“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
At the 2006 annual meeting of the United States Conference of Mayors, top executives from four cities introduced the Architecture 2030 plan and the conference adopted it shortly thereafter. One of those executives was Greg Nickels, then the mayor of Seattle. The ambitious plan has struggled against economic and oversight shortfalls since its acceptance at the USCM meeting in 2006, specifically the lofty goal of reducing the carbon footprint of all new buildings by 60 percent by the year 2010.
Seattle’s own 2030 District plan, so named for the intention of rendering the city carbon-neutral by the year 2030, is only now gaining traction. This year, the Seattle 2030 project goes into full-swing, focusing on the downtown core but reaching into the busiest parts of Capitol Hill and First Hill.
Architecture 2030 is a non-profit organization whose principles are based largely on the work of Edward Mazria, a leader within the American Institute of Architects. According to Architecture 2030 and confirmed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, buildings take up the majority of the energy produced in this country and put out the most carbon dioxide of any sector, including industry and transportation. The 2030 District plan would change the way new buildings are constructed and would retrofit existing buildings to reduce their carbon footprint.
Seattle’s current plan concentrates on the densest parts of the city. Seattle 2030 stretches from South Lake Union, Seattle Center and the waterfront, to Pioneer Square, Yesler Terrace, and the Pike/Pine corridor. Currently 31 property owners are actively participating in the project, several of which are based in Capitol Hill, such as Bellwether Housing.
The City of Seattle has made it clear that the 2030 District program is far from a mandate. It is not tied to any legislation or executive orders. Rather, it is designed to offer incentives to businesses and property owners who wish to participate. In addition to those property owners and developers named as participants, there are 33 organizations currently on the list of Professional Stakeholders. These stakeholders get the opportunity to influence legislation as zoning and permitting laws develop. They also get a potentially profitable place on the so-called “Preferred Consultant Roster for Professional Services” produced by Seattle 2030, as well as being some of the first eyes on upcoming renovation projects.
Both in the Seattle District and the national Architecture 2030 plan, the current timeline for changes in new and existing buildings has its first goal in the year 2015. The goal for existing buildings is to reduce energy, water, and CO2 consumption by 10 percent of the national average by 2015, while new buildings developed with the program in mind should reduce those levels by 60 percent. Architecture 2030 believes it will be possible to bring existing buildings to a 50 percent reduction and render all new buildings entirely carbon neutral (a 100 percent reduction) by the year 2030.
The Seattle District has decided to split some of its goals between national and local averages. Specifically, it compares the Seattle District to the national average for energy consumption, but sets goals for water and carbon energy consumption to district averages. The Seattle District documents claim that there is no national or local water use or carbon energy use database, unlike for energy consumption. The United States Geological Survey has maintained a water use database for decades, but it only accounts for overall use in cities and other regions rather than for water used by buildings specifically.
The water use question is going to be a major factor in Capitol Hill. According to Seattle Public Utilities and the Partnership for Water Conservation, restaurants are the top consumers of water of any kind of building, going through an average of 119 gallons of water per employee every single day. Capitol Hill’s sheer density of eateries is already garnering national attention. The Zagat restaurant rating system alone lists 74 restaurants in the neighborhood and does not claim to maintain an exhaustive roster.
The Hill fares a bit better in terms of the 2030 District transit goals. Mass transit options like rail and bus lines, especially the partially electric buses serving much of the neighborhood, compare very favorably to the carbon footprint of cars. Capitol Hill is also very highly rated for ease of walking, which naturally has the lowest carbon footprint of any mode of transportation. Currently, the Hill has a rating of 94 out of 100 by the nationally recognized service Walk Score.
The Seattle 2030 District has several public meetings planned for the rest of the year. Tonight, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is hosting 2013′s first Eco-Hour to discuss the best practices for sustainability in construction and business. Next month, the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects and Architecture 2030 will be holding the first of a ten-part series of talks for professionals at Seattle City Hall. Later in the month, the Seattle 2030 District Education Task Force will meet to discuss February’s issues and invite others to join their effort. All future events will be listed on the Seattle 2030 website.