Posts Tagged ‘Green’

Designing urban areas with salmon in mind

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

The Pacific Northwest is seen by many as ground zero for the “green” movement and this is perhaps most evident in the built environment.

From northern California through Washington State, builders and developers are working hard to gain certification and recognition through programs such as LEED, Built Green and Energy Star for designing and creating environmentally responsible projects.

This is great progress, and not too surprising given our region’s commitment to protecting and enhancing our precious natural resources. It comes as no surprise, then, that a program relatively new to Washington State designed to protect salmon habitat is gaining momentum as builders, developers and property owners and managers look outside the walls of their buildings to address critical habitat issues throughout the region.

Pic by Ben Benschneider
Following completion of the Salmon-Safe assessment, a certain waterfront sculpture park is expected to be certified (Pic by Ben Benschneider)

Salmon Safe, a private, non-profit organization based in Portland, is taking root in the Puget Sound region. Founded in 1996 by the Pacific Rivers Council, Salmon Safe has introduced a certification process for development practices that protect Pacific Northwest salmon watersheds.

In the beginning, Salmon Safe focused on certifying fish-friendly farmlands in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Today, more than 60,000 acres of farm and urban lands stretching from Marin County, Calif. to the Canadian border in Washington have been certified “Salmon Safe.”


Why refuse the 2030 challenge?

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Several Seattle architects sitting on a ULI panel last week said their firms had decided not to take The 2030 challenge. But it’s not who you think, and their reasons might surprise you.

"Enviro Tower" by Eco-Logikal

Sandy Mendler, now a principal at Mithun, said Mithun isn’t taking the challenge because it doesn’t fit with the firm’s goals of improving urbanism and working toward less sprawl. She said meeting carbon targets on large standalone buildings is not the way to go. An environmental challenge should focus more on what really happens in urban buildings, she said.

Robert Miller, a principal at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, said his firm also hadn’t taken the challenge. His problem was with the commitment to meeting the challenge on all new buildings. He said the wording should be changed to commit a firm to meeting the challenge “on average,” throughout all of its work.

Chris Pardo of Pb Elemental said his firm also hasn’t taken the challenge. He said on the projects that Pb designs and develops, they are choosing to design to standards of the challenge because “we believe it’s something we should be doing no matter what.”

Peter Greaves of Weber Thompson and Margaret Montgomery of NBBJ also sat on the panel. Both said their firms have taken the challenge.

“It’s not achievable if we don’t try,” Montgomery said.

I’ll talk more about comments made by the panel in a story running on Wednesday’s A/E page.

Green design on a dime in Seattle??

Monday, April 28th, 2008

A house designed by two small Seattle firms will serve as a prototype for affordable green living in the Gulf Coast. And it might have a lesson or two for the Puget Sound.

Owen Richards Architects and HyBrid Architects found out Friday that their design was chosen from 182 entries in the 99K house competition sponsored by the Rice Design Alliance and AIA Houston.

Their entry, Core, is compact, adaptable and energy efficient, with geothermal heating and cooling, minimal material waste and a giant solar-powered fan.

All this for $99 K

The 1,200-square-foot house’s estimated total project cost is less than $99,000. The house will be built in June at a site donated by the city. It will then be auctioned off or sold to a lower income family.

Designers had to keep construction costs under $75,000. They designed the house on a four-foot module to reduce waste, with framing of exterior walls designed to link up at 24 inches, using fewer materials and fewer studs in the walls.

Recycled and sustainable materials were also worked in. The house has cement board siding, pine flooring and recycled concrete paving.

There were some things they couldn’t afford, like the green roof they wanted. Rainwater capture will irrigate the site but won’t run through toilets or the laundry.

Plans for geothermal system

The geothermal mechanical system cost a little more, but designers said it will pay for itself in energy saved in less than three years. It uses less than half the energy of a traditional HVAC system. Natural ventilation alone wasn’t an option for those sweltering Houston summers, but designers hope the solar-powered fan will be enough on some days.

The house also takes some green cred from its adaptability, with movable inside walls altering the house from one to four bedrooms or two duplex units instead. That decreases the chances of tear-down or a move when a family’s situation changes.

So why don’t we see many affordable green housing projects, in Seattle or elsewhere? Why is energy efficiency a prestige item? I know of some multi-family affordable projects in the area that are targeting lower energy use, but it sure seems slow to catch on. And it’s hardly cheap.

Of course, it’s impossible to build any house in Seattle for under 99 K. Labor is cheaper in Houston, land values are lower, and zoning and land use regulations are minimal. Wages and prices have a role in there as well. But it still stands to reason that we could be seeing super efficient design for the masses in Seattle.

Does it take a competition to get a house like this built here?

Last day to comment on APA’s climate change guide

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

What role should climate change have in planning policy?

Did I do that?
More importantly, do you have a little time today or tomorrow to answer that question?

The American Planning Association‘s assembly is considering a new policy guide on planning and climate change. The guide makes recommendations for local, state, and federal policy changes required to deal with climate change.

Comments are due by Friday, April 25 by email to Click here for more information and click here to read the draft.

In health care design, change your conversation and change the world

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

If you really want to convince health care clients to pay for green design, you need to change the way you talk to them.

That’s what presenters at a health care design workshop said this morning.

Duncan Griffin

The workshop was part of the Engineering Vision 2030 conference, and was led by architect Duncan Griffin of NBBJ and engineer Dick Moeller of CDI Engineers. The two are involved in research for new green health care standards.

Dick Moeller

Talking to them differently is key to convincing medical clients to go green, Griffin and Moeller said.

Energy is not a big deal to health care clients compared to some of their other costs, Moeller said. So you need to show them how reducing energy affects the things that really cost them and that they care about most.

What matters to them? Employee retention and productivity, and patient health and safety.

So rather than assuming the client wants to reduce energy consumption, engineers and architects will get further showing clients studies on how more exposure to natural light speeds healing time. Or by talking about how different energy systems affect air quality and employee health.

 Children's Hospital of Denver

If you speak their language, they’re likely to listen. And that could have a huge impact. While health care buildings make up only 4 percent of U.S. buildings by square footage, Griffin said, they make up 9 percent of building energy consumed.