Love you Sound Transit, but please do these things

What you see while you head down to the platform. UW Station / Photo by Kevin Scott

Sound Transit does many things really well, so consider this criticism from a friend.

On-time-or-better completion? Check. Beating budgets? Check. Creating the new backbones of the region? Nice stations? Check and check.

But a few very fixable things would make a huuuge improvement to usability.

Let’s talk about a drink of water. Or coffee. Am I missing something obvious, or is there precisely nothing to drink at UW station unless you go to a nearby building? And same at other stations?

At Westlake or Capitol Hill at least there are businesses outside. You can buy a coffee.

But at UW Station…nothing. Sometimes the absence of commerce is a benefit, but not here. Wouldn’t a coffee cart or little cafe pavilion be awesome? What about three strategically-located drinking fountains? Since social equity is supposed to matter, why are we forcing everyone to buy a drink at a store or lug something from home instead of having a free respite for everyone?

What you see while you wait on the platform. UW Station

And heaven forbid having bathrooms there too. Try the hospital or the HUB. Because every onsite solution costs too much, barring a commercial solution, so we get nothing. This is an ongoing Seattle problem of course.

Artwork is featured at every station, but something odd happened at Capitol Hill and the UW. All of the visual interest is in the entries and route downward. The waiting area, where people wait, has an almost featureless putty-colored motif. The only color is warning lights and those bumpy yellow pads. Is artwork coming at some point? Even ads would be welcome, which is something because I usually hate ads with a passion.

Signage is a fourth topic. It’s generally well-done. But how about clearer “way out” signage at Westlake, where tourists constantly get off and wander around before heading out via the Nordstrom sign (not seeing the signage that does exist). And how about more integration of Metro into ST signage, since nobody really cares which agency runs each route?

Posted in Architecture, Design and Art, Parks and open space, Policy, transportation | 1 Comment

100 Bikes for 100 Kids

Last week, Seattle-based architecture firm CollinsWoerman teamed up with The Forgotten Children’s Fund to bring joy and holiday cheer to local children.

Rather than holding a traditional holiday party, the team at CollinsWoerman on Dec. 16 used the occasion to assemble 100 bicycles of all sizes inside the firm’s SoDo warehouse. The bicycles are being delivered to Forgotten Children’s Fund volunteers, who will distribute them to families in need on Christmas Day.

“We believe it’s important to give back to the community that supports us, and we’re happy to do so through year-round charity and volunteer opportunities,” said CollinsWoerman principal and co-founder Arlan Collins. “100 Bikes for 100 Kids is a program our whole office relishes, and we’re so proud to help further the important work of The Forgotten Children’s Fund this holiday season.” 

This year’s bicycle giveaway marks the second year of CollinsWoerman’s 100 Bikes for 100 Kids partnership with The Forgotten Children’s Fund.

What a fun way to give back and what a great party! Nice work CollinsWoerman! 

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What are they building down there?

You may not be able to hear the rumbling from the street, but Bertha is now tunneling through Zone 8.  As of December 15, she has traveled 6,646 of 9,270 feet and the tunnel is now 70% complete. Seattle Tunnel Partners have placed over 1,000 rings that form the 1.7-mile tunnel. When the tunnel is done, it will have 1,426 rings. 

Here’s Bertha decorated for the holidays. 

She has approximately 2,600 feet to go in her tunneling journey where she’ll reach daylight at a large pit just north of Thomas Street, near the operations building. STP will then focus on removing the massive machine in pieces from the pit as they continue building the double-deck highway inside the tunnel.

What does it look like while they are working under there? Check out this amazing video of the crew building the walls as Bertha tunnels.  

You can check her progress at the street level when WSDOT posts photos of her progress on twitter at #BalloonsOverBertha. The balloons are only out long enough to take a photo, so the best view is on twitter @BerthaDigsSR99

STP will stop mining between Christmas and New Year’s, but other work will continue during that period.  STP project manager Chris Dixon said the infrastructure part of the tunnel catches up when Bertha takes a break for maintenance. When Bertha restarts, the machine speeds ahead of the infrastructural work.

STP project manager Chris Dixon said the infrastructure part of the tunnel catches up when Bertha takes a break for maintenance. When Bertha restarts, the machine speeds ahead of the infrastructural work.

Recently in the DJC: 

Tunnel is now 70% complete with Bertha running well, soil ‘behaving’

WSDOT updates state about its budget for building the tunnel

More information from WSDOT: 

Dec. 16 project update: Get ready for the year of the north portal

Another way to track Bertha’s progress – #BalloonsOverBertha 

Posted in Construction, DJC, Engineering, Landmarks, Projects in progress, transportation | Comments Off on What are they building down there?

The ‘shimmering veil’ of San Antonio

Check out the before and after photos of the San Antonio Tobin Center for the Performing Arts

The Tobin Center won a 2016 Global Award for Excellence from Urban Land Institute.  Seattle-based LMN Architects was the design architect and Marmon Mok Architecture of San Antonio was the associate architect, according to a press release from LMN.

The 26,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial-style Municipal Auditorium was originally built in 1926.  The historic facade was retained during the 2014 renovation and another 157,000 square feet were added. 

The center has two performance spaces: a 1,768-seat main performance hall and 231-seat flat-floor studio theater. There is also a new lobby and support facilities.

LMN said the new and old components were integrated in a “grand, unifying design gesture.”

The center has a porous, shimmering metallic veil that is designed to celebrate San Antonio’s cultural life. The veil begins at San Antonio’s famed River Walk, and rises through irregular sheer planes to form an architectural presence.  

Via Fisher Heck Architects 

1965 via Fisher Heck Architects 

1924 via Fisher Heck Architects 

More on the Urban Land Institue 2016 Global Awards for Excellence.

More on the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts.

More from Fisher Heck Architects

Recently in the djc: 
LMN wins ULI award for San Antonio arts center with a ‘shimmering veil’.

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Pioneering project upgraded to Passive House Plus

DARMSTADT, GERMANY – The world’s first Passive House building has increased its already high energy efficiency level and now relies on renewable energy.

A year ago, a photovoltaic system was installed on the roof of a row house built in 1991 in Darmstadt. Since then, this pioneering Passive House project has been producing its own electricity, thus fulfilling the criteria of a Passive House Plus building. The official certificate was recently issued.

The certificate was accepted by Dr. Wolfgang Feist and his wife Witta Ebel (left). Photos: Passive House Institute

“Passive House buildings are perfectly equipped to utilize renewable energy. With their extremely low heating energy demand, it is even possible to derive as much energy from the sun on-site as is consumed in the house over a year,” explains Dr. Wolfgang Feist. Together with his wife Witta Ebel he recently accepted the Passive House Plus certificate.

Photovoltaic system for the anniversary
Twenty-five years ago, building physicist Dr. Wolfgang Feist built the world’s first Passive House, and with it established this energy-efficient, construction standard. Since then, the founder and director of the Passive House Institute and his family have lived in the terraced housing complex in the Darmstadt city district of Kranichstein. In the year of its 25th anniversary, the Feist family installed a photovoltaic system on the roof of their house in order to utilize the sun’s energy.

Efficiency plus renewable energy
With the Passive House Plus Standard, Passive House has contributed to the second step of the energy revolution. In addition to being highly energy efficient, it also generates on-site renewable energy. What matters here is that the energy demand of a building is considered and optimized separately from the energy generation.

The details:

Good basis for Passive House Plus –
In a Passive House Plus building, the upper limit for the total demand for renewable primary energy is 45 kWh/(m²a). At the same time, at least 60 kWh/(m²ta) of renewable energy must be generated based on the projected building footprint. From the very beginning, the Feist family equipped their house with extremely efficient devices. The electricity consumption is therefore very low, even with the operation of the ventilation system.

Heat pump with reduced energy use –
The same also applies for the air-to-air heat pump that was recently installed for test purposes this past autumn, which is used for heating as well as ventilation in the Passive House. This electrically operated heat pump should use approximately 30 percent of the energy consumption that was previously required with natural gas for the gas heating system.

Electricity surplus into the grid – 
In the summer the surplus electricity produced by the photovoltaic system in Darmstadt-Kranichstein is fed into the public grid. In theory, the produced amount would suffice for supplying the whole house for one year, and the surplus electricity in summer could be stored for the winter.

Saving in network is useful
“For a single household, this kind of seasonal storage is not a reasonable option, but in the network, this “gap” becomes smaller and storage becomes much more cost-effective. This is what needs to be done in future”, explains Dr. Wolfgang Feist.


In 2015, the Passive House Institute introduced the Passive House Plus and Passive House Premium building classes which combine the classic Passive House Standard with renewable energy.  Both classes provide building owners with reliable orientation for combining energy efficiency and renewable energy.  Energy generation and energy demand are balanced separately. 

Direct accounting of the electricity generated by a photovoltaic system in the summer to the heating energy required in winter falls short of the reality since seasonal storage is always associated with losses.  The PER (Primary Energy Renewable) concept forms the basis of this calculation: PER factors are specified for the individual energy applications.  These state the number of kilowatt hours of renewable primary energy that are required to generate one kilowatt-hour of energy. 

In a Passive House Plus, the upper limit for the total demand for renewable primary energy is 45 kWh/(m²a). At the same time, at least 60 kWh/(m²ta) of renewable energy must be generated based on the projected building footprint.  In a Passive House Premium the energy demand is limited to 30 kWh/(m²a) while the energy generated must amount to at least 120 kWh/(m²ta).

For more information about Passive House, visit  

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