Murray proposes policies to keep Seattle a global leader in green buildings

Mayor Ed Murray transmitted to Council a package of innovative policies aimed at keeping Seattle at the forefront of energy efficiency solutions in the residential and commercial building sectors. The legislative package includes provisions that expand the Living Buildings Challenge (LBC) and updates Seattle’s building and energy codes to reduce energy use in new commercial construction and expand solar ready housing.

“Changing our approach to design and construction is critical to achieving the City’s environmental goals,” said Murray. “Living Buildings demonstrate how innovative urban design is a key tool in the fight against climate change. The energy code changes lay the foundation for expanded conservation in the future, continuing Seattle’s position as a national leader on green and energy efficient buildings.”

The Living Building program legislation expands on a pilot program started in 2009 and increases the number of buildings that can participate. The LBC is the world’s most rigorous sustainable building certification program. It is a performance-based approach – as opposed to a modeled performance – and aims to foster the development of buildings that contribute positively to their surroundings by mimicking ecological processes such as capturing and treating all stormwater and producing as much energy as it uses.

“Seattle’s built environment represents a huge opportunity to impact how our city addresses climate change as energy use from commercial buildings represent 18 percent of our city’s total greenhouse gas emissions The effects of climate change require us to take the kind of bold and expedient action found in these policies,” added Councilmember Rob Johnson. “I look forward to Seattle leading by example to create many more living buildings to reduce our carbon footprint.”

“The International Living Future Institute applauds the expansion of the Living Building Challenge in Seattle,” said Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute. “Living Buildings represent the most advanced measure of sustainability possible today and it’s fitting that Seattle, a city on the vanguard of sustainability and environmental protection, proposes these updates.”

“After transportation fuels, the next greatest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Seattle comes from heating and cooling our buildings. Increasing the number of highly efficient green buildings is essential for combating climate change,” said Denis Hayes, president and CEO of the Bullitt Foundation and developer of Seattle’s first Living Building. “This suite of policies is a call to action for all local developers to be bold and to do their part in making Seattle more sustainable even as the city grows.”

Among other changes to the Seattle Energy Code and the Seattle Residential Code is a requirement that commercial buildings up to 20 stories in height and residential buildings up to three stories in height reserve rooftop space to be “solar ready” for future equipment installation. This will speed the development of rooftop solar energy in Seattle by minimizing future installation costs. The effective date for the proposed energy and building code updates will occur on January 1, 2017.

The Seattle Energy Code legislation also takes a significant step toward Seattle’s 2050 carbon-neutral goal by mandating more efficient heating systems instead of allowing less effective electric or fossil fuel heating systems that are typically installed in commercial buildings. The effective date of this particular Seattle Energy Code update is extended to January 1, 2018, in order to allow projects already in the pipeline to be completed without major changes.

The Living Building Challenge legislation will be discussed in City Council’s Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee on September 9, with a public hearing to be held on September 20. The Seattle Energy Code legislation will be discussed with City Council Planning, Land Use & Zoning Committee on September 20.

Seattle Greenspace Earns World’s First “Living Park” Certification

McGilvra Place first park to meet Living Building Challenge

In a neighborhood lacking public parks, a traffic median has been re-developed into the world’s first “Living Park,” meeting all the rigorous goals of the Living Building Challenge™.

McGilvra Place, a half-acre pocket park on the edge of Seattle’s Central District, is the first project to meet the Infrastructure and Landscape Typology requirements within the framework of the Living Building Challenge. It now serves as an active neighborhood public space, with outdoor ping pong, benches, and native plants. 

“Neighborhood plans have long called for more green space in this area,” said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation. “And the sustainability features of the park made it much more compelling to the community and really set it apart,” he added.

Point32, the development partner for the Bullitt Center, helped drive the vision for McGilvra Place and initiated conversations with the neighborhood and other partners about redeveloping the space. McGilvra Place is immediately adjacent to the Bullitt Center, which is also pursuing Living Building certification.

The project was undertaken through a public-private collaboration between Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Parks Foundation and the Bullitt Foundation.

In conjunction with the development of the Bullitt Center, a neighborhood group was formed to submit an application to the Seattle Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund. Due in large part to the innovative sustainability objectives of the project, it was awarded funding in late 2010. The Bullitt Foundation and the Seattle Parks Foundation led a capital campaign to collect the remaining funds needed to transform this triangular urban traffic median into a community park.

The Berger Partnership was landscape architect for the Bullitt Center and led the park design, with Springline Design providing civil engineering services. WS Contractors completed the work. “One aspect that made the project particularly challenging was meeting the materials Red List requirements in a publicly bid environment,” said Berger Partnership Principal, Jonathan Morley. “And to achieve that, it required a concerted team effort amongst all stakeholders,” he added.

Improvements to the McGilvra Place Park site include protecting century-old London plane trees, transforming an adjacent street to a public plaza, replacing turf with native vegetation, installing park furniture made from reclaimed timber, adding a ping pong table to activate the space and improving site accessibility.

The project team created a safe, restorative, pedestrian-friendly public amenity, all while avoiding toxic chemicals, diverting construction waste from landfill and reducing stormwater runoff.

“McGilvra Place Park, like the Bullitt Center that stands beside it, is both inspired and buoyed by the natural splendors of Seattle,” says International Living Future Institute Executive Director Amanda Sturgeon. “With this pocket park project, the many stakeholders set out to salvage precious greenspace and protect century-old London plane trees. In the end, we wound up fostering unprecedented public/private collaboration and creating a Living Park space to nurture community,” she added.



Amanda Sturgeon, 206.223.2028 ext. 24

Brad Kahn, 206.419.1607,


City Council to Review Proposed Changes to the Living Building and Seattle Deep Green Pilot Program

Mayor Ed Murray delivered proposed changes for the Living Building and Seattle Deep Green Pilot Program to the City Council for consideration. At this time, the proposed changes eliminate the Deep Green option to focus the pilot program on Living Buildings. Meanwhile, DPD will continue to develop recommendations for updated new Seattle Deep Green option.  We are working with a Technical Advisory Group to develop our recommendations.

The Living Building and Seattle Deep Green Pilot Program facilitates the development of innovative deep green buildings to:

  • Reduce environmental impacts
  • Test new technologies
  • Serve as a model for development throughout the region and country

The Pilot Program allows developers to request departures from the Land Use Code through Design Review in recognition that the Living Building Challenge™ and the Seattle Deep Green program require the highest levels of sustainability.

In summary, the proposed changes would:

  • Eliminate the existing Seattle Deep Green option (to allow the City and the Living Building and Deep Green Technical Advisory Group time to fully evaluate and develop a new pilot program for Deep Green)
  • Revise the minimum standards of the program related to energy use to align with the new Seattle Energy Code
  • Require an independent report to verify compliance
  • Modify or remove some available departures
  • Increase the maximum penalty for projects failing to demonstrate full compliance with the standards from 5 percent to 10 percent of the construction costs

The City Council will review the proposed new rules. A briefing and public hearing at the Council’s Planning Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee is scheduled for July 1, 2014.  New rules could be adopted in July-August of 2014. For more information, visit our Living Building Pilot Update website, or contact:

Aly Pennucci, Senior Planner
(206) 386-9132