What Makes It GREEN? 2012 Winners Announced

Six Projects Receive AIA Seattle What Makes It GREEN? Award

On April 18, 2012, AIA Seattle announced the recipients of the 2012 What Makes it GREEN? Awards. The winning projects include:

  • Bertschi School Living Science Building, designed by KMD Architects;
  • Bremerton office and studio, designed by Rice Fergus Miller;
  • LOTT Clean Water Alliance – Regional Services Center, designed by The Miller Hull Partnership;
  • Machais Elementary School, designed by NAC|Architecture;
  • Bullitt Center for Sustainable Design and Construction (unbuilt), designed by the Miller Hull Partnership; and
  • Greenfire Campus (unbuilt), designed by Johnston Architects.

Honorable mentions went to:

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus, designed by NBBJ;
  • Biodiversity Green Wall (unbuilt), designed by the University of Washington Green Futures Lab;
  • SIERR Building at McKinstry Station, designed by McKinstry and CTA Design Builders;
  • Swift Building Lofts, designed by High Plains Architects;
  • Walking Mountains Science Center, designed by Mithun; and
  • U.S. General Services Administration Federal Center South Redevelopment (unbuilt), designed by ZGF Architects LLP.

AIA Seattle’s Committee on the Environment established the What Makes it GREEN? program over a decade ago to promote the importance of sustainable building practices, as well as to recognize and learn from the best in sustainable design.

The 2012 What Makes It GREEN? jury was moderated by Brian Geller, Founder & Executive Director of Seattle 2030 District. The four member jury included:

  • Ash Awad P.E., Vice President – Energy & Facility Service, McKinstry;
  • Amanda Sturgeon AIA, Certification Director, International Living Future Institute;
  • Jason Twill, Senior Project Manager, Sustainability, Vulcan, Inc.; and
  • Daniel Williams FAIA, Founder, DWA Design.

For photos and a list of award winning and honorable mention projects, click here. For a list of all projects entered, click here.
 

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 building...in 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! 

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?

DRIVEN TO BE GREEN

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. 

 

Court Dismisses Challenges to Washington's Revised Energy Code

On February 7, 2011, Judge Bryan dismissed the Building Industry Association of Washington’s (“BIAW”) claims that certain newly enacted provisions of the Washington State Energy Code are preempted by federal law. The Washington State Building Code Council (the “Council”) promulgated the revisions, contained in WAC 51-11-0900 (“Chapter 9”), in order to comply with its statutory requirement to achieve a 15 percent reduction in annual net energy consumption in new construction, and originally set the effective date as July 1, 2010.   As we previously reported, BIAW filed suit in federal court in the western district of Washington on May 25, 2010, seeking an injunction and a declaratory judgment that Chapter 9 violated the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (“EPCA”).

The main basis of BIAW’s claims was that Chapter 9 was preempted by EPCA, and therefore invalid. EPCA, as amended, set federal energy efficiency standards for certain "covered products, including heating, ventilating, and air conditioning equipment (“HVAC”) and water heaters, as part of its energy conservation program.  (EPCA is responsible for the familiar bright yellow energy conservation guides you see on new major appliances for sale in retail stores.)

As reported in one of our prior blogs, in a June 8, 2010 letter to the Council, Governor Chris Gregoire asked the Council to delay implementation of the revisions until April 1, 2011, for fear of further delaying the construction industry’s recovery from the recession. The Council did in fact delay the effective date to January 1, 2011.

BIAW had joined with various industry groups to bring their claims, and the NW Energy Coalition, Sierra Club, and others were allowed to intervene for the Council. Both sides brought summary judgment motions. EPCA expressly states that it preempts any state regulations concerning the energy efficiency of “covered products”, but did provide for exceptions, if a state code complied with seven specific requirements. The Council argued Chapter 9 fell within the exceptions, BIAW argued it did not.

In his 23 page opinion, Judge Bryan carefully analyzed each of the contested exceptions and, referring to a combination of legislative history, expert testimony, and computer simulations, found that Chapter 9 passed muster. Judge Bryan granted the Council’s summary judgment motion, denied BIAW’s motion, and dismissed the complaint.

As Washington and other state and local governments amend their energy codes to improve energy efficiency, there will likely be more challenges similar to BIAW’s.  Judge Bryan distinguished one challenge already decided in New Mexico, where a federal court granted an injunction against the City of Albuquerque’s high performance building ordinance because it was preempted by EPCA.

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 www.usgbc.org/leed.

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!

Green is Good, But is it Enough?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between green building and sustainable development.  “Green” and “sustainable” are often used interchangeably when talking about responsible development, but they aren’t always synonymous.  While a “green” building may have achieved a significant reduction in energy consumption, it might not be a good example of “sustainable” development.  Green buildings and the efficiencies they create cannot really be considered sustainable unless they also address the broader impacts of development.  For example, an otherwise green building may actually generate a high carbon footprint if its occupants have to make a long daily commute, all alone in their cars, to get there.

Architects Joshua Prince-Ramus, Randolph Croxton and Tuomas Toivonen agree that “green building” alone is not sufficient to achieve a meaningful reduction in our ecological footprint.  In a recent article, they suggest that maximizing the existing infrastructure in our urban cores must form the basis of a sustainable future. As Prince-Ramus puts it, “urban living itself is the embodiment of sustainability.”

In addition to increasing urban density, Prince-Ramus and his co-authors present several other strategies that can be implemented to incentivize growth and development while reducing our overall carbon footprint, including the use of urban growth boundaries, transferrable development rights, community-based metrics of sustainability, and the development of more flexible urban structures that can accommodate a variety of uses.  While these aren’t necessarily new concepts, Prince-Ramus suggests that perhaps they should play a larger role when considering the overall impact of a project’s design – so that in addition to “greening” the technical aspects of design and construction, the development itself can help to positively change human behavior.  In other words, truly sustainable development requires a holistic approach, one that incorporates systemic solutions such as increasing density, limiting sprawl, and changing our automobile-centric ways.

Do you agree with Prince-Ramus and his colleagues?  What long-term strategies do you think will be most effective in reducing our ecological footprint while encouraging responsible development?
 

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). 

 

Better Building Local and National Events

What are some noteworthy local and national events related to better building? 

Here’s a quick list:

April 22 Carbon Credits Seattle, WA

May 5-7 Living Future 10 Seattle, WA

May 16-18 NAHB National Green Building Conference Raleigh, NC

June 5-6  Seattle Green Festival 

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

Should green building codes be mandatory?

Leading the way was California who at the beginning of the year said yes we can! 

 

California was the first state to adopt a Green Building Code “CALGREEN”.  Ironic given CA also has the worst budgetary woes.  Still, Governor Schwarzenegger proclaimed that this action "lays the foundation (pun intended?) for the move to greener buildings constructed with environmentally advanced building practices that decrease waste, reduce energy use and conserve resources.”  The California Air Resources Board estimates that the mandatory provisions will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by millions of metric tons by 2020.  So far some cities and counties may have followed suit but not other states.

If the golden state can officially go green when swimming in red, should Washington do it too?

Some have advocated that efforts to make green building required by code would be too much and should remain voluntary. Even though in 2008 Governor Gregoire signed then unprecedented legislation making Washington the fourth state in the nation to adopt comprehensive limits on global warming pollution and recently reported that green jobs in WA actually increased in the recession, she has not taken the next step to propose a code that would mandate what CALGREEN has.