Council Committee Approves Changes to Green ‘Living Building’ Pilot

s047561Source: Council Connection 09/21

The Council’s Planning, Land Use & Zoning committee unanimously (3-0) approved improvements to the City’s Living Building Pilot Program today, intended to encourage development of some of the most energy efficient buildings in the world. A “living building” is the next generation of “green building,” in which development projects are made of sustainable materials and use only as much energy and resources as they able to generate on-site.  In order to meet the rigorous performance standards of the Living Building Challenge, buildings generally rely upon innovative building techniques that can substantially increase design complexity and often require alternative building massing.  The pilot program extension approved today will continue to allow design incentives and flexibility for up to 20 unique “living buildings” to be developed in Seattle by 2025.

“The world is watching Seattle as an incubator for innovation in the Green Building Movement. Today’s changes allow for more projects to qualify under Green Building standards to further reduce our environmental footprint,” said Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle), the legislation’s sponsor.

The changes to the existing Living Building program were informed by the City’s Living Building Technical Advisory Group after the Group heard feedback about barriers program participants face. Changes include:

  • Consolidating the disparate green building requirements into one chapter in the Seattle Land Use Code
  • Simplifying program requirements
  • Reducing financial penalties for not meeting program requirements
  • Creating predictability for granted additional development capacity and height

The Living Building Pilot allows developers to request additional departures from the Seattle Land Use Code through Design Review for buildings attempting to meet stringent environmental standards, including reducing energy usage, water usage or capturing and reusing storm water on site.  To date, two projects have met the Living Building program requirements, the Stone 34 project in Wallingford and the Bullitt Center building on Capitol Hill.

“Seattle is in the midst of a building boom, yet we haven’t seen any new projects move beyond the design stage for these innovative buildings. We’ve adopted some reasonable changes today that, I hope, will encourage more self-sustaining green buildings throughout our city,” Johnson added.

The Full Council is scheduled to consider the Living Building Pilot legislation at its 2 p.m. meeting on October 3, 2016.