Published on by | Filed in What We're Reading

Rendering of new tower hotel in Tacoma.

Rendering of new tower hotel in Tacoma.

Tacoma urbanism: Details on the latest revision to Downtown Tacoma’s future 240-foot hotel and 140-foot residential towers.

The NEC is key: A discussion on how important the Northeast Corridor with 750,000 daily riders. Meanwhile, the debate over rail safety may never the same in light of the Philadelphia Amtrak derailment.

It’s the trends: Goldy says that the city is the new suburbs.

Need for all-day transit: 3 infographics depict why cities need quality all-day transit, not just at peak hours.

Charlottesville style: How to design pedestrian malls that work.

Safer Rainier Ave: What do Bruce Harrell and a chicken have in common? They support the Rainier Ave Safety Corridor Project and made it clear in this week’s community street protest.

Rising wages: LA jumps into the $15 Now movement by enacting legislation to increase wages to the figure by 2020.

Not all big cities are urban: A look at just how suburban some large cities are in the US.

Sinking feeling: Surprise! Dewatering caused Pioneer Square to sink thanks to WSDOT and their contractors. Naturally, the project to finish the deep bore tunnel continues to increase in delays.

Socially conscious developer: Bellwether Housing picks up and rehabs a Queen Anne property while using unique financing to ensure that rents are affordable for tenants.

Free reinvention: Omaha gets creative with their bus network and completely enhance it with no additional money.

Eastlake bike lanesSeattle Bike Blog says that Eastlake bike lanes would be a boon for businesses and regional transportation.

Winners, but mostly losers: The affordable housing shortage across the US is causing a huge cost to the country’s economy to the tune of $1.6 trillion. But this didn’t just happen overnight, the trends have been pushing rising rents for a long time. Meanwhile, New York City’s public housing is in crisis and Vancouver, BC is waking up to a bad reality.

Growing tallerVox shares a chart of just how much taller buildings are getting across the globe.

Map of the week: A clever map of Iceland’s extensive bus network.

A very car-lite future?: A futurist simulation shows that self-driving “taxibots” will reduce cars by 90%.

Eastside green street: Kirkland, an Eastside suburban city, has the world’s greenest street, by at least one unique measure.

Comprehensive planning: Governing asks just how well a city can predict its future growth by planning 20 years out. Seattle is the case study.

Global climate change: Bringing us down to earth, NASA shows how quickly a 10,000-year-old ice shelf can disintegrate thanks to global warming trends.

A moral obligation: Some leaders in the planning field think that urban design and planning can help reduce police violence, but it can also be used to create violence, too.

Bus bunching: An excellent visualization of just how bus bunching occurs.

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Published on by | Filed in Politics

High quality artistry.

High quality artistry.

Over 40 individuals hope to win voter approval to sit on a new City Council in 2016. All nine City Council positions are up for election in the new district-based election. Seven positions will be elected at the district level with with the remaining two positions coming at-large citywide. The first major step in that process is the Primary, which will be held on August 4, 2015. The top two vote-getters will proceed to the General Election in November.

Staff from The Urbanist are in the process of conducting a comprehensive series of candidate interviews for the Seattle City Council. Our focus in the interviews are on important urban issues ranging from social equity to planning and growth in Seattle. Over the course of the next four weeks, we’ll be releasing summaries of our discussions with Council hopefuls. We plan to share these interviews in district batches starting with District 2 on Monday.

For those who may not be familiar with the candidates running or the new districts, we’ve put together a handy interactive map. Candidates included the map will be interviewed by The Urbanist. Use the menu toggle on the top left to access district-level information. At a later stage, The Urbanist will consider endorsements for candidates. Stay tuned.

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Published on by | Filed in Architecture, Environment and Sustainability, Land Use and Development, Sustainability, Uncategorized

“We have to show there is profit potential in projects like these…” - Lisa Picard, Executive Vice President and Regional Manager, Skanska USA, Seattle. 

Stone 34

Stone 34

The design and location of Stone 34, the new global headquarters of Brooks, was envisaged as an urban “trailhead” to Seattle’s popular Burke-Gilman Trail. Learning that Brooks was looking to relocate from Bothell, construction group Skanska USA approached the company’s CEO and pitched the idea. The vision offered the opportunity for Brooks to connect with customers using the trail and resonated with the company’s environmental values. Brooks signed a lease based on this idea, unconventionally for a building that did not yet exist, but would become a trailblazer as the second building to participate in the City of Seattle’s Deep Green Pilot Program.

Enticing sustainable development 

The City of Seattle introduced the Pilot (now Living Building Pilot Program) to alleviate barriers to developments participating in the Living Building Challenge (LBC), a rigorous green building certification program designed by the International Living Future Institute. The Pilot provides flexibility for projects attempting to meet some or all of the LBC requirements, by allowing departures from aspects of the Seattle Land Use Code which are barriers to meeting the sustainability standards. It aims to encourage projects to participate in the LBC by offering incentives such as additional building height or floor area.

A preferred site for Brooks had been found near the trail, however, a height restriction of 45 feet did not enable enough floor space. During a tour of Stone 34, Skanska USA conveyed the prospect of being allowed extra height was an added incentive for participating in the Pilot. As part of the Pilot, Stone 34 had to reduce water and energy consumption by 75% compared to a standard building and capture and reuse at least 50% of storm water on site.

Design features

By incorporating features to reduce water and energy use, encourage environmentally conscious behavior and measure environmental performance, the building acts as a billboard for Brooks by highlighting the company’s sustainability values. The project included cleaning up the contaminated site at the intersection of Stone Way North and 34th Street and salvaging wood from the demolition for reuse in a feature staircase. The building includes hydronic chilled beams which provide more efficient heating and cooling by circulating water to manage temperature. The heat recovery and exchange chiller system produces chilled water and captures wasted energy to heat water. A phase change thermal energy storage tank freezes and thaws “flat ice” bricks at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

The building was designed by LMN Architects to optimize passive cooling and heating, however, windows are not operable due to noise and odor impacts of the adjacent transfer station. Natural lighting is maximized by large windows and complemented by LED lights with daylight and motion sensors. Rainwater is treated, stored and re-used for irrigating landscapes. The city’s water supply is used for all drinking purposes, with low flow water fixtures to minimize use. The terraces and rooftop deck offer landscaped spaces for workers to enjoy, with views over Lake Union.

Streetscape improvements by Stone 34

Streetscape improvements by Stone 34

Landscaping features

Landscaping features

Reflecting the vision for the trailhead, design elements help connect the five-story commercial building with its local setting. Ground floor retail spaces with glass windows enable a visual connection between the building and the street. A tiered plaza, designed by Swift Company, frames the edge of the building, offering a public gathering space with seating, drinking fountains, bicycle racks, and landscaping with some trees. These features are designed for runners, walkers and cyclists passing by to use for stretching or their warm up routines. The garage includes electric vehicles charging stations and bicycle storage. Despite the area being serviced by several bus lines and the bicycle trail, Stone 34 has 216 underground car parking spaces. While this seems to be at odds with the sustainable vision, according to Skanska USA, this was important to remain commercially competitive.

Behavioral change

The majority of energy and water savings are due to the building design, however the behavior of workers is a significant component. The design process involved research of the anticipated behavior of workers to understand the likely energy and water demands. Skanska USA and Brooks developed strategies for reducing consumption through behavioral change, programming and equipment purchasing. Brooks upgraded desktop computers with more energy efficient laptops. Office lights and computers are programmed to turn off at the end of the day. People manually switch on lights or log in to computers if they are still working. Showers encourage people to cycle to work, but timeout after a few minutes.

A grand stairwell framed with energy-efficient glass is located at the entrance to encourage people to walk instead of use the elevator, fitting for a company promoting active lifestyles. A dashboard in the lobby displays water and energy consumption data to raise awareness and encourage workers to reduce their environmental footprint. The lobby also features a kinetic sculpture by Seattle artist Casey Curran in which brass flowers are programmed to subtly change position and bloom when the building consumes little energy and wilt when use is high. Both displays are visible to members of the public who enter the foyer, making the performance of Stone 34 and Brooks incredibly transparent.

Glassy architecture highlighting the stairway atrium

Glassy architecture highlighting the stairway atrium

Exchanging green design for additional space  

Although designed to exceed the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum certification (the highest status), not everyone was supportive of the project. The building was subject to seven design reviews, a process which Skanska USA describes improved the project as a result of community and professional discussions. However, several reports during the application process refer to some members of the community and the sustainability sector who were not receptive to the project receiving additional height for sustainability features. The commentary reflected concerns that the additional 20 feet, ultimately granted to the project, would compromise neighborhood character and block views of Lake Union.

There were criticisms that the incentive should be offered only to projects meeting all, or more of the LBC standards. While valid considerations, the project demonstrated that the City’s Pilot and incentive approach could be successful in encouraging developments to strive for exceptional environmental performance. It is likely that until sustainable buildings become the norm, rather than the exception, incentives and waivers will need to be offered by cities.

Looking toward N 34th St on Stone Way

Looking toward N 34th St on Stone Way

Living up to green and market expectations  

The City of Seattle imposes a financial penalty if the building’s operations do not meet environmental targets once occupied. As a result, the project had to extend beyond sustainable design and influence the behavior of the 300 or so people who would work inside the building. A unique legal agreement had to be established as to who would be responsible for paying penalties in the event the environmental performance targets were not met. Both Skanska USA and Brooks agreed to share responsibility. This interestingly reflects the investment by both companies in ensuring the building operates successfully.

In July 2014, the Living Building Pilot was amended to increase the maximum penalty for projects that fail to comply with the standards from 5% to 10% of the construction costs; a substantial cost. Whilst the penalty is a powerful tool for the City to encourage the developer and tenant to deliver a building which meets environmental expectations, it also has potential to create an additional financial risk which may decrease willingness for developments to participate in the Pilot. As environmental compliance with the Pilot is assessed once buildings are occupied for a full year, Stone 34 is still in its performance period. Last year, Skanska USA sold Stone 34 and it is suggested the sale provided a significant return, demonstrating to other developers, the profit potential of green buildings.

A step in the right direction

Although Stone 34 received criticism for exceeding the original height limits and not meeting more of the LBC standards, it is significant as one of two projects to have enrolled and been built as part of the Pilot initiative. This perhaps highlights the challenges faced by private developments and their willingness in delivering green buildings. Several of the features in Stone 34 are valuable for increasing knowledge about new technologies. As one example of this, Skanska USA’s current 400 Fairview project is incorporating the hydronic system after Stone 34 demonstrated the benefits. Although some elements are less progressive, such as the number of car parking spaces, the commitment to extending environmental performance to occupant’s behavior highlights the potential for significant environmental improvements in every building, regardless of quality or age.

In 2014, Stone 34 was awarded Office Development of the Year by the Washington Chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (NAIOP). This accolade assists to send a message of the benefits of improving the environmental performance of buildings to other developers. The experience of Stone 34 perhaps indicates the importance of developing flexible green design standards and programs to encourage more developers to take these ideas on board, now that their potential profitability has been demonstrated.

This article is a cross-post from Drawn to Cities. Sarah Oberklaid is an Australian urban planner and artist based in Seattle.

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Published on by | Filed in Data, Transportation

County-to-county commute pattern for 2014.

County-to-county commute pattern for 2014.

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) released its most recent findings on regional commuting trends for 2014. Since 1961, the region has cobbled together commute surveys to find out where residents are going, how they’re getting there, and how often they decide to make trips.

The 2014 Puget Sound Travel Study surveyed 6,094 households throughout the region with 1,137 of those coming from regional centers. The study explores some interesting data points like mode share by regional employment centers, modal choices by age groups, a breakdown of fuel sources for vehicles, and percentage of trips with free parking to specific uses.

I want to share three particular highlights from the study, specifically: county-to-county commute habits, trips by household size, and the reduction of driving in particular regional centers.

Looking at the four counties (King, Snohomish, Pierce, and Kitsap) of the PSRC, it’s abundantly clear that there is a commuting bias to and within King County. Over 90% of King County residents work in the county while large shares of county residents in Snohomish (40%), Pierce (29%), and Kitsap (14%) also commuting to King County for employment. Only 6% of King County residents actually commute out of the county for work.

2014 county-to-county commute pattern table.

2014 county-to-county commute pattern table.

Daily trips by household size has gone up since 1961. Perhaps some of the early growth in daily household trips can be attributed to sprawl that occurred rapidly in the region until the mid-2000s. There’s not a lot of conclusions to draw from the data per se, but there does appear to be a reduction in daily trips for larger household sizes since 2006 while 1- and 2-person households have seen very modest increases.

Regional pattern for daily trips by household size since 1961

Regional pattern for daily trips by household size since 1961

From 2006 to 2014, regional centers in Seattle, Redmond, Bellevue, Everett, and Tacoma saw significant drops in driving as mode share. Seattle’s central regional growth center saw a whopping 23% decrease in the driving mode share over the period while the Eastside cities of Redmond and Bellevue experience 15%+ drops of their own. On a region-wide basis, the number is much more modest with a 3% reduction in the driving mode share.

Regional centers with decreases in driving since 2006.

Regional centers with decreases in driving since 2006.

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