The green city’s green building trends

Laura Ray / September 10, 2014

We Seattleites love to talk green, and last week, hundreds of us got together to chat sustainability and the built environment—all part of Bisnow’s “Sustainable Revolution” session. Many interesting trends were discussed, with the topic of energy leading the charge, along with healthy materials, lighting and employee comfort. Some key take-aways:

  1. Energy use and benchmarking. Energy use intensity (EUI’s) is the hot unit of measurement. As one panelist put it, “EUIs are like BMIs for buildings. And the city wants to put us on a diet.” Owners of multi-family and non-residential buildings are required to track and report their energy use to the city to help it reaches it goals. Seattle is one of a handful of city’s imposing benchmarks in the country. #leading
  2. Energy-performance guarantees. More and more, architects and general contractors are not only responsible for designing and building green projects, they are also contractually accountable for ensuring their performance. A recent example is the work that Sellen and ZGF did on Federal Center South, which one year later proved itself as one of the most energy efficient buildings of its kind in the country.
  3. Green as a business case. Most leading corporate commercial developers saw the green light a decade ago and have been reaping the benefits of sustainability from both a recruitment, retention and energy-saving perspective. But some multi-family developers have yet to jump on the green bandwagon, thinking energy savings are passed only to tenants. Ironically, the owners of these apartments typically cover costs for the common areas of the building, which equates to roughly half of the building’s total energy bill. Apartments today also tend to have a lot of common areas so the case for green has again made its point.
  4. Generation green. Today’s generation of workers are more consciousness of the environment than any before it. With that comes the demand for their living and work spaces to be sustainably minded. To be competitive, employers are realizing the value of sustainability to attract and retain employees, while at the same time increasing their productivity. A space with natural lighting, fresh air, access to the outdoors, with “healthy” materials creates an environment that people want to be, and work well in.
  5. The movement to pre-fab. Today’s pre-fab construction is not your grandparent’s pre-fab construction (no offense). It’s come a long way in terms of aesthetic, materiality, quality and durability. It’s being used in both small and large scale projects and across building types as a cost-effective solution in that is minimizes waste and time. A recent example are the nine green modular SAGE schools that were installed for the Edmonds School District by Pacific Mobile Structure.

Laura Original copyAbout Laura Ray 

Proud mom. Senior Vice President . @DiPSeattle board member. Outdoor & underwater enthusiast. Design junkie. Lover of local food, wine and travel. Believer in all things green.


Laura Ray

Laura Ray

Senior Consultant

Laura knows the architecture, engineering and contractor world better than anyone. And her passion for sustainability runs through every Fearey initiative. Her built clients have included Perkins+Will Seattle, Sellen Construction, Studio Meng Strazzara and the Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Prior to joining Fearey, she served as PR Director for Callison Seattle and Senior PR Manager overseeing PR efforts for NBBJ globally. She moved to Seattle 15+ years ago to help open the Frank Gehry-designed Experience Music Project while at another agency. Laura lives in the artsy Fremont neighborhood in Seattle with her husband and two children.

When’s she’s not working, you can find her running, biking, hiking, paddling, skiing or remodeling their mid-century modern bungalow. Laura also served on the Board for Design in Public, an extension of the AIA Seattle.