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A Northwest Bright Green Hodge-Podge
Alex Steffen, 14 Jan 05

Various bright green bits and pieces from the upper left corner of the country. If you like this sort of thing, it's the sort of thing you'll like. Otherwise, skip on down the page.

I don't tend to hesitate in sharing my criticism of the Pacific Northwest when I think things are going wrong, so I thought I'd point out some things I'd noticed recently that seem to be going quite well. (Everyone can play, by the way -- feel free to add to my list in the comments.)


The local Master Builders Association has not always been known for taking the greenest stances, particularly when it comes to growth management. But their Built Green program looks pretty sharp. If it's greenwashing, it's the kind that helps make our case; if they're for real, it represents serious progress:

"Our mission is to promote environmentally friendly home building methods and practices, and to enhance our communities through leadership in sustainable development."

Check out their case studies and, in particular, the Puget Sound Energy Built Green™ Idea Home, which boasts passive solar features, a green roof, permeable pavers, heat recovery and exchangers in a smart ventiliation system, wool carpet, very low VOC paint, recycled tile flooring, R-23 natural cellulose insulation, water barrels and native plant landscaping. Not bad! (more here)

A few years back, vandals from the ELF (acting, as it turned out, on wrong information) burned down the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture. The replacement building, which opens this month, is going for a LEED silver rating:

"The Berger Partnership has designed a Stormwater Demonstration Garden (not yet funded) that harvests rainwater, complete with a 2,300-gallon underground cistern. Notice the sustainable materials such as bamboo floors and straw-board cabinets pressed from North Dakota wheat fields, the low-flush toilets and waterless urinals expected to reduce water use by 35 percent, and the handsome transom windows that promote air circulation throughout the naturally ventilated building. Richard Chapman of the UW Capital Projects Office says Merrill Hall is targeted to receive recognition from the U.S. Green Building Council."

(Unfortunately, I can't hear the word horticulture either without thinking of Dorothy Parker's "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think...")

We've touched on the debate about the future of Seattle's waterfront before. Worldchanging friend and ally Cary Moon kicks butt in this essay she wrote about why Seattle needs to follow the lead of Portland and San Francisco and replace its collapsing waterfront viaduct with a more progressive system of transportation choices, traffic improvements and open space:

"In its myopic commitment to the automobile, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has convinced Mayor Nickels to throw his weight behind a costly tunnel option for the viaduct, pushing Seattle to anchor its future to the status quo of the past: highways. ...

"This pro-tunnel enthusiasm needs to be tempered by some sobering truths: First, no city actually improves traffic by giving people incentives to drive. Second, Nickels' promise of open space dramatically exaggerates what will actually be an awkwardly shaped strip of park. And, perhaps most important, the money isn't on the way.

"Fortunately, there's a cheaper solution that gives us a real park and improves traffic congestion by tearing down the entire viaduct, instead of just tunneling the 12-block portion between King and Pine Streets. It is an integrated system that would replace the viaduct with street improvements, transit incentives, and dense downtown development, combined with a rational surface roadway that will cost millions less than WSDOT's underground boondoggle."

Dr. Dan's Alternative FuelWerks is supposedly the first biodiesel gas station in Seattle. It's not far from where I live. Maybe soon I'll be driving a hybrid biodiesel car and swinging by Dr. Dan's to top off the tank every few months...

Meanwhile, Seattle design company Place has come up with a new infrastructure for bike commuters, the bikestation:

"Bikestations are the next step toward clean air and easy mobility in Seattle. Popular in Europe and Japan, bikestations are facilities where people can park their bikes in a secure location, stow their riding clothes, clean up, change and emerge ready for business battle after a relaxing bike ride to work. Bikestations can also be social spaces, where passersby can pause to buy a coffee and relax, riders can catch up on the news, pick up a PowerBar or an inner tube, or even check out an electric car!"

(If the monorail people were smart, they'd integrate these into their station designs.)

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