Good Sam Puyallup awarded LEED Gold


 Does the Responsible Developer aspire to LEED for health care facilities?

Local Washington cities and health care providers say, Yes!

The latest addition to Puyallup’s MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital, the nine-story, $300-million Dally Tower, has received the Green Building Institute’s LEED Gold award.

The hospital tower, which doubled the space at Good Samaritan, is the state’s first hospital structure to win the Gold award for energy and resources conservation, said Tacoma’s MultiCare Health System, the hospital’s parent company.

The gold award was based on the new building’s water and energy saving features and environment-friendly construction methods.  The building and parking structure replaced surface parking lots and a public street, and also replaced impervious surfaces with permeable green space. The structures added no new impacts to the stormwater system.

Other sustainable features include:

• Ecoroofs, bioswales and rain gardens that gather stormwater runoff.

• An energy-efficient building form that minimizes east-west exposure; sun shades on the windows to reduce heat gain.

• Renewable, recycled and regionally sourced materials; certified wood, low-VOC interior finishes and linoleum and rubber flooring.

• Reduction of potable water use by 20 percent compared with a normal hospital.

• HVAC system with low-velocity ducting, high-efficiency chillers and mid-building air handlers.

• Air drawn 100 percent from outside the building to help control infections, and a heat-recovery system to conserve energy.

The architect for the project was the Good Sam Design Collaborative which included Clark/Kjos Architects and GBJ Architecture. Skanska USA was the general contractor.

Another area hospital serving southeast King and northeast Pierce counties, Enumclaw’s St. Elizabeth Hospital, last summer was awarded a LEED Silver designation. St. Elizabeth is owned by Tacoma’s Franciscan Health System.

So to sum up the attributes of Green hospitals, its good for the environment, it saves energy and reduces costs, it's also gorgeous, and, it's undeniably healthy (see new USGBCCleanMed protocol).  

The Big Green Pay Off

Is investment in green sustainable buildings still paying off?

Absolutely, according to a study of properties managed by CBRE Group Inc. ("CBRE").

Sustainable buildings generate stronger investment returns than traditional managed properties, according to the ongoing study of a national office portfolio managed by CBRE.  The study found that there is a higher value and an increased demand for green, and in particular for LEED® certified buildings, which is demonstrated by increased occupancy and rental rates in comparison with the general market.

The study, which surveys approximately 150 CBRE-managed office buildings and more than 2,500 building occupants, shows how green building performance continues to trend higher than the general market, establishing a clear economic case for the value of green in existing buildings, with mid-sized markets leading the trend.  In particular, aggregated data on LEED certified buildings over three years shows an average 3.1% improvement in both rental rates and building occupancy in comparison to the general market. The 2011 phase reinforces earlier findings that demonstrate sub metering of utilities for tenant space reduces energy costs by 21% on average.

This report should not surprise anyone.  It is the building equivalent of purchasing an electric or hybrid automobile for all the same reasons, it saves energy, costs less to operate and is better for the environment.  Why not build, buy, or invest in one. 

The CBRE report also noted that economic uncertainty can cause downward pressure on an any organization's continuing commitment to sustainability.  Still, survey respondents consider green features important when selecting office space, with a healthy indoor environment as the leading factor. This finding supports other results of the study in which 19% of tenant respondents reported increased productivity and 94% of tenant managers registered higher employee satisfaction in green office space.  The study also shows a growing general awareness of green.

CBRE was ranked #30 among Newsweek's greenest companies in America in 2010, and #1 among the financial services sector.

Recall also that earlier in 2011 the Green Building Opportunity Index came out with the first office market assessment tool to provide weighted comparisons of top U.S. office markets on the basis of both real estate fundamentals and green development considerations.  The Index focuses on the primary factors that influence successful development, retrofitting, leasing and sales of investment grade green office buildings in the largest U.S. Central Business Districts.  It compares a market's relative position to its peers in six categories: Office Market Conditions, Investment Outlook, Green Adoption & Implementation, Local Mandates & Incentives, State Energy Initiatives and Green Culture.  For 2011, the Index has been enhanced by adding five new markets and refining the methodology and data inputs - yielding a more comprehensive view into market influences that determine where sustainable development brings competitive advantages.

As a tool to examine the overall climate for green building, the Index assists a broad spectrum of professionals to determine where the favorable conditions exist.  Investment/pension fund managers and developers can use this data to consider where to put their money and why.  City policy makers, utility staff and planners can examine the data to understand what new policies and incentives might be useful to accelerate green building activity.  Building owners, architects and green building consultants can determine where green development brings competitive advantages, or where it is simply an emerging standard.

According to Cushman & Wakefield the 2011 Green Building Opportunity Index's top 10 markets overall shows that five cities on the West Coast are on that prestigious list:  (1. San Francisco; 5. Los Angeles; 8. Portland; 9. Seattle; and 10. Oakland).  One very recent entry into the green sustainable office market in Portland is making news.   

Portland’s city council approved plans for the Oregon Sustainability Center last week (see image above). The city and its project partners hope the Center will be the world’s first and tallest mixed-use office building to achieve Living Building status.  The decision to support the Center represents the city’s commitment to build (and pay for) a sustainable building.  With a construction budget of $62 million, the 150,000 square foot tower will cost 15 to 20 percent more than comparable buildings in Portland’s downtown area.  The city’s fiscal pledge to green building recognizes a return on investment bigger than rental income.

The project is jointly supported by the Oregon University system, the Portland Development Commission, the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, and an assortment of for-profit and non-profit groups with interests in sustainability and social equity.  In June of 2011, the Oregon state legislature held their approval for funds on the conditions that private sector tenants were found and signed to leases, and that the city of Portland foot the costs of architecture and engineering services.  Ultimately the Center will be owned by the city and the Oregon University system.

Sustainable buildings at the commercial and institutional scale are relatively expensive to build. Innovations, especially in the early stages, often come at a premium.  Some of the Center’s premium technologies include triple-glazed glass, solar panels, a high capacity underground water tank, and a geothermal well system that will provide heating and cooling.  The energy saving and energy generating materials make up a heavy, but worthwhile expense. 

Targeted for a 2012 groundbreaking, the Oregon Sustainability Center is an example of the importance of total buy-in for sustainable building.  Mayor Sam Adams understands the value of the experience: “We’re never going to be the biggest city, but I want us to be the scrappiest, most successful international city.  To do that you’ve got to invest in innovation.”

So not only is the market for green sustainable buildings currently viable, the City of Portland is betting $62 million that the trend will continue into 2013.  


Seattle Bites the Green Bullitt


At the end of last month, the City of Seattle broke ground on The Bullitt Center, located at 1501 East Madison Street, which is touted to be the greenest commercial the world. 

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn claimed the $30 million Bullitt Center project will create green jobs on every level, the 94 jobs for the construction workers who will receive green building training on-site, the future 141 permanent jobs for employees in the building and the people in the green building industry who will teach classes and receive green building certificates at the project’s Center for Energy and Urban Ecology.

So Seattle voters, in recession, new jobs are good but is this project just another green monument that may prove to be a drain on taxpayers?  

No, says the Mayor and the Bullitt Foundation.  The new Bullitt Center will be taking net zero building trends to new heights.  This six story tall, 52,000 square-foot office building is designed to be both a net-zero energy building and a net-zero water building while managing all of its own waste needs.  It will produce as much energy as it consumes, provide all of its own water, and process all of its own sewage.  It will also use only 1/3 as much energy as an average, similar-sized building – or half as much as a certified LEED platinum building!
Achieving these goals may not be an easy feat but if successful, will make the building much more affordable to operate.  Some of the green technologies used in the building include: 
  • A triple-glazed curtain wall system
  • Windows that open and close automatically depending on outside conditions
  • A closed-loop geothermal system
  • Radiant floor heating and cooling
  • Extensive daylighting thanks, in part, to taller than average ceilings and windows
  • Rooftop solar system designed to generate 100 percent of the building’s energy needs
The green tax dollar savings allegedly won't stop after construction is complete.  Tenants in the building will be required to use electronics that are extremely energy efficient and are designed to automatically shut down at night.  Although this sounds like a Machiavellian requirement for tenants to meet, four of the six floors have already been rented out.
If the project delivers the expected performance ratings, then kudos will be in the offing to the design and construction team behind this premier green building project, the Miller Hull Partnership, Point32, Schuchart Construction and PAE Consulting Engineers.
The project's success would probably be good for the Mayor's performance rating too! 

How Green Is My City?

Does the Responsible Municipal Developer and its citizens aspire to be the "Greenest?" 

Absolutely and the competition is fierce, as it should be, after all it's a matter of civic pride!


Our blog has showcased the many laudable efforts of local and state governments, citizens and private developers to implement green and sustainable development practices (the preservation of open spaces; control and capture of storm and rain water; energy savings; green electric highways; reclamation of brown fields and the construction of passive homes).


So how does our Emerald City compare to other great cities?  Well that depends on the source. 

We looked for objectivity and think we found it in Siemens Global's US and Canada Green City Index  (which was also cited by  Siemens' rating was based on some fairly broad comprehensive objectives and methodology.


The objective criteria was to measure and compare the performance of 27 major US and Canadian cities, based on their commitment to reduce their future environmental impacts.  The goal of the index was to allow a comparison of cities against their peers and to study innovative projects which other cities may want to follow.


The methodology was based on the work of other Green City index sites (global) and included 31 quantitative and qualitative indicators in nine categories: CO2; energy; land use; buildings; transport; water; waste; air and environmental governance.


Based on the criteria and the fact the study included Canada, we should be proud that Seattle was #4 with a score of 79.10.  Our score was heavily based on the fact Seattle had set, and met, many environmental goals over the last 10 years and Seattle ranked #1 in the buildings category because it was among the first cities to mandate LEED-certification for municipal building projects.


The City of Seattle has done a fantastic job of setting goals and obtaining the necessary commitments from its citizens to create green and sustainable projects and communities.  Seattle's ranking was no accident but was a result of a great vision and a lot of hard work and expense.


Seattle is a great place to live and work and we can all be proud of this ranking.  


More US Homes Should Be Passive



Should Responsible (American) Developers build more "Passive" homes?

German developers answer, Jawohl, bauen der Passiv Haus!   

On June 9th the Passivhaus Institut issued a press release recapping the 15th International Passive House Conference that was held in Innsbruck, Austria.  Highlights included 1200 attendees from 50 countries and 100 exhibitors presenting Passive House components.

A "Passive House" (see above) is essentially a super 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 and any remaining heat demand is provided by an extremely small source.  The intended result is an impressive system that saves up to 90% of space heating costs.  Think of it as a 1,650-square-foot version of that super-insulated bottle that keeps your coffee hot or your iced tea cold, except in reverse.  Its ultra-tight shell keeps extreme temperatures out, most of the time with little to no mechanical intervention.  And its main power sources are things nature provides for free: sunlight, shade, earth, and breezes.

As with other technology, Germany and other European nations are far ahead of the US.  According to Builder more than 20,000 single and multifamily homes have been built in Europe but only a dozen have been built in the US.  Builder [online] (and other sources) stated that the additional cost for a Passive House was only 10-20 percent more that a standard home.  Hmm, spend 10-20 percent more and save up to 90 percent of future space heating costs?  Do the math in your area and given how long the home should perform, decide if it is worth it for you.

If you want to see one of the few Passive home projects in the US you do not need to go far.  There is a completed project called Courtland Place in Seattle's Rainier Valley and a nine unit  project in development called Urban Olympic multifamily Passive House


When Green Conflicts: Wind vs. Water


Do Responsible Developers anticipate that Green Energy will create conflicts?

Yes, but unfortunately those conflicts may not be easily resolved.  Here's a timely example.

If you have recently driven over I-90 into Kittitas County and crossed over the Columbia River down past Wanapum Dam, you probably noted two interesting things.  First, many of the wind turbines have been shut down and two, enormous amounts of water are being released from Wanapum and other dams.

As a resident of the Pacific NW you probably also know that spring is when dams and wind turbines generate the most power, providing a huge increase in available power to businesses and consumers, a great economic benefit. 

In a year like 2011 where the PNW has very high precipitation (snowpack) it can be anticipated that the increased runoff may result in two decisions by public utility operators like the Bonnevillle Power Administration that may result in decreased economic benefits to some.  The first decision is to prevent flooding by allowing more water to be spilled over the dams. The second decision is that due to abundant electrical power, wind turbines may be temporarily shut down.

Either decision may also have at least two unfortunate economic costs.  One, huge spills of water over dams can increase dissolved oxygen levels in the surface water below dams, killing young salmon and pen raised fish that cannot escape by moving into deeper water with more oxygen.  Second, the available surplus of hydroelectric power may trigger a decision to shut down wind turbines which in turn, shuts off the flow of revenue and tax incentives.

The first decision to release water earlier this month has reportedly resulted in massive fish kills on the Columbia.  Killing fish always incurs the wrath of sportfishing consumers and commercial fish farm operators.  According to a Seattle Times report the loss in revenue to fish farms alone in 2011 may run into the tens of millions.  

The second decision has incurred the wrath of the American Wind Energy Association.  Rob Gramlich, the Senior Vice President for Public Policy, recently stated that "No one is above the law and no one can break contracts as Bonneville has.  Commerce can't exist without contract sanctity. This will have a chilling effect on investment.  There's a better way.  I think there's a preference for keeping certain types of generation running and to benefit certain customers and not others.  If you do the math, you can see we’re into the millions already in damages and we’ll be moving into the tens of millions of dollars.  I believe we will see legal action very soon."

So to avoid these seasonal and therefore reasonably foreseeable Green Energy conflicts, is there a middle ground to avoid  "power struggles" costing millions in damages and millions more in the form of protracted court battles?  Hopefully, yes.  The parties may use information in the 2007 Northwest Wind Integration Action Plan and seek guidance from the BPA, the Department of Energy, the Obama administration and other public and private actors that can work toward reconciliation of these and other energy conflicts.   

It is the responsible thing to do.


Proving Green=Energy Savings


Does the Responsible Developer need to track Green energy savings?

Absolutely, whether voluntary or mandatory, it is your best interest as the Responsible Developer because it means you are saving money or at least offsetting the cost of the money you spent on all that Green energy saving technology.  If can also show you that your building performs better which makes it more attractive to tenants and prospective buyers!

If tracking energy use is voluntary, you still need to do it as part of good risk management.  You need to at least track performance before any applicable warranties have ran, because monitoring will tell you if actual performance is within the guarantees, warranties or performance specifications for your building.  If before that time energy use and cost are unexpectedly high it may indicate you have a problem that needs to be immediately investigated.  While there is probably a contract requirement for you to timely notify the applicable design professionals and contractors, it is always a good idea to consider hiring a unbiased and objective energy use audit consultant (link is a sample reference only there are many available locally).  This becomes critical when, in the face of well documented sub-par energy performance, your project team is doggedly representing that all is as it should be.

If tracking energy use is mandatory (yes many state and federal authorities are requiring mandatory production of records showing energy consumption) then you have no choice. 

Locally, as of today, May 12, the City of Seattle's Department of Planning and Development is requiring that 800 commercial property owners of non-residential buildings over 50,000 sq. ft. must start tracking energy use and must report on October 3, 2011.  Then, for both non-residential and and multifamily residential buildings over 10,000 sq. ft., annual reporting begins on April 1, 2012 (no not a belated April Fools joke). 

These effected property owners must employ use of the EPA's Energy Star Portfolio Manager that is used to set "energy use benchmarks".  This energy information must then be provided to the parties in real estate transactions (buyers, tenants and lenders).

So with this information becoming generally available to players in the RE market,  this new "energy bench marking" is expected to be used by local RE agents to help owners see where they stand in the market and how competitive their building(s) are regarding energy use.  Kidder Mathews was already working with its clients to do this voluntarily and has not had much push back from owners.

So again, whether mandatory or not, spending money on tracking the energy performance of your buildings means businesses and consumers that value green built will be willing to pay more, if you have empirical proof of performance.     

The Right Time To Develop Green Highways?


Despite national, state and local budget woes, should the Responsible Developer pour more money into green sustainable transportation?

The US Departments of Commerce and Energy, along with the Washington Departments of Commerce and Transportation, say YES!

Given the civil unrest in North Africa and the Middle East and concern for disruption in the flow of oil, record high retail gas prices are predicted for this summer.  There may not be a better time to own a Chevy Volt, Ford Focus, Nissan Leaf (or if you are rich, see above) a Tesla Model S, or other all electric car.  The problem is, on a long drive, where do you stop to "fill" up? 

As you may recall in 2010 the DOC awarded the State of Washington $1.3 million for a series of electric car charging stations on I-5, in part to implement the nation's first "electric highway", a 1350 mile strip starting in Mexico and ending in Canada.  This is known as the "West Coast Green Highway."  

WSDOT also expects to create another section of green highway by the end of this summer, the Stevens Pass Electric Vehicle Highway.  WSDOT is holding two meetings to provide more information and to help local partners prepare for alternative fuels.  The meeting will be held on March 8th in Leavenworth and March 9th in Sultan

General Electric is also sponsoring a local event to promote "EVs" (electric vehicles).  The GE EV Experience Tour will be held on March 15th in Seattle, at the Experience Music Project.  The workshop will include technical and business tracks for developing EC Ecosystems, strategies and facilities.  Also, you Responsible Developers, heads up, GE is also looking to partner with public and private owners, property managers, electrical contractors and commercial and residential builders. 

While you are there you can even test drive some of GE's EV fleet vehicles (sorry no Teslas).

Still, imagine the day when you are cruising along I-5, for work or pleasure, where there is less engine noise, less exhaust fumes and when you stop to "fill up" your EV, your hands do not smell like gasoline and the only money you spend is in the EV convenience store....on health food.  Kidding, it's likely junk food will still be sold too, because no matter how driven we are, we're still Americans. 


Save $Green By Training Building Managers

CDC sustainable building

Does the Responsible Developer spend money in recession to realize the many benefits of green buildings?  One very familiar developer says Yes!

President Obama may now be a Responsible Developer because earlier this month he agreed that in order to obtain the cost savings of green buildings, you had to spend money to properly maintain them.  This news was well received by the IAPMO (the code and trade association that develops plumbing, mechanical and solar codes).  Accordingly, Obama signed into law new legislation that provides training to federal building managers to ensure that taxpayers realize the benefits of the intended energy cost savings in green buildings.  Interestingly, the bill did not provide extra funding.

The 2010 Federal Buildings Personnel Training Act will give the General Services Administration a year and half to identify the core skills needed to manage these ever increasingly sophisticated buildings and to make sure the managers get standardized and certified training.

One of the new bill's sponsors, Representative Russ Carnahan, co-chairman of the congressional high-performance building caucus, stated that "Sustainability and energy conservation isn't just about the air we breathe or the water we drink.  It's about saving money for families, businesses and taxpayers."

Of course this pay-to-save sentiment is not entirely new.  Three years ago, at an annual meeting of public owners in Seattle, an attendee commented that they had been given more than adequate new construction budgets for green, energy efficient buildings, but had been given inadequate budgets for training and maintenance.  He felt that the lack of funding for maintenance would lead to reduced energy savings, costly repairs or claims.   

The Responsible Developer, even in tough economic times, realizes that the only way to achieve the intended cost savings of green and more efficient buildings is to properly manage and maintain them.  She and he also know that the same maintenance is also good risk management because it may prevent indoor air quality and property damage claims.  Other bloggers like Greg Zimmerman (Facilitiesnet) have wisely noted that responsibilities must be clearly spelled out in Green Building Contracts to avoid claims.

So Developers and Owners, you can be Presidentially Green and save money in the long run by providing better training of your managers and giving them the money to maintain your buildings.


A Big Conference... and a Big Lawsuit

USGBC's annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo attracted more than 28,000 attendees at its show in November in Chicago.  Meanwhile, an outspoken building energy consultant in New York filed a class action lawsuit against USGBC and its founders, claiming USGBC is misleading builders and consumers about the energy performance of LEED certified buildings.

Retired General Colin Powell was the keynote speaker for Greenbuild, speaking on the necessity for passion and optimism in effective leadership.  Other speakers included USGBC President, CEO, and founding chair Rick Federizzi, Chicago's mayor, Richard M. Daley, and other government and industry speakers.  The conference showcased hundreds of new eco-friendly products and options, from a "smog eating" roofing tile manufactured by MonierLifetile LLC to a Caroma dual flush toilet that includes a hand basin on its top, allowing users to wash their hands in clean water that is immediately recycled to the toilet tank below for the next flush.

USGBC also announced two new green building rating systems, LEED for Healthcare and LEED for retail, along with the LEED Volume Program, designed to meet the certification needs of high-volume property developers, in anticipation of more robust building times ahead.  For more information, visit

Meanwhile, on October 8, 2010, Henry Gifford of Gifford Fuel Saving, Inc., filed a class action lawsuit against USGBC in federal court in New York City.  The lawsuit alleges that USGBC committed fraud and false advertising when it claimed LEED certified buildings save more energy than non-certified buildings.  The suit relies heavily on a study commissioned by USBGC and performed by the New Buildings Institute in March, 2008.  Based on this study, USGBC announced in April, 2008, that LEED certifed buildings were 25-30% more energy efficient than non-LEED buildings.  The suit claims the study and press release are misleading and points to Gifford's critique of the study, published in 2008, that concludes LEED buildings are, on average, 29 % less efficient.   USGBC's answer is due to be filed by December 28.  Commentators have questioned the validity of the lawsuit, although, as previously pointed out in this blog, USGBC has been responding to criticisms that its rating system does not measure actual energy performance of a particular building.

More to come on both fronts, stay tuned!

Is Better Building in Recession a win-win?

During recession should the Responsible Developer spend $38 million to improve existing buildings energy efficiency? The City of Seattle and its partners say yes!

You may recall that last Spring Seattle was the recipient of a $20 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s BetterBuildings Program. Since then the City has leveraged other funds to create a pool of $38 million.  The Mayor says the program will create 2,000 green jobs, reduce energy use by between 15 percent and 45 percent in retrofitted buildings, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 70,000 metric tons.

It will also mean work for contractors and suppliers and local tax revenues. These retrofit projects will be located between Central Capitol Hill and the city limits in Southeast Seattle.  Joshua Curtis, Community Power Works manager, said the goal is to create new energy efficiency programs that will help the private sector test what works and what doesn't.  "We're just really focused on using this money now to not only create jobs in energy efficiency but really catalyzing good models going forward,” he said. “I think that what we'll likely see is a lot of these programs, some of them ending up in the city, some of them continuing in the private sector, some of them continuing perhaps in a nonprofit fashion.”

Portions of the program were originally recommended by the Seattle Green Building Task Force which looked at ways to make Seattle buildings 20 percent more efficient by 2020. There are different programs for each building sector.  The first phase was launched last week. It focuses on hospitals and large commercial and municipal buildings, and will use about $4.2 million of the funds. The second phase launches in early March and will  allocate the rest of the money and expand the program to houses, small commercial and multifamily.

According to the Times, Ted Klainer, capital projects manager for Harborview Medical Center, said the hospital is already pursuing energy improvements but this program allows it to expand that effort dramatically. Work involves HVAC, Seattle Steam-fed heating systems, and equipment.  The cost will be in the millions, he said.  Harborview is a state institution so cash is tight.  “Getting those funds just allow you to get more traction quickly to get these things done,” Klainer said. “At the end of the day, when we get systems upgraded, they will even save the taxpayers' dollars, especially over the long term. It's a win-win.”

Yes, responsible development, even in recession, can be a win-win.

Washington State Supreme Court Upholds the Municipal Water Law

The Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that key provisions of the Municipal Water Law (MWL) are facially constitutional.1 The ruling affects water rights across Washington State, upholding the flexibility and certainty that the MWL provides to purveyors, municipalities, and other “municipal water suppliers.” However, the Court stressed that the ruling is limited to the “facial constitutional challenges” that were before the Court, leaving room for consideration of similar claims in the future that may be advanced under “as applied” challenges.

Under the MWL, a “municipal water supplier” has distinct legal rights that are largely unavailable to other entities that hold water rights in Washington State:

  1. A municipal water supplier’s water rights that were perfected based on system capacity (“pumps and pipes”), rather than beneficial use, are rights in “good standing.”2
  2. Municipal water suppliers may hold inchoate water rights without being subject to the state’s relinquishment statute.3
  3. Municipal water suppliers may change a water right’s place of use through water system planning.4
  4. Municipal water suppliers may expand the scope of a water right beyond the population figure in their water right document.5
  5. Municipal water suppliers may expand the scope of a water right beyond the service connection figure in their water right document.6

For the first time in state history, the MWL defined “municipal water supplier”7 and “municipal water supply purposes.”8 Specifically, the MWL defined a “municipal water supplier” as any entity that (1) provides water to 15 or more residential service connections, or (2) provides water to a nonresidential population that is, on average, at least 25 people for at least 60 days a year.9

Because the MWL retroactively applied these provisions, opponents of the MWL argued that provisions in the MWL facially violated separation of powers.10 The opponents also argued that the provisions facially violated due process under the Washington State Constitution.

The Court unanimously rejected both facial challenges. However, it is likely that the MWL’s constitutionality will be litigated again in an “as applied” challenge. As the Court noted in its opinion, one such case, Cornelius v. Dep’t of Ecology,11 has already made its way to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board.

While municipalities and purveyors holding “pumps and pipes” water right certificates will be encouraged by today’s ruling, an element of risk and uncertainty remains as a result of the limited scope of the legal challenges that were before the Court.

1 Lummi Indian Nation v. State, ___ Wn.2d ___ (2010), available at:
2 RCW 90.03.330(3).
3 RCW 90.14.140(2)(d).
4 RCW 90.03.386(2).
5 RCW 90.03.260(5).
6 RCW 90.03.260(4).
7 RCW 90.03.015(3).
8 RCW 90.03.015(4).
9 RCW 90.03.015(3) and (4).
10 The opponents argued that the MWL’s definition of “municipal water supplier” unsettled a previous Washington State Supreme Court decision. See, Theodoradus v. Ecology, 135 Wn.2d 582, 957 P.2d 1241 (1998).
11 Cornelius v. Dep't of Ecology, No. 06-099 (Wash. Pollution Control Hr'gs Bd. Dec. 7, 2007).

Bastyr Goes For LEED Platinum

Bastyr University claims to be the first school in the country to be in line to earn a LEED Platinum certification for its just completed student housing project. Consisting of 11 three story buildings housing 132 students, the project marks Bastyr’s first addition to the school’s campus since the natural health arts and sciences school took over its current home at the 51 acre site of a former Catholic monastery in Kenmore, Washington. Bastyr formally celebrated the project opening on June 22, 2010.

Bastyr and its general contractor, Shuchart Corporation, went through many steps to reach Platinum status. Energy efficient construction was used throughout the project, including high r-value insulation, energy efficient and long lasting fiberglass windows with ultra high performance glass, and radiant floor heating with super high efficiency gas boilers. Energy efficient light fixtures, appliances, and plumbing fixtures were used throughout the project and harvested rain water will be used throughout the complex for non-drinking purposes.

During construction, the contractor was able to recycle a remarkable 96 percent of the construction waste, primarily through training of subcontractors, critical layout of recycling containers, and proactive arrangements with local facilities for recycling of materials. Benches and other items were made form scraps and leftovers, and some chairs and benches were made from the webbing of old car seat belts.

Outside, buildings are connected by a series of garden paths, courtyards, and outdoor living spaces carefully designed to be energy efficient and mitigate the impact on the local environment. Ample bike storage promotes students' use of their bikes for transportation and an extensive bioswale and sediment pond system treats recovered surface water before releasing it back slowly into neighboring wetlands.

Bastyr utilized a LEED consultant for the project, Seattle’s O’Brien and Company, and early on in the project applied for and received a grant from the King County LEED Grants Program. This program is part of the county’s “Green Tools” program to encourage sustainable building outside the city of Seattle.

Bastyr University is proud of its sparkling new sustainable building. Its president, Daniel K. Church, said: “Providing students with eco-friendly, on-campus housing is a significant milestone in furthering our mission to enhance the health and well-being of the human community.”

Greening the Big Apple... Or Not

Two outer limits of the sustainability tides are playing out in New York City. One of the Big Apple’s prized icons, the Empire State Building, is in the middle of an innovative, cutting edge building retrofit that is designed to reduce energy consumption by 38% and to generate $4.4 million annual energy cost savings. Over by the Hudson River, unit owners of a $4.2 million condo unit are suing the developers, architects, engineers, and city building authority because their unit is not green enough. The two limits offer guidance for all developers involved in sustainable building.

Photo via (bobcatnorth)Anthony Malkin, owner of the Empire State Building (ESB), has made a commitment not only to retrofit one of America’s best known buildings into one of the most energy efficient buildings in the Big Apple, but also to do it in a transparent manner that will provide a beacon to other property owners to follow with their own green retrofit projects. Beginning in early 2008, Malkin partnered with 5 entities to develop a proposal for the retrofit: The Clinton Climate Initiative, Jones Lang LaSalle, Rocky Mountain Institute, and Johnson Controls. The team’s charter describes their mission: 

The retrofit of the ESB into a Class A pre-war trophy building will transform the global real estate industry by transparently demonstrating how to create a competitive advantage for building owners and tenants through profitably greening existing buildings.

After assembling the data and design to do this, the retrofit project is scheduled to be completed by 2013, with 55% of the energy savings available by December 31, 2010.  See more of the details in a project white paper and hear Malkin talk about the unique aspects of the project.

Key to the project is a unique contract between ESB and Johnson Controls, called an energy services performance contract, whereby Johnson Controls guarantees certain annual energy savings, or pays the difference, for a period of 15 years. Contracts that specify the responsibilities—and consequences of non compliance---are essential to a well planned sustainable project.

Meanwhile, owners of a luxury condominium at The Riverhouse One Rockefeller Plaza are suing the developers (and its architects and engineers) for $1.5 million in damages because they say the building is not green enough. Among other claims, the owners allege their unit’s air-infiltration system and heating are not up to the green standards they were promised, having conducted an energy audit that showed cold air infiltration through doors, windows, and exterior walls that was more than 49% higher than LEED standards. See more details in a recent Wall Street Journal article.

The Riverhouse lawsuit is just the beginning as owners and tenants, promised sustainable buildings and commensurate energy savings, file suit when the actual building does not perform as promised. Courts will eventually have to determine what are green building best practices and assign liability among the potential defendants. Once again, development contracts that specify green building responsibilties and consequences of non-performance are essential to successful sustainable construction or conversion work.

Gregoire Asks SBCC To Delay Energy Code

Washington Governor Christine Gregoire just wrote a letter to John Cochran, the Chair of the Washington State Building Code Council asking him to defer the new energy code until April 2011.  Gregoire's concern is of the probable negative impact the code would have on the recovery of the economy and the construction industry.

The Governor's request is timely given the lawsuit filed recently by the BIAW (that we posted earlier).

We also posted two questions in April and May about green codes: "Can homebuying consumers bear the cost of new green and energy codes during recession?" and "Should green building codes be mandatory?"  Both questions appear to have been answered by the Governor.  In the long term, Green can be affordable, but in the short term, during hard economic times it may have to be deferred or remain voluntary.  

It seems that between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our state government that until the recession is over, there should be no further mandates requiring taxpaying citizens and businesses to pay more for greener and more energy efficient homes.  However, once recovery happens and the construction industry exhausts existing supplies of non-green materials and components, that the cost benefit of green energy efficient materials and components may be mandated and embraced by all Washington residents for the obvious future long term benefits.  

Can homebuying consumers bear the cost of new green and energy codes during recession?

Some of our prior posts included information about new energy efficient “Net Zero” Homes and California’s landmark decision to mandate a Green Building Code (CALGREEN). However, there may be unintended financial consequences when code officials mandate green and more energy efficient homes. 

Concern about these consequences caused the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) to file a lawsuit on behalf of its members.  The complaint alleges that the end result of new provisions in the Washington State Energy Code that go into effect in July 2010 will be that fewer homes will be built and sold because consumers cannot afford to buy the homes that would be built under the new code requirements.  BIAW alleges that the cost to comply with these code requirements would increase the cost of an average home by $4,000-$15,000.  Probably a tough sell to first time buyers in recession. 

According to the Washington State Building Code Counsel (SBCC) in the long run these code requirements will result in lower energy costs over the life of the homes.  However that may be small consolation to buyers who cannot afford these energy efficient and code compliant homes in the first place.

This possible energy and code conflict would not be the first of its kind in Washington.  In the 1990s building and energy codes mandated tighter insulated buildings that featured exterior fire resistive gypsum sheathing.  The problem was that in wet climates like western Washington, when rain penetrated behind cladding, the result was mold, a loss of structural capacity and hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage.  This conflict also dramatically increased the cost of insurance on residential construction projects and hence increased the cost of homes.

So apparently major changes in building and energy code requirements may need to be tested by the courts and mother nature before code officials, builders and consumers all realize the intended benefits.

How Green Is My Project?

Go on line to compare and find out!

The American Institute of Architects is keeping score, globally now, and updates a Letterman-like TOP 10 Greenest Buildings list.  So far for 2010 the top entries include projects from several US states and other countries.  Alas there are no entries this year (yet!) from Washington state but our neighbors in Oregon are in contention with the Twelve/West tower project that is expected to be LEED Platinum and should provide its owners energy savings of 45% over a comparable building.

Ironic to some, the AIA's Top 10 list also includes a gorgeous entry from Saudi Arabia, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology .  It is the Saudis first LEED project and the planet's biggest LEED Platinum building. 

To students of history this should come as no surprise because if you have ever read about or seen the Alhambra or the Mezquita in Spain, you know that for centuries middle eastern developers have greatly prized architectural designs that incorporated greenery and water features for the reasons many do now...because the shade and water cool the air making buildings more livable, not to mention more desirable and valuable.    

Many  lawyers cannot help but dwell on the liability of developer, designer and builder clients that fail to achieve LEED certification or comply with energy standards or codes.  To place this modern liability in a less onerous context, ponder the fate incurred by Moorish designers and builders who failed to meet the Caliph's or Sultan's personal green standards. 

More on modern green liability next time (without the curved swords). 


Why build better buildings?

Why build better buildings?

You mean aside from great marketing and making you just feel good?  Because we are in a global competition for energy and according to the US DOE buildings consume 70% of our electricity and 50% of our natural gas.  Building better energy efficient buildings results in not only reducing operational costs for homeowners and businesses, it means reducing harmful greenhouse emissions, an apparent win-win.

So what should be the goal?  Many advocate "Net-Zero” energy buildings or “ZEH” zero energy homes (or buildings).  OK next question, due to the recession and the fact the US standard of living may never be what it once was, are Net Zero buildings or ZEHs affordable?

The DOE says...yes!  The Building Technologies Program ("BTP") goal is to achieve Net Zero homes by 2020 and Net Zero commercial buildings by 2025.  Major progress has been made in the form of BTP compliant new homes that consume 40% less energy than other comparable non BTP homes. The energy saving makes them affordable.  The NAHB Research Center Building America Team in conjunction with their builder partners, concurs and in its May conference will present details for the design, construction, and monitored performance of high-efficiency affordable homes.

The City of Seattle DPD, on its City Green Building page, also says yes and touts the financial aspect of building green “Building green isn't just about improving your health or saving the planet. Today's techniques can also save you money and make your projects more marketable.”

Better Building is good business