I’ve already written here at Seattle Transit Blog and at Seattle’s Land Use Code about the proposed extension and modification of Seattle’s Living Building Program.

To me it’s a simple question: should we support the continuation of a program that incentivizes the development of buildings that are much more sustainable and better designed than required by the regular code. I think it’s an easy “yes!” And I am not alone in my support.

A local film maker, Eric Becker, has completed a short film about the second project proposed under the City’s program. Here it is:

Stone 34 | Skanska from eric becker on Vimeo.

It’s a very powerful film, and not just because I’m in it. Are we finally ready to stop talking and start doing on developing better buildings? This project, Stone34, is a great start.

Councilmembers need to hear what you think.

The Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee will meet to vote on the proposed changes, on Wednesday, July 25th at 9:30am in Council Chambers. Land Use Committee members are Richard Conlin, Chair (206-684-8805); Tim Burgess, Vice Chair (206-684-8806); Mike O’Brien(206-684-8800), Sally Clark (206-684-8802). Speakers are advised to arrive early to get signed up.

32 Replies to “Short Film Highlights Green Building Project in Fremont”

  1. I’m excited about Stone 34 – not just because it will be a living building, but because it could help connect Fremont with Wallingford.

    Looking over the details of Seattle’s living building program, it doesn’t seem like a heavy lift to pass. There’s no guarantee of a height increase, simply a “recommendation” during design review. And if a building doesn’t meet their standards after construction they can be fined up to 5% of construction costs. If anything, I’d see this as not strong enough incentive. We’re talking about buildings that can potentially generate all of their own power and have an absolute minimum impact on our environment – that should be worth something to us as a city.

  2. “Short film” = infomercial. Seriously, Roger, it appears that you were the only one not billing hourly (or signing the checks) for your time in the video.

    I do hold the City responsible for the challenges this project is facing – the controversy about the height increases allowed via the program should have been obvious from day one. The message to most developers would seem to be that participating in City pilot projects is a bad idea.

    This video does seem consistent with other PR for this project in that it ultimately seems kind of hapless. They’re talking generally about broad ideas without offering anything that addresses the height which is the primary resistance to the project. That’s been pretty consistent and it seems to infuriate (and therefor mobilize) the folks who oppose the height.

    1. I haven’t been following this. Is height the main complaint? And does that stem from views? It doesn’t seem very tall.

      1. Yeah, the building doesn’t seem that controversial to me (and I’m not saying that as an urbanist). It’s setback very generously and then further steps back. Lot’s of window space which lessens the massing of the structure to feel light. Then, there’s a boulevard. I’m not sure why people would freak out. I’d die to have something like this come to Greenwood Ave rather than the bland crap dropped on 85th and all along the avenue.

      2. I’m pretty sure it’s all about views. Just one look at this terrain map (http://goo.gl/maps/90ZU) shows you why. The building is essentially sited in at the bottom of a bowl right next to the water. Everything uphill of the building, especially those within a few blocks, will have some of their views of the water blocked.

      3. Adam, the Seattle “progressive” will never let someone’s view get between him and the bucks needed for that cool new espresso machine. Screw your views, and your neighborhood.

    2. “The message to most developers would seem to be that participating in City pilot projects is a bad idea.”

      Being a leader means that you get some criticism. To get it around height when you are doing something as radical as Living Building Challenge has to seem pretty banal to these professionals. Are people complaining about treating sewage onsite? Only in Seattle do you get people who are more concerned about height than drinking toilet water!

  3. The problem of course is that Stone34 is the only project that has tried to use the Living Building Program to get variances for height. Stone34 is not so much a participant in the Living Building Program, as the Living Building Program is an attempt to do an end-around for existing zoning. The LBP has been extended and relaxed, and yet Stone34 remains the only project.

    I think Stone34 is a fine project, but most of the understandable anger towards it is that it has never been presented honestly. It is not part of the Living Buildings Program so much as it is the only project in the entire city availing itself to the zone variances provided by the program. Why is that? I leave the answer as an exercise for the reader.

    1. Aren’t there only something like 10 living buildings completed in the world? And what about the Bullitt Foundation building? That’s a living building in Seattle – it’s even under construction.

      1. Looks like there are seven. It’s a fairly high standard for you to expect more than two right here in Seattle. Give it time – there will be more.

      2. Anyone who calls the Skansit carbuncle at 34th and Stoneway a “living building” is telling a lie, which of course is something that’s never stopped Seattle’s “progressives” until now.

    2. Because LBC is very difficult and expensive to achieve! You would be pretty silly to attempt it only to gain height variances. Really, it would be a lot easier to just build somewhere else to gain height.

  4. Ah yes, the building that:

    1. Will be almost twice as high as the neighborhood zoning allows for.

    2. Does not meet the living building standards.

    3. Is the subject of a zoning change bought and paid for by Skansa, a big developer.

    4. Will add huge amounts of traffic congestion to Fremont and Wallingford


    1. Twice as high? oh come on, let’s not get silly. Zoning is ’45, LBPP allows ’10, Skanska is asking for addtl ’10. Does NOT mean Living Building Challenge criteria, DOES meet the city’s Living Building Pilot Project criteria (with the height change).

  5. After I posted my earlier comment, the Seattle Times ran an article that does a fairly good job of laying out what is going on with this project.


    To repeat myself, I am not opposed to the project, but I don’t like the way the LBP is being used as a lever to provide the rationale for the variances that Skansa is asking for. It’s the tail wagging the dog. The project is sound in my opinion, even with the extra height, etc., but it isn’t a LBP design. It makes sense on its own terms (according to me, there are reasonable contrary points of view to be sure), but I can completely understand those who look at it and come to the conclusion that if you are big enough, have the right connections, etc., you can do what you want, and that creates unnecessary but completely reasonable disputes.

    North Lake/Lower Wallingford/Fremont is a place that probably should have buildings such as Stone34. It will, after all, be located adjacent to the transfer station, and won’t do anything to block views that couldn’t already be blocked according to current zoning standards (note, you don’t have a right to views, as anyone up and down Stone Way can tell you as more and more condos go up…bringing needed density to the city in a quasi-commercial corridor, but also blocking out current views). But…the stink of having special treatment being given to a building that doesn’t even come close to satisfying the requirements that would originally allow it to exceed building height restrictions is going to make folks angry, as it should. It smacks of pay to play, and that is what makes folks mad, and puts folks like me in a difficult position when I try to justify the project on its own terms, instead of the developer’s and city’s insistence on shoe-horning it into the LBP framework.

  6. To Matt the Engineer, if you think this is an actual LBP building, make your case. I don’t think it is, and to my knowledge, no one else does either. Instead, the developers are trying to use (severely relaxed) LBP allowances to get variances from the otherwise applicable codes. As the Seattle Times article linked to in my previous comment, the Bullitt Foundation is also of the opinion that this building doesn’t qualify for LBP treatment.

    That being said, I am not opposed to the project, but I am opposed to the way it is attempting to use LBP to justify its height increase and other variances. There are better, more honest ways to explain why increased height is necessary and desirable.

    1. You’re right, [funk], Seattle’s living building legislation is less restrictive than the actual standard. I did say I hadn’t been following this.

      But so what? Look at the Seattle standard. 25% reduction in energy use. 25% reduction in water use. 50% reduction in storm water. At what cost? We let them build a little higher? To me that’s like saying you have to pay for your pizza by eating ice cream.

      It’s amazing to me what people in Seattle can get upset about.

  7. The first real shot of vehicles (at 00:22 through 00:26) shows a bunch of bicyclists. How warm and fuzzy.

    How about mentioning that the garage apparently will hold 216 cars? (1.78 stalls per 1K sq. ft.)

  8. A million additional people moving to Fremont?

    Not likely…it’s already overbuilt and I think the tendancy for new business would be to move away to places like 6th Avenue Tacoma or the Oly areas where costs are still low.

    1. Something like this doesn’t scale well at 6th Ave. Can land be bought cheaper? Yes. However, is the market willing to pay for an expensive building? Not likely given the clientel. A critical mass hasn’t built up there yet, in large part because it’s not highly mixed-use and well served by transit, diversity of uses, and hyper centres that is present/near in Fremont. Fremont is highly UNDERBUILT. Look at the neighbourhood plan and comprehensive plan. It has a long way to go to even meet housing and job objectives let alone full buildout under current land use regulations.

      Also, who said anything about adding a million people in Fremont?

    1. Skaska is skirting what should be done w the project if it were to really be a “Living Building”. There is no on-site power generation, the building will dump thousands of gallons of ground-water (untreated) daily into Lake Union, and it is too big for the site. All of these are “no-no’s” in the Living Building challenge.

      Skanska and Brooks should be able to afford putting more into the building to lift it to a higher standard – which is what ILFI seeks.

      We need to begin paying for “sustainability” because in today’s model we externalize way too much of our costs. This project should not be let off the hook.

      We can and must do better.

      Cute film, though.

      (btw, i wonder if the expense of all this lobbying, PR and legal fees could have just paid for a solar addition to the project)

      1. What is this thing about the untreated groundwater? Where are you getting your info? What isn’t reused in the building will get pumped back, yes, just like any other building with low water table. Where do you think that water came from, anyway?

  9. This piece, “Reinventing the city: An interview with architect Rem Koolhaas” touches on the greener than thou hoopla:

    What is now called “green architecture” is an opportunistic caricature of a much deeper consideration of the issues related to sustainability that architecture has been engaged with for many years. It was one of the first professions that was deeply concerned with these issues and that had an intellectual response to them.

    The “Spaceship Earth” concept that emerged in the 1960s had a visionary awareness of the interdependency of things, and also of the need to be systematically frugal. I have more affinity with this tradition than with the current “greenness.”

    I thought the New Court design of the Rothschild Headquarters in London was an excellent example of how to blend in the new while enhancing the neighborhood character. Although I’m not really all that impressed with the rest of the rectangular glass and steel.

  10. This is a joke….. The collective kool-aid these self stroking yuppies are drinking is no doubt of the most potent and delusion causing kind. Density is not proven nor is smart growth. Rather than looking at reality, people and businesses like the suburbs and their carsm these kinds try to create a fantasy land in which only youngish white, hipsters and yuppies would like to live. Of course what saddens me is that figures in both the planning and design community have sold this crap to the public which will ultimately pay a heavy price for this fad. But alas the same types that promote buildings like this for the masses secretly drive their Mercedes SUV’s home to the burbs every night for some peace and quiet….

      1. I am not saying that cities are a fad. What is a fad is the ideological unilaterialism and zeal you find in the types that backs this type of development. The idea that everyone is just lining up to live in such development is total BS. The problem arises when the types that advocate this type of development smuggly assume that policy should cater to them and no one else. The cost and expenditures for failed mass transit programs along with failed policies such as the growth management act are extremely high. Rather than just accept that expensive, “green” and “hip” development like this will only occupy a small segment in the market the types that push these policies think that is some type of messianic solution to all of our problems (with out ever really addressing what reality tells us about human preferences, economics and what is empirically objective). In the end when we are worse of because we tried to force society to conform to this belief system those who have promoted such will become aware of the err in their ways. Of course on a more speculative dimension as I alluded I think the types that push this ideology are really just 19th century style elitists who believe that only the rich should own houses and drive cars while the masses of laborers are packed into cities to toil under their alleged benevolent supervision. Any which way I hope more people become aware of how much of a crock things like this are….

      2. This project is an office building. If you’re going to go off on an ideological rant, at least get your facts straight.

      3. Considering the rhetoric it proclaims, I am not the one going off an on ideological rant. If anything this short film clearly demonstrates the massive ideological overtones of this type of development, whether it be an office building lofts or anything else. It is both disturbing and strangely entertaining to the see types in this film proclaim their superiority over every one else. I have often wondered what is the psychology that could lead to such self absorbed nonsense. My guess is that the yuppy etc when young was excessively pampered by its overbearing parents and both developed a need for self aggrandizing praise and certain passive aggressiveness that is unique to the subspecies. Although similar in zeal to your average right wing religious type, there is a fascinating uniqueness to this type. I suppose to sum it up everything it does is “special”. It drive special cars, eats special foods and lives and works in special buildings. Hopefully, there will be just enough of this species left for future generations to preserve in zoo’s and museums, as I can no doubt assure you the riegn of their pompousness will not last……..

      4. Of course if you want facts. Right off the bat this little infomercial declares:

        Density is a proven superior to everything else.
        Smart growth is the best solution for all of our planning needs.
        Urban space is superior to everything else.
        Seattle is threatened by a huge (and likely exaggerated) population pressure.

        Frankly, I give more credibility to an ad for Camel Lights than I would anything this type says…..

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