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    Revising Seattle’s Green Building Standard

    On July 1st, the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee held a public hearing on a Department of Planning and Development (DPD) proposal to revise the Living Building and Seattle Deep Green Pilot programs, as the Council requested through Resolution 31400 that I sponsored and blogged about last year. Their proposed revisions are contained in Council Bill 118080.

    green buildingResolution 31400 requests DPD establish a technical advisory group (TAG) to advise the City on sustainable building practices by August 30, 2013, which it has done. The Resolution requested recommendations on revising the Living Building Program by December 31, 2013. DPD missed that deadline, submitting the proposed revisions in Council Bill 118080 yesterday.

    The Resolution also calls for recommendations on revising Seattle’s Deep Green Program by the end of this year. A revamped pilot program could be in place by the spring of next year. DPD has proposed suspending the existing Seattle Deep Green pilot program until they’ve presented their new and improved version in December.

    DPD’s proposal also calls for:

    • lowering the threshold from the current 75% energy use reduction to 25% to qualify as a green building in order to align with the new Seattle Energy Code.

    A recent report from the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers, Comparison of the 2012 Seattle Energy Code with ASHRAE 90.1-2010, indicates that new buildings in Seattle use, on average, 11.3% less energy than buildings nationwide, saving 9.3% in energy costs. ASHRAE sets the energy standard for commercial buildings that is used by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED green building rating system.

    • requiring an independent report to verify compliance;
    • modifying or removing some available departures; and
    • increasing the maximum penalty for projects failing to demonstrate full compliance.

    The reason DPD is proposing to increase the penalty (doubling the maximum) for non-compliance is to discourage builders from paying in lieu of complying after having received building code departures. The Bullitt Foundation, which operates out of a Living Building, considers the current maximum 5% penalty insufficient; Skanska U.S.A., which just built a new green building in Wallingford, considers it too high. The minimum penalty would remain the same, 1% of construction value, in order to allow the City flexibility in assessing the degree to which a building might not comply.

    As of this writing, DPD is continuing to receive public comments on their proposed changes.

    But, one person who testified at the hearing believes the City should scrap its Deep Green program all together, in favor of Brussels’ Exemplary Buildings program or Passive House guidelines here in the U.S. modeled after Europe’s Passivhaus Program.

    Passive House is a performance standard for energy use in buildings codified by Dr. Wolfgang Feist and Bo Adamson and is applied to both new construction and renovation.

    A Passive House is a very well-insulated, virtually air-tight building that is primarily heated by passive solar gain and by internal gains from people, electrical equipment, etc. Energy losses are minimized. Any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source. Avoidance of heat gain through shading and window orientation also helps to limit any cooling load, which is similarly minimized. An energy recovery ventilator provides a constant, balanced fresh air supply. The result is a system that saves up to 90% of a home’s space heating costs while improving indoor air quality.

    What do you think?

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