this morning for the completion of Amazon.com’s fourth phase of headquarters work. Attendees were invited into the historic renovation of the Terry Avenue Building next door. Terry Avenue, located on Terry Avenue North between Thomas and Harrison streets,  is soon to be the home to three (!!!) new Tom Douglas restaurants. Terry was designated a historic landmark in 2008. It was built in 1915, and was a hardwood flooring and cabinetry warehouse until the 1950s.

Surprisingly, the press release doesn’t say much about the building’s sustainable elements (other than it has the first green roof on a historic building in the city). Terry was part of Amazon’s phase four and the release does say phase four buildings targeted LEED gold certification. From a sustainable standpoint, the fact that it is a historic renovation automatically buys the building some credibility. I asked Douglas why he liked the space. He pointed to the 1908 wooden pillar I was leaning against and said projects don’t get much better than that.

Douglas also said the building is the first place he’d head during an earthquake, due to the extensive seismic renovations that went into it.

The three restaurants will all be open by mid-April. Cuoco, on the ground floor, will serve fresh pastas made in an open kitchen and will seat 100. Ting MoMo, a Tibetan dumpling cafe led by longtime Douglas chef Deyki Thonden, is to the east of the second floor and will seat 40. The Brave Horse Tavern, to the west of the second floor, will seat 150 and serve Americana food. Cuouco should open the last day of March or first few days of April. The other two restaurants will open the following week.

At the event, Ada Healey, vice president of real estate at Vulcan, said a number of things still have to happen in the neighborhood, including an up-zone. I chatted with Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin briefly at the event and he said council is trying to balance the needs of a new urban neighborhood with the need to protect the area’s heritage. It is an especially pertinent time to discuss this topic as The South Lake Union Height and Density Alternatives Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which addresses this issue, is accepting comments until April 11. What do you think? Should South Lake Union be allowed to go higher? Or are there heritage elements in the neighborhood still to protect? Would love to hear your thoughts.

In the mean time, here are pictures! To see more, check out my Facebook page here.

The UW’s Paccar Hall: creating places people love

Last week, I toured the University of Washington’s Paccar Hall at the Foster School of Business. I’m not an architectural critic so I won’t pass judgement on the space itself (Lawrence Cheek was on the tour, so  you might look forward to his take sometime). I will say the space itself almost tempted me to go back to school.

I wrote about the building in the DJC here. But what I didn’t write about was the way it made me feel.

Often, I tour a space and listen to the words of the architect. They speak about aesthetics, connections and a building’s grand goals. In Paccar Hall, I didn’t so much need to hear Mark Reddington of LMN speak about what the building was meant to do — as I needed to look around and see everything he was talking about playing out in person.

Creating space that fostered random conversations between people? Check. Creating space with lots of nooks and comfortable areas for people to rest and do their own thing both indoors and out? Check. Creating space that felt like a broader piece of the UW’s campus, rather than a segmented section of learning? Check. This is a building that was crawling with students interacting at all different levels, I’m guessing not all from the business school.

The sustainability features were also interesting, the most obvious one being daylit space. I’ve been in a lot of buildings that are “daylit” and sure, you see the outside and notice that you’re getting natural light. But in Paccar Hall, the daylighting wasn’t just a feature. It was the building and screamed for your attention. Having said that, I do wonder about the efficiency of a building that is over 45 percent glass. Architects on the tour assured me that numerous strategies had been put in place to take care of the solar load – very visible interior sunshades, exterior sunshades and glazing. I’d like to see the concrete operational numbers for the first few years to see how much energy it saves (it is LEED gold, after all).

The building has a number of other green features – it saved trees on the property, has automatic lighting controls and displacement ventilation. A planned green roof was value engineered out, though a decorative green space lines the outdoor terrace.

I’ve been thinking about the building and it raises a question for me: is it more sustainable to create a building that people love and will use thoroughly, or should teams concentrate on the green credentials?

In a perfect world, all green/sustainable/LEED certified buildings would also make you want to stay inside them. But the thing is, they don’t. Often, a LEED building feels just like any other building with the addition of that familiar plaque by the door. Personally, I wanted to spend more time in Paccar Hall. The more I digest this space, the more impressed I am. People end up loving buildings like this. And in 30 years, they won’t let it get torn down – a stark contrast to the original 1960s business school building just visible in the right corner of the first picture below that people can’t wait to demolish.

Can we say that for all the “green” buildings out there?

Here are a number of pictures I took from the tour. For more check out my Facebook fan page.

Frank Gehry apparently not the biggest fan of LEED

There’s an interesting article in last week’s BusinessWeek Apparently, Thomas Pritzker asked Frank Gehry what he would think if a client said he wanted a LEED certified building.

From BusinessWeek:

“Oh, great,” Gehry answered in a high, mock-excited voice, as the audience laughed. Then, back in his regular voice, he dismissed environmental concerns as largely political concerns. “A lot of LEEDs are givenfor bogus stuff. A lot of the things they do really don’t save energy.”

He also said the expense of building to LEED standards often outweighs the benefits. On smaller projects, he said, “the costs of incorporating those kind of things don’t pay back in your lifetime.”

What does Gehry, one of the U.S.’s most respected architects, opinion say about LEED buildings? Is the 81-year-old stuck in a different period of time in his reaction towards LEED (he did, after all, apparently call it LEEDs) or is he right on?

I’ve discussed Gehry’s general idea – on the value of LEED versus its cost – before. To address his concerns, first LEED has a number of subtopics, not all of which directly relate to energy. So it makes sense that not everything in a LEED checklist works towards that goal. Second, from what I understand, LEED can be done for the similar cost of a non-LEED building in many situations, if you start working on it right from the beginning.

What interests me about this exchange is that Gehry is saying it. Living in Seattle, I rarely, rarely, rarely hear this view espoused openly by architects. Am I just living in a green bubble? Is this still a common view?

After writing the above post, I noticed a second article Michael Arndt of BusinessWeek wrote about the above post. Turns out Gehry called Arndt to clarify his above comments. This from the second article:

“I’m not against LEEDs at all,” he said. “I think it’s wonderful. I think we’ve got to do this.” But then Gehry, who acknowledged that he is something of a cranky old man, got back on a soapbox to decry today’s automatic embrace of LEED certification. “It’s become ‘fetishized’ in my profession. It’s like if you wear the American flag on your lapel, you’re an American. That’s what I was trying to say. You get people who are holier than thou. I think architects can do a lot, but some of what gets done is marketing and doesn’t really serve to the extent that the PR says it does.”

What do you think about all this readers?

Sustainability and the business perspective “never waste a good crisis”

I’m in a fascinating session on sustainability and how large companies consider it to be part of their business. Let me tell you guys, there is some really interesting stuff going on in this world!

John Mitchell of Cenovus Energy of Calgary spoke about his company’s commitment to sustainability. Hesaid sustainability makes so much business sense that it has moved beyond the convincing side and is now an integral part of his company’s strategic division where it is placed on an equal footing with things like longterm planning.

Here’s the money quote: “We’ve moved past having to justify the sustainability payoff. This is integrated in our business this is part of what we do… that approach is a given. What we need to do is identify the right metrics to ensure we are driving the right things,” he said. “This isn’t a  justification anymore. It’s a demonstration and a delivery.”

Speakers in this international session represent Herman Miller, Cenovus Energy, Suncor Energy, Novo Nordisc, and HSBC.

All speakers said sustainability makes sense for many different reasons… it increases ROI, creates value, creates trust and builds brand.

Sharon Walck of HSBC said her company doesn’t think of the sustainability paybacks simply in financial terms because it believes climate change will affect everything in the future. “The business world should be under no illusion… we are now on the path to a new carbon economy,” she said. “I want to contend that the sustainability payoff topic is not singlular,” she said. “We believe this short term focus is quite frankly outdated. Simply put, sustainability means so much more.”

Paul Murray of Hermann Miller has been working on sustainability for his company since 1992. Back then, he said one person per month would inquire about sustainable systems. Now, the environmental part of the Web site gets 1,400 hits per month and 98 percent of RFPs for office inquire about the company’s environmental program.

For the past few years, he said his company has spend a quarter of a million dollars per year on energy efficiency upgrades. That effort has a 33 percent rate of return and pays for itself every three years.

Waste is another area that has saved his company a lot of money. Last year, his company was paid $2.9 million for the materials is recycled however he said when you consider the amount of money saved and made, it is “a $15 million swing.”

Herman Miller has also been working on cradle to cradle practices with Bill McDonough since 1999, which led to intellectual information that is patented. Murray said his company looks at every material in every product and if it has anything toxic in it, asks the supplier to take the toxic materials out. It can’t always happen, he said, but often it can.

Additionally, the office furniture industry has been severely impacted by the recession and other business factors in recent years. Murray said every department at Herman Miller has been impacted and had cuts – except his. “My staff is still intact. I think that tells you how a company like mine values return on the bottom line.”

Suzanne Stormer of Novo Nordisc in Demark also spoke about the global crisis. She said it has created an opportunity for businesses to go further in saving resources. “Never waste a good crisis,” she said. “The economic recession is also forcing us to think smarter, in terms of reducing waste. When you have enough of everything you can do whatever you like but in times of scarcity you are forced to be more creative.”

Speaking of businesses, every business represented at this conference is really looking at sustainability issues, rather than just paying lip service to the ideals. Here are some of the companies here, some of which might surprise you: Dow Chemical, Starbucks, Novo Nordisc, Walmart, HewlettPackard, FedEx, Sears, Seventh Generation, Citigroup, Fito Lay Canada, Kraft Foods, Shell International Petroleum, InterfaceRaise.

Water: the elephant in the room

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 big elephant in the room: everyone talks about climate change but many people are more concerned about water. Think about it: water is critical for agriculture, energy and health, not to mention our drinking supply.

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?