UP #335 Earth Day & Green Buildings

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This blog post was also emailed to subscribers of Urban Politics (UP), my e-newsletter, which you can sign up for at the bottom of this post.

In recognition of Earth Day today, our city is garnering a lot of attention for the grand opening of the Bullitt Foundation’s new headquarters on Capitol Hill. The Bullitt Center is not only intended to be the greenest building in the world, it is intended to have a lifespan of two hundred and fifty years.

It is the first commercial building in the U.S. to earn the Forest Stewardship Council’s certification for using 100 percent FSC-certified wood and it is the largest structure to qualify for the Living Building Challenge.


The Bullitt Center on Capitol Hill

The Living Building Challenge is the built environment’s most rigorous performance standard. To be certified under the Challenge, projects, over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy, must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements, including net zero energy, waste, and water.

Last year, The Living Building Challenge was a topic of discussion for me and other Councilmembers during a Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee (PLUS) meeting regarding the approval of Ordinance 117516, which allows additional design departures under the Demonstration Program for Living Building Design.

Skanska Stone 34 Rendering

Stone 34 in Wallingford

During that discussion, many people testified to object to developer Skanska USA’s plan for the Stone 34 building in Wallingford. Skanska’s plan calls for qualifying through the City’s Living Building Challenge for a 20 foot height increase above the property’s then current height limit of 45 feet. The International Living Future Institute, which manages the Living Building Challenge certification program, objected, claiming that the Skanska project doesn’t meet the Challenge’s intentionally stringent standards. The Bullitt Foundation expressed concerns, also, that the City’s green building standards appeared to be weakening. Skanska’s project was eventually approved under the City’s less stringent Deep Green program, rather than under The Living Building Challenge.

July 25, 2012 PLUS Committee Meeting Video

In response to concerns raised over the Skanska project by the surrounding community, the Bullitt Foundation, and Living Building Challenge representatives, I have introduced Resolution 31400. It calls on the City to provide updates and enhancements to its Living Building Challenge and Seattle Deep Green pilot programs.

Resolution 31400 also requests the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to form a standing Green Building Advisory Board to advise the City on sustainable building practices; to screen proposals for eligibility; and to assist in developing new or updated sustainable building programs.

Although DPD has in the past employed ad hoc technical advisory groups to advise on sustainable building projects, those groups do not always include members certified in LEED architecture, sustainable building practices, and building energy systems engineering, nor do they always include representatives of a neighborhood community council. My proposed advisory board would require such members and would also create a standing body rather than one that is ad hoc. Such continuity, along with community and expert membership, should help quell the kind of criticism the Council received over the Skanska approval process.

My resolution will be discussed and possibly voted on during the May 8 meeting of the PLUS Committee, which is chaired by Councilmember Richard Conlin. Councilmember Conlin is co-sponsoring my resolution. The committee agenda isn’t posted yet, but you can check for it a few days before the meeting by clicking here.  I encourage you to read my proposed resolution, here, and consider sending your comments to the committee members listed below.

Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee, May 8, 2013, 9:30 a.m. meeting in the Council Chamber: 600 4th Ave 2nd Floor:

Richard Conlin, Chair, 684-8805;

Tim Burgess, Vice-Chair, 684-8806;

Mike O’Brien, Member, 684-8800;

Sally Clark, Alternate, 684-8802.

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