Region Leads the Field
by Ada Healey
Seattle residents are responsive to the environmental benefits of sustainable design, but not all are aware of how the benefits translate into cost-saving measures. Fuel-efficient cars, biodiesel buses and eco-friendly office buildings are all economically and environmentally beneficial -- but what is all this talk about green-friendly residential buildings?
And how certain are we that their benefits outweigh those of traditional designs?
Take a look around and observe an innovative region leading the charge in sustainable design. Multi-use apartment/condo towers are emerging in a variety of neighborhoods, high-performance office buildings are reaching unprecedented heights and urban density is being embraced equally by developers and those who crave a new way of life and are attracted to green-friendly designs.
But as we build that future in Seattle, it is crucial that we maintain our national leadership role in protecting and preserving the ecological balance of our treasured Puget Sound region. Doing so will go a long way toward enhancing this unique quality of life for generations to come.
In the past, sustainable has been referenced most often in our workplaces, as more businesses have chosen to become environmentally responsible. Transportation and government officials use the term lightly by trying to persuade us to carpool or purchase hybrid vehicles.
But the green living movement has picked up steam in recent years as Seattleites -- at least those who have pledged to safeguard their environment -- are being motivated by energy conservation, resource management, quality air, good health and higher fuel prices.
Developers and government leaders, too, are realizing that it makes sense to build green. They offset the rising cost of fuel through better uses of sunlight energy, water efficiency, improved indoor environmental quality and the recycling of construction materials.
What they are building provides a lifestyle that has generated an entirely new class of customer, one who realizes that "sustainable" does not compromise design, but does promote lower utility bills, healthier indoor living and a life that is less dependent on the automobile. These are folks who find sustainability appealing and are attracted to these values.
There are several cutting-edge examples of residential green in Seattle that are already helping to reduce energy bills. For instance, in South Lake Union's Cascade neighborhood, residents at Alcyone Apartments, developed by Vulcan Inc. and Harbor Properties, are reaping the benefits of pedestrian-friendly streets, public green space and energy-conscious design.
Earlier this year, Alcyone was officially recognized as Seattle's first market rate multi-family project to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the United States Green Building Council.
The 161-unit structure was built on an urban infill site and constructed with mostly recycled and environmentally friendly materials. Nearly 95 percent of its construction waste was recycled. Residents at sustainable buildings such as Alcyone pay lower energy bills because of features that include a central gas-fired hot water system and steel-stud metal gauge framing that can be built for increased durability and no shrinkage.
They also breathe healthier air due to low-toxic paint and flooring and enjoy increased natural light and comfortable temperatures thanks to energy-efficient window systems.
Water conservation is another main component in the green living approach. Tenants at Alcyone, in particular, can grow plants on a rooftop "pea patch" that features recycled rainwater irrigation to ease the roof's stormwater runoff. Drought-resistant plants are used in the common spaces and on private terraces. And the fixtures found in showers, kitchens and bathrooms are supplied with flow restrictors to conserve water above code requirements.
All of these features add to the examples of our region's desire to uphold a sustainable environment and reduce energy costs.
From completed projects such as Alcyone to other new residential projects, working together, we can preserve the Puget Sound region for a prosperous future.
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