Green housing crosses income levels
Once the domain of the moneyed environmentally conscious, green housing is becoming accessible to all income levels, and the Northwest – notably Seattle and Portland – is at the forefront of the movement.
The Seattle Office of Housing was one of the funders of the 50-unit Traugott Terrace, managed by the Archdiocese of Seattle to house recovering alcoholics and drug addicts - about 90 percent of whom came from shelters. Located in Seattle’s upscale Belltown neighborhood, rents range from zero (fully subsidized) to $400.
Yvonne K., a recovering drug addict, pays just $74 a month for her studio, and it’s the first place she has rented in her 53 years. She didn’t know she was living in a green building until recently, but since moving in last year, she couldn't be more enthusiastic about its environment.
“When you walk in these doors, it’s a safe feeling, you not only feel protected, you feel like it’s a clean, healthy, atmosphere, bright and cheery, with no heavy or chemical odors,” she said. “I don’t get cabin fever, there’s nothing depressing about it… It’s like the builders considered how they would want to live.”
The intent of the building design was to maximize day lighting, confirmed Joanne Quinn, asset manager and sustainability specialist with the Seattle Office of Housing. ''A lot of folks were living on the edge of life for so long so all this light really helps them stay stable in their life,'' she said. "The design has psychological benefit - even in the smallest unit you don’t feel it because of big windows.”
“Part of recovery is looking at environment and being concerned with not being wasteful,” said building manager Jacqueline Raymond. “It helps them establish a concern and care about ownership.”
Traugott’s low-flow plumbing fixtures are even more efficient than code, reducing water use by 33 percent, for an expected savings of over $9,000 a year just in hot water heating. Other features include a gearless traction elevator that will save $2,000 annually, energy-saving lighting and window designs, and the use of recycled materials, said its architect Sandra Mallory of Environmental Works.
All this means the average utility bill in the building is less than $20 a month.
The building cost about 2 percent to 5 percent more to build, but it’s projected to save about $20,000 a year against a similar building nationally, said Mallory.
At least three more buildings for low-income and transitional residents will also be eco-friendly, constructed to Built Green standards, including Denny Park Apartments in South Lake Union and Croft Place in West Seattle, said Quinn.
In building terms, both LEED-certified and Built Green are equal as far as sustainable building standards go, but they use different criteria. LEED, which is more expensive to implement and register, requires a whole systems design process and is more often used for bigger buildings. Built Green has a checklist with about 800 items, but is easier to follow. It's used more for smaller buildings and houses.
The city of Seattle offers LEED and Built Green incentive programs to developers to help offset registration and extra design.
The 162 units and common areas use energy-efficient lighting, water-efficient landscaping, recycled water, recycled wood for stairs and furniture, and environmentally friendly flooring. There are recharging stations in the garage for those owning electric cars and a hybrid Flexcar program for residents, as well as kayak rental. Rentals are on the high end - $870 for studios (503 s.f) to $1,900 for the largest (1,478 s.f.) two-bedroom unit. So far about 10 tenants have signed on.
Briana Bergman, a student in environmental studies, and her boyfriend Jesse Miller, were specifically looking for an environmentally friendly building and had almost given up on finding one until they heard about Alcyone. They were especially attracted to its pea patch (which separates organic and non-organic plots) and rain barrels on the roof. They are even bringing their own worm bin, something that was not so welcome at their former Belltown apartment building.
“When asked where they saw the neighborhood going in five years, they said their number-one goal was sustainability,” she said.
Because the greening of Alcyone was integrated into design from day one, it didn’t cost more than 1 percent more to make it eco-friendly, said Hamilton Hazelhurst, who is in charge of sustainable building with Vulcan Real Estate, which developed the building with Harbor Properties.
Another eco-friendly apartment building is being built nearby, on Yale Avenue, and condominiums will be a future possibility, said Hazelhurst.
Although both Seattle and Portland are considered national leaders in terms of eco-friendly building, Portland appears to be slightly ahead of Seattle, especially when it comes to private community building, said Hazelhurst.
Portland’s most notable success has been the office-residential-commercial Brewery Blocks complex in the Pearl District. The first block opened in 2002 and the fifth is due for completion in 2005. The complex uses a photovoltaic solar system in its exterior walls that are wired to feed the energy directly into the building’s electrical system.
Green remodel guides
Thousands being built
The biggest Built Green development in Seattle began in June 2003 on the High Point redevelopment project, a 129-acre mixed income housing redevelopment located in the Longfellow Creek Watershed in West Seattle. It will have 1,600 units, with the first 300 to be finished in mid-2006. Some 600 units at the already existing complex will be rebuilt.
One notable feature, and a possible first in the county, will be 35 “Breathe Easy” units, built especially are for asthma sufferers. These will include energy recovery ventilation units along with other air exchanges and HEPA filtration to filter out allergens and other air contaminants.
In south Seattle, future housing at the large-scale New Holly complex on Beacon Hill will be Built Green.
Issaquah Highlands, another large development east of Seattle, has also been constructing Built Green homes, and thousands more will be built over the next few years. A Built Green home at Issaquah Highlands costs 3.5 percent, or $20,000 (for a $560,000 home) more than a traditionally built home.
King and Snohomish Counties have one of the strongest programs in green homes nationwide, currently with well over 2,000 homes and the number is expected to double in two years.
“Built Green will be the majority of marketplace once builders realize
it doesn’t have to cost much more and that it adds value,” said Lynn
Barker, sustainable building specialist, at Seattle’s Department of
Planning and Development.
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