What’s in a name?

Place names are part of who we are as a city. Seattle’s standard misspellings and wrong (or unsanctioned?) names might be treasured quirks as well. Or are they opportunities to charmingly correct our friends and enliven parties? The answer is probably in the middle. So use the following sparingly!

Green Lake, Gas Works, and Sand Point are each two words.

One-third of all locals don’t know how to spell Elliott Bay. That’s a scientific wild guess.

People seem confused by Columbia Center. Perhaps the Columbia “Tower” Club contributed to this.

If an ad says “in” Queen Anne Hill vs. on, it was written elsewhere.

Even many lifelong Seattleites don’t say Pike Place Market. “Pike’s” seems common. The problem might be that “Place” doesn’t seem to fit. The lightbulb goes off when they learn that the street through the middle is Pike Place.

Sea-Tac is the airport, and SeaTac is the municipality.

A word about contrived marketing names…Lower Queen Anne is memorable and unique. We don’t need to copy the twenty-four other Uptowns that Wikipedia lists in the US and Canada. If someone tries to push Uptown on you, you’re a hero for resisting.

The Denny Triangle is different because that area used to lack a common name.

Let’s also discuss the common idea that a neighborhood has official boundaries. A City department says so, someone will say. But City departments create lots of maps, each to fulfill their own mission whether it’s planning or policing. That doesn’t mean their jagged line between Belltown and the Triangle has more authority than you do about what’s one or the other.

Nor does anyone else’s idea about what’s “Downtown” or not. Downtown is a subjective concept or exists for a specific purpose that probably doesn’t parallel yours.

Back to Belltown and the Denny Regrade. They’re kind of the same area but not if the actual regrade(s) is the point.

Oh, and “Downtown” can be capitalized if it’s a specific place name vs. a direction or general concept.

This party could keep going and going. But this is an urban issues and design blog, not about grammar or brevity. So let’s not get into topics such as why sportscasters always “had the opportunity to talk with” someone vs. simply talking with them, or any errors in this post.

Posted in Government, Landmarks, Neighborhoods, Opinion, Planning, Seattle lifestyle | Comments Off on What’s in a name?

LEGO House connects architecture and play

The home of the LEGO brick opens in Billund, Denmark. Are you ready to play?  

Photo by Iwan Baan

BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group and LEGO bring the toy scale of the classic LEGO brick to architectural scale with LEGO House, forming vast exhibition spaces and public squares that embody the culture and values at the heart of all LEGO experiences.

Designed by BIG and COWI, LEGO House is an experience hub for LEGO fans of all ages, as well as an architectural landmark and a significant step towards the city’s goal of making Billund the Capital for Children. The construction of the 12,000 m2 LEGO House commenced in 2014, replacing the former City Hall building with support from three generations of the LEGO family and Billund City Mayor Ib Kristensen.

Photo by Iwan Baan

“All activities in the house are related to our LEGO philosophy that learning through play promotes innovation and creativity. Play runs through the LEGO Group’s DNA, and it is really brought to life in LEGO House. Everything from experience zones and outdoor areas to our restaurant concepts is based on play and creativity, so no matter what you do in LEGO House, it will have something to do with playing.” Jesper Vilstrup, LEGO House CEO.

Photo by Iwan Baan

Due to its central location in the heart of Billund, the 75 foot tall LEGO House is conceived as an urban space as much as an experience center. Twenty-one overlapping blocks are placed like individual buildings, framing a 21,518 square foot LEGO square that is illuminated through the cracks and gaps between the volumes. The plaza appears like an urban cave without any visible columns and is publicly accessible, allowing visitors and citizens of Billund to shortcut through the building.

Photo by Iwan Baan

“LEGO house is a literal manifestation of the infinite possibilities of the LEGO brick. Through systematic creativity, children of all ages are empowered with the tools to create their own worlds and to inhabit them through play. At its finest – that is what architecture – and LEGO play – is all about: enabling people to imagine new worlds that are more exciting and expressive than the status quo, and to provide them with the skills to make them reality. This is what children do every day with LEGO bricks – and this is what we have done today at LEGO House with actual bricks, taking Billund a step closer towards becoming the Capital for Children.” Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner, BIG.

Photos by Iwan Baan

The LEGO square is energized by an urban character, welcoming locals and visitors to the café, restaurant, LEGO store and conference facilities. Above the square, a cluster of galleries overlap to create a continuous sequence of exhibitions. Each gallery is color-coded in LEGO’s primary colors so wayfinding through the exhibitions becomes a journey through the color spectrum.

Photo by Iwan Baan


The first and second floors include four play zones arranged by color and programmed with activities that represent a certain aspect of a child’s learning: red is creative, blue is cognitive, green is social, and yellow is emotional. Guests of all ages can have an immersive and interactive experience, express their imagination, and not least be challenged by meeting other builders from all over the world. The top of the building is crowned by the Masterpiece Gallery, a collection of LEGO fans’ beloved creations that pay tribute to the LEGO community.

Photo by Iwan Baan

The Masterpiece Gallery is made of the iconic 2×4 LEGO brick and showcases art beneath eight circular skylights that resemble the studs of the brick. Like the golden ratio, the proportions of the brick are nested in the geometries of everything man-made in the building, from the glazed ceramic tiles in the steps and walls to the overall 21 block scheme. On top of the Masterpiece Gallery, citizens and visitors can get a 360° panoramic view of the city. Some of the rooftops can be accessed via pixelated public staircases that double as informal auditoria for people watching or seating for performances.

Photo by Iwan Baan

The Historic Collection at the lower level is where visitors can experience an archival immersion into the LEGO company and brand’s story. The Vault – located underneath LEGO Square – is where children and AFoLs (Adult Fans of LEGO) can witness the first edition of almost every LEGO set ever manufactured. LEGO House is expecting to attract 250,000+ visitors annually.

Photo by Iwan Baan


SIZE: 129,167 square feet
LOCATION: Billund, Denmark
COLLABORATORS: COWI, Dr. Lüchinger+Meyer Bauingenieure, Jesper Kongshaug, Gade & Mortensen Akustik, E-types

PARTNERS IN CHARGE: Bjarke Ingels, Finn Nørkjær, Brian Yang
TEAM: Andreas Klok Pedersen, Agne Tamasauskaite, Annette Birthe Jensen, Ariel Joy Norback Wallner, Ask Hvas, Birgitte Villadsen, Chris Falla, Christoffer Gotfredsen, Daruisz Duong Vu Hong, David Zahle, Esben Christoffersen, Franck Fdida, Ioana Fartadi Scurtu, Jakob Andreassen, Jakob Ohm Laursen, Jakob Sand, Jakub Matheus Wlodarczyk, Jesper Bo Jensen, Jesper Boye Andersen, Julia Boromissza, Kasper Reimer Hansen, Katarzyna Krystyna Siedlecka, Katarzyna Stachura, Kekoa Charlot, Leszek Czaja, Lone Fenger Albrechtsen, Louise Bøgeskov Hou, Mads Enggaard Stidsen, Magnus Algreen Suhr, Manon Otto, Marta Christensen, Mathias Bank Stigsen, Michael Kepke, Ole Dau Mortensen, Ryohei Koike, Sergiu Calacean, Søren Askehave, Stefan Plugaru, Stefan Wolf, Thomas Jakobsen Randbøll, Tobias Hjortdal, Tommy Bjørnstrup

Posted in Architecture, Design and Art, DJC, Landmarks | Comments Off on LEGO House connects architecture and play

Did someone say coffee?

National Coffee Day is Friday, September 29! 

Several chains are expected to celebrate the occasion, but here’s what we know now: 

Photo by Laura Gwinn

Sheraton Hotels is your stop for free Starbucks on National Coffee Day. In celebration of its new Starbucks Cold Brew Refreshment Cart offering, select Sheraton hotels are giving away Starbucks Cold Brew and hot coffee to all consumers from 9am to 5pm on Friday, September 29.  Where to go?  Sheraton Seattle Hotel: 1400 6th Ave, Seattle, WA 98101

Top Pot
Free 8 oz Top Pot drip coffee at any of their cafes. And enter to win coffee for a year!

Buy any bag of blended coffee beans for 25% off, and get a free medium-size cup of drip coffee or tea on National Coffee Day. Another option is to go online and purchase bags of beans for 25% off with the promo code coffeeday17.

Krispy Kreme
Krispy Kreme is honoring what it’s calling National Coffee Weekend. Get any-size signature hot brewed or small iced coffee (in any flavor you want) for free at participating locations September 29 through October 1. 

Dunkin’ Donuts
Dunkin’ Donuts is celebrating National Coffee Day with a buy-one-get-one-free deal. On September 29, purchase a medium or large coffee, and you’ll get a medium-size coffee for free.

Whole Foods
On National Coffee Day, Allegro Coffee will donate $1 for every drip coffee sold at Whole Foods Market stores to Whole Planet Foundation. Get $1 off a 16-ounce Allegro Pumpkin Spice Latte. To claim your caffeinated discount, download the Whole Foods Market App and scan your personalized barcode at the register.

Some stores will be offering coffee tastings and samples of food pairings. Check with your local store for details. 

Posted in DJC, Events, Neighborhoods | Comments Off on Did someone say coffee?

Sign up now for ABC leadership programs

The following post is by Wendy Novak, President, Associate Builders and Contractors of Western Washington. 

Tomorrow’s industry leaders are currently coming up through the ranks in their chosen professions and will need to step up to plate as the baby boom generation retires. Companies are investing in their workforce and training their people so that they have the knowledge and skills to be better and more effective leaders within their companies, on the jobsite, and within the industry.

The construction industry has always been one where mentors provided guidance and training for younger employees and now more and more companies are enhancing that with more formal training programs. Recently, new programs have been developed to focus on specific leadership skills, specifically communication and conflict resolution.

ABC’s Rising Star Program is a 10-week program that includes participant team building, opportunities for mentorship, meeting and discussing situations with industry peers, communication training, and enrollment in ABC’s Toastmasters chapter, enrollment in ABC National’s Young Professionals Peer Group, and an opportunity to put leadership skills to the test in one or more community service projects. The course focuses on the eleven principles of leadership that were developed for the military and have been adapted to the business world.

Graduates and employers who sponsored participants speak to how the program has affected them both professionally and personally.

“The program affected my career in several different ways,” says Adam DeBruler, of Neeley Construction. “It exposed me to the skills of leadership and taught me how to improve my communications. I recognize better that people hear different things in the same communication, and I now ask what someone heard after I talk with them to ensure they are getting the message I’m trying to get across.”

Another graduate, Jordan Korneliussen, of Washington Commercial Painters, said, “I learned to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and then improve my skills. For example, I learned to step up and not avoid difficult communication and conflict so I can be more effective in every aspect of my job.”

Mike Yore, of Olympian Precast Inc., says, “I run 10 to 15 different projects at a time and learned to better communicate with a wide variety of people by becoming a better listener, doing follow up to ensure people understand what I said and leading by example.”

Both DeBruler and Yore have joined the ABC Board of Directors, and Korneliussen says he hopes to continue with leadership programs and perhaps one day run a company.

John Noble, Vice President of Turman Commercial Painters’ Washington Commercial Painters division, says, “training is one of our core values and we sponsor both craft and leadership training for our employees. They become better employees and can grow in the industry through participation in ABC committees and by serving on the board of directors.”

The Advanced Leadership Retreat takes the Rising Star Program to a new level in a two-day program that focused on increased communication skills and conflict resolution.

Registration is now open for both programs and must be completed by September 15th. For information contact: Victoria@ABCwestwa.org, phone (425) 646-8000, or visit www.abcwestwa.org.

Other industry programs include:
Construction Industry Training Council Project Supervision program: Project Supervision is a comprehensive, competency-based program that gives both veteran and new field managers a step-by-step approach to honing their natural abilities, developing essential skills, and generally improving their performance as leaders. As a one-level curriculum, Project Supervision covers topics such as Human Relations and Problem Solving, Safety, and Quality Control, Planning and Scheduling and much more. It runs Thursdays from 10/12/17 – 2/8/18 and uses the NCCER Accredited Curriculum.

ABC’s Leadership Week: leadership.abc.org/en-us/generalinformation/scheduleofevents.aspx

Toastmasters: www.abcwestwa.org/en-us/trainingevents/events/abctoastmasters.aspx

Posted in DJC, Education, Events, Opinion | Comments Off on Sign up now for ABC leadership programs

What’s new in Passive House?

The Passive House Conference is Sept. 27 – Oct. 1 

The Passive House Institute US 12th annual North American Passive House Conference is Sept. 27 – Oct. 1 at Motif Hotel at 1415 Fifth Ave. in Seattle.

The theme is “The Path to Zero Source Energy.” The 70 presentations will educate builders, architects, policy makers and energy professionals on methods for achieving resilient and healthy zero net energy buildings, including houses, multifamily, commercial and high-rise.

Cost is $545 for Passive House Alliance US members, and $690 for non-members. Register at passive-house-conference-2017.phius.org/

17-unit Capitol Hill apartment built to maximize small infill lot

Capitol Core was built on a 2,700-square-foot site.

A six-story, 17-unit apartment building called Capitol Core has opened on a small site in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle.  

Designed by NK Architects and built by Cascade Built, Capitol Core was built on a 2,700-square-foot site.  The architect said the building maximizes its small infill lot with a unique linear design. 

The project is certified Built Green 4-Star. It was constructed using high-performance building practices and durable materials drawn from the Passive House standard of building: toxin- and allergen-free interior finishes, added insulation, extra-large windows, and energy-efficient mechanical systems. NK said this offers occupants continuous fresh indoor air and a healthier, more comfortable environment with fewer drafts.

All the apartments are corner units. The 15 studios are 306 to 394 square feet and the two penthouse loft apartments are 508 and 587 square feet and have private rooftop decks.

Jim Snelling and his wife own the project, which they developed as JaMar Investments. Rents are $1,300 to $2,200 per month, and average $1,470.

Capitol Core sleeping areas are accessed by spiral staircases.

Pax Futura will bring 35 super-green apartments to site in Columbia City

Cascade Built broke ground last month on Pax Futura, a 35-unit apartment building in Columbia City that is targeting Passive House certification.

The developer said it received a $55,788 Edwards Mother Earth Foundation Grant to support its ultra-high-performance goals for constructing the four-story building at 3700 S. Hudson St.

When the project is completed in fall 2018, Pax Futura will have 32 studio and one-bedroom units, along with three live/work units. There will be a courtyard and 1,050 square feet of retail space, but no parking.

NK Architects designed the project and specializes in urban housing and Passive House design.  

The units are expected to use 90 percent less energy for heating and cooling than average building stock.

How ‘negawatts’ help the building industry fight climate change

In this recent article, Zack Semke of NK Architects explores the idea of viewing our buildings as clean energy power plants. 

Buildings are the biggest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Curbing emissions will require constructing more efficient buildings and relying on renewable energy. 

Very green building in very cold place: ZGF wins Petal for project in Colorado

ZGF Architects said it designed the 15,600-square-foot LEED platinum and Passive House-certified office building to be the most energy-efficient building in North America’s coldest climate zone.

Rocky Mountain Institute said its Innovation Center is a model for net-zero buildings.

The team also included Graybeal Architects, JE Dunn Construction, PAE Consulting Engineers, KPFF Consulting Engineers, Architectural Applications, DHM Design, DNA Lighting, Sopris Engineering and Green Hammer.  

Rocky Mountain Institute’s Innovation Center in Basalt, Colorado, earned the Living Building Challenge’s Petal certification.

New renderings of East Harlem’s Sendero Verde, the country’s will-be largest passive house project

Sendero Verde is a massive, mixed-use development that will bring 655 affordable rentals to East Harlem.  Jonathan Rose Companies and L+M Development Partners released a rendering from Handel Architects of the 751,000-square-foot project. They detail how it will be the country’s largest passive house project and weave together the residences, a school, supermarket, and four community gardens, all surrounding a multi-layered courtyard.

Sendero Verde – Handel Architects via CityRealty

In addition to the aforementioned amenities, the site will host a YMCA, job training center, 85,000-square-foot DREAM charter school, space for the local non-profit Union Settlement, restaurant, and preventative health care facility run by Mount Sinai.

Sendero Verde – Handel Architects via 6sqft

Sendero Verde – Handel Architects via 6sqft 



Posted in Architecture, Building Green, DJC, Planning | Comments Off on What’s new in Passive House?