It’s been a wet winter in Seattle. Dry yourself off with some green building, energy efficiency, and real estate development news. And trust that Spring is near.
GET PRODUCTIVE WITH DATA
One of our favorite green building threads is the intersection of IT and building operations, where data helps us to make decisions and optimize systems.
This story profiles stellar work to save energy at the Washington Athletic Club and Microsoft. While not at this scale, we’re facing similar opportunities and issues on a few of our projects, and enjoying the problem solving adventure.
SWAP IDEAS, GAIN INSIGHTS
While we’re talking building operations, check out this fantastic video series that our friends at C+C produced for the U.S. Department of Energy. This is reality TV that actually matters. High marks to the teams from Whole Foods and Hilton.
Energy efficient affordable housing. If you need more convincing than those four words, consider that low-income households typically spend more than 15% of their income on energy, which is often double the average. And Emerald Cities Seattle is tackling this issue head on with an innovative program called RENEW, which provides time, expertise, pre-development funds, and project financing to affordable housing operators. In other words, RENEW makes energy efficient affordable housing happen … which rocks. Read more
More neat friends of ours are shaking things up. The Sprout Collective is doing that green jobs thing that we’re all trying to put our finger on. This trio is leveraging a big idea—the Living Building Challenge—and exporting our Northwest knowledge to any school district that is ready. They will solve school capacity issues, provide an innovative and tangible curriculum platform, and create lots of jobs. The team has designed the Seed, which is a net-zero modular classroom. Sprout will coordinate the pre-fab units with partner Method Construction. The primary elements—rainwater collection, PV panels, composting toilet—that make the Seed a Living Building will be contained in a central pod, which can then be enlarged with flanking rooms as needed. The Daily Journal of Commerce has some additional info here. And if you still need convincing, the real point of the Seed is to inspire kids towards a more sustainable future. I can’t think of a better time to simultaneously invest in our kids and the green building industry. Help the mission here if you’re so inclined.
Photo courtesy of Sprout!
A small gathering of smart people in one of the most gorgeous places I know. Tough to beat. And to think I could only stay for about 24 hours. The 10 Conference is in its first year and brought together a stellar lineup in Leavenworth, WA at the Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort. Here’s a quick spin through the talks I most enjoyed. First, I made some bets that I have eaten more Theo Chocolate than everybody in the room except one man. Andy McShea gave us a wonderful tour through the essence of Theo Chocolate and the chocolate industry at large. Like so many things, I really appreciate the quality involved—be it the close-knit farmer relationships, organic ingredients, manufacturing process, or fair trade aspects. I’m more happy than ever to cheer for Theo with my dollars and savor their products. Oh, and a brief chemistry lesson the wonders of theobromine went straight to my undergraduate science heart.
Speaking of products, Leo Bonanni (above) showcased his team’s mapping of where products come from. Sourcemap is an exciting venture that works closely with organizations that make all sorts of products. While consumer transparency is important, Leo also talked a lot about how Sourcemap is helping organizations learn more about their own products! Maybe it helps them choose future suppliers. Perhaps the placement of a distribution center can be smartly place. Whatever the case, we need the genius of Sourcemap to raise our collective awareness.
My final favorite was Pablos Holman, who is part of Intellectual Ventures, which is partly funded by Bill Gates and has notably spun off Terrapower. Holman spent a few minutes detailing the nuclear company’s focus on using up existing nuclear waste with a fraction of the enriched fuel currently used. On a simple level, that means carbon-free energy and less radioactive waste. I’m sure there are still plenty of issues, but I’m cautiously optimistic. After Holman’s entertaining introduction, where he demonstrated several easy hacks on consumer security (mostly digital), he walked through many inventions coming out of his lab. How about a laser that kills malaria-carrying mosquitos? Pretty badass. Or a giant hose that floats into the stratosphere spraying sulfur dioxide to help deflect UV rays and decrease global warming? The modeled effect on Arctic ice melt, for instance, is appealing, but it’s a ways off and Holman didn’t say much about the acid rain trade-off. Anyways, keep tabs on this Bellevue crew.
I love collecting anecdotes from the field and managed to do so while surviving a recent evening adventure to IKEA. I’m shopping for cabinets and wanted to research the low-end options a bit more. I’ll just get right to the quote of the night. To my question, “do your cabinets contain formaldehyde?” the friendly helper enthusiastically says, “NO! In fact, people who go green use our cabinets.” Wow. I’m almost not sure what to call this. It needs a name. Buzzword green-cheese? She went on to tell me that some sort of green TV or channel uses IKEA cabinets. Great. But back to the formaldehyde. Despite the humorous buzzword green-cheese, which probably works just fine for many audiences, I was pleasantly surprised by her response. UNTIL I read the fine print at home. Here goes:
So essentially, they tell us that formaldehyde is bad, but that they use it anyways. On the following page, they go on to say how little they use, but the advertised “no formaldehyde” appears to be false:
“we submit our products to the toughest standards for formaldehyde emissions … this means the levels of formaldehyde emission are insignificant”
One more thing learned about cabinets at IKEA:
They’ve got a decent selection of doors, including a good amount of solid wood, but you can’t get a solid wood door painted white! Well, you can, but the foil they use feels super cheap and like plastic. And all their finishing options mean that painting it yourself is not a real option.