Happy fall, friends and colleagues. While you’re prepping for Thanksgiving and waiting for snow, catch up on a few stories we’ve been tracking in green buildings, energy efficiency, and real estate development.
VALUES & VISION
We helped host the Seattle 2030 District Vision Awards earlier this month, and many of you were there to enjoy a special evening. While the awards showcased vision, I was most inspired by words from someone without it. State Senator Cyrus Habib, an Iranian-American Democrat representing Bellevue, lost his sight at age 8. He told us about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) changed his life and how he came to appreciate the importance of walkable cities. But he also noted that while the ADA seems universally appreciated now, it initially faced stiff opposition on social and economic grounds. With this history, he encouraged us to stay the course with sustainability efforts in order to support our shared values.
Our sustainable real estate award winners certainly exemplify the values and goals of the Seattle 2030 District:
Meanwhile, way back in October, our friends at NEEC launched the Smart Buildings Center at the newly renovated Pacific Tower in Seattle. Formerly a US Marine Corps hospital and Amazon.com’s original campus, the building is now primarily operated by the Washington Department of Commerce and houses several health care, food, and workforce training organizations. Read more
We’ve done the math, and it appears this publication needs a new name. So you’re now reading SILLIKER + PARTNERS QUARTERLY. Sounds serious and intellectual, but we keep it light. And for newcomers, welcome to our collection of green building, energy efficiency, and real estate development stories.
This is our summer installment, so it’s short reads … perfect for your time at the beach, in a tent, or aboard a canoe.
65 ways to afford the big city
In case you missed it, Seattle is growing fast and so are rents and home prices. And we don’t have nearly enough rent-restricted units to house a diverse population.
The Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Advisory (HALA) Committee recently delivered a set of recommendations to address Seattle’s housing crisis. HALA’s 65 recommendations are mostly about increased density, but also propose ways to create more rent-restricted units.
Sightline’s Alan Durning (also a committee member) penned an excellent piece on the report. Crosscut also chimes in. And here’s a map to help orient you to the proposed changes.
And fear not, more density is already in motion. Seattle in Progress maps the building development in Seattle, and quickly connects you to permitting proposals. Brilliant work by Ethan Phelps-Goodman.
I’ll take impact for 2 percent
One local affordable housing outfit is not waiting for new City rules. Bellwether Housing recently impressed with their take on impact investing. In short, 22 investors bought into Bellwether’s Seattle Futures Fund and will earn 2 percent on their money. In an age that sees millions invested in products we don’t need, we’re excited to see capital go towards awesome things that we truly need. Read more
(this article originally appeared in Conduit on November 13, 2014)
Ideas about financing energy efficiency projects are around every corner these days. Some are billed as silver bullets while others are clearly niche products.
Last week’s installment came at the Future Energy Conference, as a panel of five provided some nice variety and perspective. Three financiers and facilitators gave overviews of their respective approaches, and two users provided pragmatic perspective. A missing player was the utility, but you can read Stan Price’s piece, Making Markets Work For Efficiency, to learn more about Seattle City Light’s pay for performance effort.
My key take away from this session was that everything new is old again. Financing projects is still about careful technical and financial planning, credit-worthiness, appropriate leverage, strategic partners, and knowing your customer.
Jimmy Jia walked us through his approach that is based on fiscal discipline and resembles a revolving fund tailored for utilities and related expenses. The idea is fairly simple. Set aside funds to pay your utilities and to invest in improvements. As improvements are made, automatically re-invest the savings since your utility budgets are centralized in one account that is managed by Jia’s firm, Distributed Energy Management. DEM and its capital partner pay the utility bills directly, which further aligns the many utility-related expenses. On the savings side, DEM will also pursue utility incentives, and roll those savings into the master account. So in review, be proactive and create a holistic utility budget that centralizes all aspects and rewards. Read more
It’s been a while since we’ve posted, but we’ve been busy on a great project. It’s a startup and we’re in deep with the founder to prove a new, disruptive concept. So here’s the pitch. We partner with home retrofit contractors to collect site-specific data on residential energy efficiency projects that do not receive utility incentives or assistance. This data represents real energy savings that go undocumented by utilities. And since utilities invest in energy efficiency as a resource (alongside power supply sources), we sell these savings to utilities. We’re currently focused on Washington state utilities, who can most immediately apply these savings to our state renewables and conservation mandate, called I-937. Our data also provides enhanced customer insights, for utilities to better understand the efficiency activity happening in their territory. Utility power planning can also be improved, as more savings can be factored into supply and demand analyses.
We call it Seinergy. It rhymes with energy. And we are casting a big seine to catch lots of data. Get it? Explore www.seinergy.org for more details.