Living Building Challenge

Rainier Beach Urban Farm--Community Meeting

If you are interested in urban agriculture and would like to share your ideas to shape the Rainier Beach Urban Farm, please join us Saturday, July 28th from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm for an open event to discuss the project!  Stay for the community picnic or just get your hands dirty during the drop-in work party every Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm.


Urban Intervention at the Seattle Center-- a vision for the next fifty years

In collaboration with the Berger Partnership ,Via Architecture, and Rushing, we put together a competition proposal for the replacement of Memorial Stadium and a new vision for the Center as a whole.

The design is an organic and topographic intervention that flows through the Center and surrounding neighborhoods, creating new connections, opportunities for new programs, and experiences at the Center. It creates a dense, flexible fabric stitched together with multi-modal transit to bring in new audiences, local/daily users, and new amenities for regional visitors.

Some of the important features:


Right now the Center acts as an island in the city, but should be a hub linking neighborhoods rather than separating them. To that end, we're showing a linkage through the Bay to Lake trail, a transit center with bus, Rapid Ride, sub grade parking, and a new loop of the streetcar. The northern edge, bounded by Mercer will have a new lid park to bring in foot/bike traffic from Queen Anne and a plaza at the corner of Mercer and 5th. Broad Street becomes a greenway linking to SAM Sculpture Park to Lake Union. In effect, it's location makes it an ideal 'transit oriented park' to draw Seattleites to and through the Center.

Layered landscape:

The new topography defines the Center Green, an organic open space at the heart that spills out in all directions. Memorial Stadium is replaced by a field with a 'kop' style hill as seating, perfect for multi-use such as a musical performance space.  From 5th, the landscape opens up for a vista to the International Fountain. Underneath the Center Green, we have a series of public event spaces, storefronts for fringe/alternative cultural institutions to colocate and share resources, layers of parking, and finally a grid of ground source heat pumps to lessen energy use for the Center overall.

We didn't stop at the boundaries of the original 9 acre site, but extended the idea to carve out new access from Uptown and the meandering pathways that run through the Center Green terminate at a bridge to the apex of Key Arena--a great new public view point to downtown and the Sound.

Expressive Environmental Infrastructure:

Beyond Seattle 2030, the design begins to illustrate the path toward making the world's first Living Building District. The goal is to create a beneficial closed loop system for using on site resources and expressing the infrastructure so visitors can see, understand, and take the lessons of sustainability home. Floating above the landscape, there is a layer of solar canopy (about 150K SF) to generate energy for the spaces on the 9 acre site. We also did a first pass on other locations for solar throughout the Center, and could easily add twice that amount on existing roofs and walls of other center buildings. The draped landscape collects storm water and purifies it through a series of rain gardens and native landscape.

The Center as a cultural incubator:

We're also proposing a mix of new, smaller multi use spaces to support the growth of new cultural generators, like SIFF and KEXP.  Tucked under the knoll overlooking the performance/field, we are proposing a new multi-use performance/community space which can be configured like the Center's Northwest Rooms or opened up for larger events. At the corner of Mercer and 5th, we've opened up a new urban plaza that acts as both a local Queen Anne gateway and spill out space for the community space and cultural incubators.

Although we were not selected as a finalist for the competition, I think we put together a very forward looking, connective, and sustainable solution which would do the city proud.

Special thanks to Studio 216 for the help with the renderings!

Seattle Center Urban Intervention competition-sneak peak

Soon we'll be able to post our design concept for the revitalization of the Seattle Center, as part of the Urban Intervention competition, but here is a little sneak peak:

Once they announce the finalists, we'll be able to release the full content of our proposal, as well and give full credit to all the great collaborators we worked with.


Washington Park Arboretum's new Visitor's Center

Arboretum Visitor Center-North Gateway I have been collaborating with Susan Black and Associates to formulate a vision for the expansion of the Washington Park Arboretum facilities, as part of the SR 520 replacement and the demolition of the highway ramps that currently dominate the north end of the Park.

With this project, we are proposing a " new gateway structure to orient visitors, provide space for general services and curation/collection exhibits, and fulfill many of the aims of the 2001 Master Plan.  As conceptualized, the development respects the history of the site and reclaims the altered landscape to natural, healthy conditions.  It will provide organization, orientation, and education for visitors as a means to explore the greater Arboretum.

view of entry plaza-Washington Park Arboretum Visitor Center North Gateway

As a gateway, the design will put visitors in the frame of mind for the study and enjoyment of the Park.  Balancing educational needs and recreation activities as functions that informally overlap and inform each other, the facility welcomes both types of visitor and enfolds them in the living greenness of the Arboretum/Lake Washington edge environment.  The building concept blends with the naturalistic organization of the site with minimal visual impact and performs as a closed loop system with regard to energy and water, using only resources collected on site.  The concept also enhances the connectivity to the adjacent neighborhood and trail system and welcomes pedestrian and bike traffic.


The buildings are gently folded into a rolling wetland rise like leaves blown in on the wind.  The roofs are gently articulated to provide shelter and solar access.  Rammed earth walls announce the gateway yet continue uninterupted through the glass to become an integral part of the ambiance of the facility.  Glass walls provide an invisible barrier to the surrounding landscape during the day.  In the evening, light from the buildings spills out onto grounds muted by the vegetation foliage.

Washington Park Arboretum Visitor Center North Gateway

Retaining a small remnant of the “flyover” bridge allows for the development of an elevated promenade for the establishment of a “pier garden”.  The pier would be planted in a series of linear landscapes culminating in an overlook of the southern waterway of the Mountlake Cut.  The pier garden provides the visitor a new perspective of the northern limits of the Arboretum, Foster Island and the day-lighted Arboretum Creek." (from the Concept Plan)

Ideally, the building will be designed to the standards of the Living Building Challenge.  I've anticipated about 75kW of photovoltaics on the roof, plus a ground source heat pump for building climate control, harvesting all rain water for the building's use and to irrigate the demonstration gardens.

We've only just put this out into the public sphere for comments, and I can imagine that we'll have some lively discussions about how a modern structure fits within the Olmsteadian structure of the park.  I ultimately think that the contemporary architecture will best serve the Foundation, rather than grafting high performance energy and sustainable systems onto something that is overtly historicist.   The Washington Park Arboretum can look both both into its own history and the future to chart a path for success in it's second century.

Renderings courtesy of Lambert Design Studio

10x10x10 Green Building Slam wrap up

The Guild gathers to honor innovative projects

Friday's nights Green Building Slam was a big success. The Guild packed the auditorium in the Central Library and was, dare I say, raucous?  There was a lot of energy in the room and the enthusiasm was palpable.  I wanted to highlight a couple of trends that we saw in multiple projects.

Matt presenting the Sunset Substation Park

1.  Passive houses--super insulated, airtight buildings that consequently use very little energy to heat (a hair dryer or toaster would do the trick).

Projects ranged from Joe Giampietro's Mini B house , Jim Burton's Backyard Box, and Dan Whitmore's house.  There are a lot of people working on the details, and trying out innovative strategies for meeting the rigorous standards, like the .6 air changes per hour (Joe's was .58ACH and Dan's measured .41 ACH).  Here is a blog about passive houses--Existing Resources.

2.  Beyond Passive Houses specifically, there was a drive for measuring building performance using blower door tests, thermal imaging, etc.  The point was made  that the real time feedback is a great learning and teaching tool for both the designers and the craftspeople, linking the attention to detail required at all phases of construction to execute a high performance building with regards to energy usage.

3.  Waste stream minimization:

Two projects highlighted efforts to reduce construction waste: Bastyr University housing, and Walsh Construction's Salishan redevelopment.  The Salishan project was especially notable, not only for the context, an affordable housing project with upwards of 100 units, but because they put in place a system of labled dumpsters to sort all the construction waste--down to just one unrecyclable dumpster load over the project's construction.

I had a great time, first presenting the Sunset Substation Park, and second, learning about what other like minded companies are working on in our region.

CAST presenting at the NW Ecobuilding Guild's 10X10X10

I'll be presenting the Sunset Substation Park to the NW Ecobuilding Guild at their annual "green building slam," 10x10x10. It's "a high-energy introduction to ten cutting-edge sustainable building projects in and around Seattle...featuring fast-paced presentations by the region's leading green builders and delicious food and drink."

This marks our second year in a row presenting (last year, we showed off the Fremont Townhomes)!