Think about the Burke Gilman Trail for a moment. Think about where it reveals itself to the neighborhood at N. 34th & Stone Way. Now imagine a a vibrant, active building that has a relationship to the trail – a living building that connects the community. What if that building takes little or nothing from the earth, not even during construction, and then gives back to the environment in return?
Skanska USA and Fremont Dock Company are teaming up to bring business and jobs to the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods. Plans are in motion to build a 120,000 square foot, five story building that will participate in the City of Seattle’s new Living Building Challenge. The building will be located at 3400 Stone Way, on the east side of Stone between 34th & 35th.
I spoke with Lisa Picard, Skanska USA’s Vice President of Commercial Development (and former resident of Fremont and Green Lake), who provided additional detail:
- What will the building be like? We really want retail on the first floor, with spaces for the community to enjoy. We’d like to meet the living building challenge that promotes walkability and visibility, with the ground floor base being tall enough to give pedestrians a great experience. Elevated ceilings, lots of light. Vibrant, active, and open. Above that, we’re planning office spaces.
- What is a living building, and how will 3400 Stone Way meet that definition? You can learn all about it on the City’s website, but basically the living building challenge has some interesting building codes. A true living building takes nothing from the earth and gives everything back. It recycles all water (e.g. storm water is returned, utilized in fixtures), and it doesn’t take any energy off the grid. We’re hoping to meet all the living building criteria.
- How is a Living Building different from a LEED certified building? LEED is focused on wattage, on energy. If you made the tiniest windows possible, you’d make an efficient envelope without consideration of light, air, and walkability. The Living Building does. It focuses on living architecture, giving back to the environment, certified regional materials, and human occupancy. There is more rigor in the Living Building Challenge than in LEED certification. It’s a deeper system. There are twenty “petals” that buildings try to achieve as they go along, instead of using a pre-certification system like LEED. The Living Building Challenge doesn’t sacrifice humans for energy efficiency. If you don’t have healthy humans, they’re not going to make the right decisions about turning off lights (energy efficiency).
It was at this point in the conversation with Lisa that I had to check myself. From my perspective, she was saying all the right things. But was I just hearing what I wanted to hear from an international developer planning a new office building in my neighborhood? Or was there something else going on? I brought up biking and public transportation for some odd reason. Next thing I knew, Lisa was telling me that while her Seattle office is in South Lake Union, near the highway, she and the other developers often cycle to meetings in Fremont. “I don’t think you’ll often hear about five developers cycling to a planning meeting.”
- Are you considering putting in a green roof? We’re still trying to figure out how to address storm water. Maybe a portion will be a green roof, but we might also utilize a cistern technology to utilize water in the building. Any green roof we build will be functional, not just for aesthetics.
- Sounds like this is a unique project. What’s unique about Skanska USA is that we’re equity financed, so we’re not beholden to others (traditional financiers) in a way that is detrimental to the community. Our interest is in how the project will interface with the community and really be both a signature gateway for both Wallingford and Fremont, but also a vibrant trailhead. We want the upper floors to be filled with offices that will bring new jobs to Wallingford. The goal is to offer space at market rates so tenants don’t take on more risk financial than in a traditional building.
- And there’s a public meeting coming up? Yes. There is an early design guidance meeting Monday, September 19th, 6:30pm at University Heights Community Center. Meeting details are available here.
- Who should attend the meeting? Anyone who cares about the community and wants to see positive change. This is a real opportunity to be heard, to tell us what you want. We’d love to see young people, community leaders who can communicate Wallingford’s desires, and people who have vision who can see what this project can become.
- And the timing? We have fast track hopes. Hoping for all approvals next year, to start construction in 2011. Then it maybe takes 18 months to construct the building, so completion date may be around the end of 2013.
- What about the existing two buildings on the site? The whole block will be demolished. That won’t happen until later next year.
One last question:
Why Wallingford? Wallingford is green-saavy and ready to receive a project like this. More than any other community in the city.
Anyone interested in watching this project develop over the next few years is encouraged to keep an eye on the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development website for pictures, upcoming meeting announcements, and other news. You can also sign up for email alerts related to the project (project # 3012601).
H/T to Ryan, thanks for the tip!