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PROVEN Buildings that benefit their ecosystems TR A NSFORM ATION A L THOUGHT


THE YWCA FAMILY VILLAGE: Where Affordable Housing Meets Sustainable Design TR A NSFORM ATION A L PEOPLE

MAJORA CARTER: An Environmental Justice Champion

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T R A N S F O R M AT I O N A L D E S I G N by patti southard

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Affordable Housing Meets Sustainable Design By patti southard



Majora Carter: Eco-Entrepreneur By joanna gangi

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A Green Building Milestone By jason f. mclennan

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A City’s Guide to Getting Started By kathleen o’brien & katie spataro

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Features 48

Living Buildings in Ireland


Green Roofs and Walls: Their Social Benefits

B y brian t. o ’ brien

B y steven peck and damon van der linde


Out For Sustainability


Shade for Everyone: A Leader’s Role in Social Justice

B y G erod R ody

B y paul werder


From Vacant City Lots to Food on the Table: How to Grow Food Where We Need It B y madeline ostrander

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Nuts & Bolts 56

Moving Upstream: Progress in


FWD: Read This!


Event Calendar

The Bioregion and Beyond!


PROVEN The World’s First Certified Living Buildings


Fall 2010

Proven: A visionary path to a restorative future

The Living Building Challenge℠, widely regarded as the world’s most rigorous green building performance standard, has redefined the design and construction process for more than seventy projects since its launch in 2006. On October 12, 2010, the International Living Building Institute announced the results of its first third-party certification audits, declaring that the world’s first ‘Living Buildings’ are finally a reality. The Omega Center for Sustainable Living  in Rhinebeck, NY, and the Tyson Living Learning Center in Eureka, MO, each earned full certification, or ‘Living’ status. Additionally, Eco-Sense, a private residence in Victoria, BC, earned partial program certification, ‘Petal Recognition’, for achieving four of the six stringent ‘Petals’ included in version 1.3 of the Liv-

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ing Building Challenge. Together, the accomplishments of these three projects mark a pivotal turning point in the green building movement, proving that buildings can be designed and built to benefit the ecosystems they inhabit. The accomplishments of these pioneering teams are a victory for all of us. They have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the built environment can thrive in tandem with the ecosystems it inhabits. They’ve demonstrated that building occupants can be wise stewards of the resources that support their homes, offices, and classrooms. They’ve created a new model of what’s possible when talented and dedicated people devote themselves to creating a world that is culturally rich, socially just, and ecologically restorative. 









energy, health site, water Fall 2010

Proven: A visionary path to a restorative future

THE OMEGA CENTER FOR SUSTAINABLE LIVING Rhinebeck, New York Omega provides innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit. The Center for Sustainable Living is a wastewater filtration facility that is designed to use the treated water for garden irrigation and in a greywater recovery system. Omega will use the system and building as a teaching tool in their educational program designed around the ecological impact of their campus. “Omega is thrilled to have crossed the finish line, and hopeful that projects like ours will mark a new era in sustainable design, one that reflects a truly integrated approach to creating built environments that are in harmony with the natural world.” - SKIP BACKUS, CEO at Omega

TYSON LIVING LEARNING ENTER Eureka, Missouri Tyson provides: a landscape-scale experimental venue for studies on ecosystem sustainability; an outdoor laboratory for important research and teaching opportunities from Washington University and other institutions; and research and educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students related to the environment and sustainability. “One of the most rewarding aspects of receiving Living Building Certification is that it formally recognizes the exceptional commitment it took to complete this project. From design and construction through over 16 months of commissioning and performance monitoring, achieving this goal required the full dedication of everyone involved in the project.” - KEVIN G. SMITH, Associate Director, Tyson Research Center

ECOSENSE Victoria, British Columbia The creation of Eco-Sense was the dream of Ann and Gord Baird to build a sustainable home for their three-generation family of six. A home that functions as a part of the eco-system where there is no line that separates where the dwelling ends and where nature begins. “Imagine working on a project where the only emissions generated came from human breath. The positive examples set by our home have inspired many others to build in similar ways or to incorporate aspects of Eco-Sense into their existing homes.” - ANN BAIRD, Owner

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REFLECTIONS on a Green Building Milestone On October 12, 2010, the International Living Building Institute celebrated a giant leap forward for the Living Building Challenge and for the green building movement as a whole. Our third-party auditors completed their review of three projects and determined that two, the Tyson Living Learning Center and the Omega Center for Sustainable Living, had earned full certification under Living Building Challenge 1.3. A third project, Eco-Sense, received Petal Recognition for achieving all of the requirements related to Water, Site, Health and Beauty. What some people had said was impossible is now an undeniable reality. The Living Building Challenge is now a proven strategy for redefining the built environment. In the days since we issued our press release, many people have asked me: “don’t you feel proud that this thing you created has now come to fruition?”


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This question strikes me as strange, although I understand why people ask it. While it certainly feels good to have arrived at this moment, I can’t say that pride is what I feel. What I’m feeling, if I’m honest, is lucky, thankful – blessed even. I learned some time ago that ideas come from mysterious places. Whether it’s music, prose or really any idea – it is something that flows through you, if you are open to receiving it. While it has taken a lot of hard work to move the idea of the Living Building Challenge from concept to program, in the end I can’t forget that the original idea that began it all was a gift, and feeling too much pride for a creative act that flowed through me, well, somehow that never seemed right to me. Throughout my career I’ve ‘followed my bliss’ in the words of Joseph Campbell and been open to possibilities

Proven: A visionary path to a restorative future

and opportunities. As Campbell promises, when you do that, you put yourself into contact with others who can assist you – like ‘invisible helping hands’ – along the way.

what they’ve achieved and thankful for their willingness to move the needle this far. Now that these first projects are built, a larger number will follow – emboldened in the idea that “if they can pull this off, so I came from a mid-sized mining town in Northern On- can I”. I believe that the success of these first projects tario and somehow ended up at the University of Oregon will create greater demand and that we’ll see more Livsurrounded by the best sustainability-minded professors ing Building projects emerge as a result. in the country. Then I found myself in Kansas City working for the grandfather of green design: my mentor and I’m thankful, as well, for the incredible team at the Intergreat collaborator Bob Berkebile. It was there that the two national Living Building Institute and Cascadia –Eden of us began developing the Living Building idea almost a Brukman, most of all, for holding the program together decade and a half ago – before LEED even existed. and helping to give it more depth – but also for the whole team who have believed in what we were doing. Then suddenly, and just as strangely to me at times, I ended up in Seattle leading the Cascadia Green Build- I would like to leave with this thought: ing Council. When I think back on launching the Living Building Challenge at GreenBuild in November of 2006, The point of the Living Building Challenge was never it still seems hazy – all the more so because so many peo- about merely being the world’s first ; it was not a race ple have decided to take up the Challenge, first in the US to be won, but rather a vision to be embraced. It was aland Canada and now increasingly around the world. ways about sparking a transformation of how we build everything in the world by showing what was possible. And now here we are, and I simply feel thankful. The true mission of the Challenge is to “make that Thankful that there were people brave enough to push which we hope to replace obsolete”, as Buckminster hard against the current paradigm and willing to create Fuller once said. So while this milestone is incredible, buildings that truly inspire hope. These buildings, like it is merely the start of something else, something even lighthouses, point us towards a safe landing in the fu- greater: the opening of a gate to the future. ture. The first three projects to go through certification have acted as the prow of an ice-breaking ship, requir- Even as we celebrate the certification of these projects, ing incredibly strong hulls to survive and creating safe we turn our energy, passion and open spirits to propassage for those that follow. Behind them are another moting the rise of Living Buildings, Sites and Commubatch of projects that we hope to certify within a year – nities in every state and every country. The achievedifferent building types in different climate zones. ments of Omega, Tyson and Eco-Sense point us to a future that, hopefully, will allow us to say that “this is I am thankful to all of them: the owners, who were brave simply how we build. “ enough to sit with the uncertainty of cost and time inherent in a program that had never been achieved; the Please join me in celebrating and thanking the teams design teams who went through a radically different de- responsible for the world’s first Living Buildings. And sign process for the first time; the contractors who had thank you for supporting this vision. to unlearn standard operating procedures and relearn a new way of building; and, in many cases, the local ofjason f. mclennan is the CEO of the ficials who had to go beyond their usual paradigm and Cascadia Green Building Council. He is buck the pressure to simply say “no you can’t do that”. the creator of the Living Building ChalThey are all heroes in my mind. I think that all of us in the green building movement should be humbled by

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lengesm, as well as the author of three books, including his latest: Zugunruhe.


b y pat t i s o u t h a r d

The YWCA Family Village Where Affordable Housing Meets Sustainable Design

“Eliminating racism and empowering women” is the tag line for the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish counties– undeniably a lofty mission and a big job. Providing safe and affordable green housing helps achieve this mission, and the YWCA’s current “Family Village” project is a big step in that direction. Since March of 2006 I have had the pleasure of working with a unique team of people to create a vision for zero energy and integration of economic models. This team is charged with creating a Built Green 5 star and LEED Gold certified campus integrating two types of housing developments into The Issaquah Zero Energy Village. Nestled in the foothills of the Cascades, affordable rental housing within the YWCA Family Village and market rate for-sale townhomes called zHome (www.z-home. org) come together to create community. The YWCA Family Village in Issaquah, Washington, will be home to approximately 400 people—working families, people with disabilities and seniors – who are seeking an affordable place to live, raise children,


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age comfortably, build fulfilling lives and contribute to their community. In the early stages of planning, this was one of those projects focused on mid levels of certification and sustainability, but with a change in presidential administration it had the opportunity to become even more sustainable through added technology like condensing boilers, increased insulation and domestic hot water preheat. With stimulus funds to support these strategies, the YWCA Family Village was on the road to higher achievements. The Family Village at Issaquah is made up of 159,000 plus square feet of space: 141,300 sf of residential and 18,400 sf of nonresidential services space. It is currently in the construction phase and is expected to be completed Fall 2011. During 2007, the City of Issaquah competitively selected the YWCA as the preferred developer of a large-scale affordable housing project that had been 12 plus years in the making—starting with King County’s requirement to locate affordable housing within the master planned community now known as the Issaquah

Transformational design

the ywca as an organization? Integrated in an economically healthy neighborhood, YWCA Family Village at Issaquah will not be separate housing for low-income people. Instead, through the thoughtful design of spaces and services it will nurture a true feeling of connectedness and community. We know that this is what fosters sustainable change in people. It will advance the YWCA’s mission and vision for all people by reducing the stigma of poverty and promoting positive networks, opportunity and life with dignity for the 210 adults and 190 children who will call it home. I am excited about the green construction and green

The site layout is designed to encourage community engagement and walkability. Photo Credit: SMR Architects

Highlands. Through extensive negotiations and commitment to the vision, the City successfully acquired a 2.4 acre parcel that could be conveyed to the YWCA at no charge. The value of this land and the fee waivers approved by the City exceeded $7 million. It has been a personal goal of mine in the last 15 years of working on green and “not so green” buildings to have an influence on affordable and homeless housing projects. As a child growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, I witnessed some of the worst in affordable housing. The model of putting projects in the bleakest brownfields, with no trees and no design aesthetic, ran wild, and it became my dearest ambition to change this pattern. So I am honored to be part of the YWCA Family Village, as it breaks the old molds and creates a new model for doing business.

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Cutting-edge green building strategies and technologies haven’t been readily available to the social equity piece of sustainability – some may say the missing leg of the 3-legged stool. The YWCA Family Village aims to reach this missing piece. This is an uphill battle, and this project shows that it is attainable, but it also serves as a reminder that we need to push even further to reach higher sustainability standards. The YWCA Family Village demonstrates that affordable housing can indeed be built in a sustainable fashion – proving by example that everyone can in fact have equal access to the benefits of green building. Building the YWCA Village and zHome in conjunction with each other created a living laboratory that will in-


form future projects. We have gained a lot of knowledge reviewing strategies between the two developments. Things that may not work for zHome might be integrated into the YWCA and vice versa. For example, when we were proposing to design zHome with advanced framing techniques, we looked at rock board for the outside walls. Ultimately zHome ended up incorporating FSC certified panels instead, but the rock board is being used in the construction of the YWCA Village. We also were able to reduce costs on both projects by re-designing the sites collectively; those cost savings are now going into interpretive signage throughout the sites. Currently the two project teams are engaged in the development of a Stewardship Center, the zHome project will host a demonstration unit for five years upon opening. This unit will then be sold to the YWCA at the current affordable housing rate to become home for an ad-

ditional family sponsored through the YWCA system. The Stewardship Center is not only going to be a training center – so to speak – but a dwelling that completely integrates the two financial building types as a campus. When considering about how the zHome and the YWCA Family Village influenced each other in the design phase, Linda Hall, Project Manager and Owner representative of the YWCA Family Village at Issaquah, notes that “constant communication and ecocharettes helped with technical learnings of possible green features such as storm water run-off and geothermal strategies.” Brad T. Liljequist, project manager of zHome, notes that “urban design integration of the two projects has always been a focus and attention has been given to that throughout. Both projects will include reused stormwater as part of the landscaping resulting in a common design theme linking the proj-




























Fall 2010




ects.” He goes onto to say that the “zHome challenged the Family Village to reach high on energy goals – there was early planning work done to potentially achieve net zero energy on the YWCA - and though we didn’t get to zero in the Family Village, it certainly helped pave the way for getting as far as we did.” There is no doubt that the two projects influenced each other and will provide a more balanced community in a seamless way. The Family Village is striving to meet the overarching social equity goals for the YWCA. Linda Hall remarks that “by integrating the project in an economically healthy neighborhood, it will not be separate housing for low-income people. Instead, through the thoughtful design of spaces and services, it will nurture a true feeling of connectedness and community. We know that this is what fosters sustainable change in people.” Green living components will also provide healthier and sustainable choices for the families living there. These components include (among other things): »» »» »»

A transit-oriented community; Environmental education beginning at early stages for children; Water conservation strategies that include high efficiency fixtures and no potable water for irrigation;

PROJECT STATS • 2.4-acre site located in Issaquah Highlands • 146 units of workforcs housing for families, 0 – 3 bedrooms • Childcare center for 150 children • YWCA regional offices • Issaquah Highlands Community Rooms • An employment and job training center • Resident community center building • Community outreach services

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Increased indoor air quality made possible by installing responsible materials, and composting and recycling centers in every residential kitchen.

A major goal for the Family Village is to create durability of systems and materials that are based on existing organizational values of the YWCA. The project has had some wins and some disappointments, but this goal was always on the table with the YWCA asking the entire development team: “Can we create a 100 year building? What decisions can we make now to minimize future investment? How can we improve the living environment and utility costs for the residents?” Tom Marseille, sustainability consultant on the project, notes, “you would be hard pressed to find many developers who plan to own and operate their development for the long haul, but that is business as usual for the YWCA. Successful developers balance first cost against those features and amenities needed to rapidly turnover a property after construction is complete. Their financing model generally dictates there to be an accelerated design and construction timeline and green design approaches too often tend to be more tack-on features that only get incorporated when there is a perceived business advantage. The YWCA, of course has fundamentally different goals, and while first cost is still a primary factor, they have been able to also specifically invest in bringing green to affordable housing, and have been interested in exploring any and all strategies that help further that goal.” It is fortunate that SMR Architects was selected to be on the design team, as they specialize in affordable housing, and social equity issues are a major driver in their design concepts. Poppi Handy, project architect, reflects on this sentiment: “Social equity is naturally embedded in our projects. Throughout design and the life time of our projects, we strive to give the underserved settings that reflect their fundamental equality with everyone else. I try to integrate the site design into the surrounding neighborhood, providing amenities for the residents and community.” Working on this innovative project has taught Handy how to merge specific sustainability goals with a diverse set


DESIGN TEAM • Owner: YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish Counties • Architect: SMR Architects • Landscape: Berger Partnership • Civil: Springline Design LLC • Structural: Swenson Say Faget • Mechanical: Sider & Byers • Electrical: Travis Fitzmaurice • Sustainibility: Stantec/O’Brien and Company • Contractor: Walsh Construction Co. • Child Development: SABA Architects

of standards required for affordable housing, such as meeting a broad range of community housing needs by designing for targeted populations. There are many unique considerations when building with social equity in mind. Tom Marseille contends that project teams have to continually ask themselves if the idea of equal access is being fully incorporated in the design and if the project will provide lasting public good. “Imperatives contained in the Equity petal of the Living Building Challenge are useful in that they provide some quantitative measures that can help guide a project. But the topic is, in my opinion, large and multi-layered and still not well understood by most of the construction industry. Strategies that are well intended and may be perceived as more equitable by some may not be by others.” The YWCA Family Village is certainly a pioneering project for affordable housing. Though it isn’t aiming to meet the highest levels of restorative design (i.e. the Living Building Challenge) it is paving the way for an under-represented group to claim a place in the green building movement. The accomplishments of this project and the generosity of spirit evinced by every-


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one involved are nothing short of astonishing. “I’ve witnessed a collective green heart shared by everyone involved on the project, and see that heart accomplishing great things in a milieu that has too often been ignored; out of the park on social equity, sustainable education programs by both to the YWCA Village and broader community, highly durable systems and careful material choices, 40% water conservation relative to the LEED baseline, highly efficient integrated design of the building envelope, lighting and HVAC, solar thermal for domestic hot water, and provisions for additional PV in the future. We need to learn from this project so we better understand how to raise our game on the next similar project” states Marseille. It makes me wonder how we can help other affordable and transitional housing projects achieve these standards and greater. As the YWCA raises the bar for lowering energy usage, water reduction and healthier finishes, it also does something few projects do; it inspires a stronger and more progressive cultural shift. In order to build community and eliminate issues of class, race and gender inequities, we need to merge multiple stakeholder groups together until there is no differentiation based on who lives where. Even the green design community has moved slowly in making this cultural shift. Happily, opportunities coming from the stimulus package have allowed us to reprioritize an underserved audience in a more meaningful way. As our team proceeds to the planning of the Stewardship Center on the zHome site, we have become more evolved leaders because of the YWCA Village. We have become greater champions for social equity. Who knows - maybe our next project will be a Living Building?

PATTI SOUTHARD is Project Manager of King County GreenTools and creative director for the internationally acclaimed EcoCool Remodel Tool. Patti is currently president of  Northwest Natural Resource Group, and board member for the EcoVillage in New Orleans, LA.

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Designed for your needs, delivered to your office.

Living Building Challenge SM In-the-House is an in-person introductory workshop designed to share the tenets of the Challenge with advanced practitioners throughout the United States and Canada. Learning Objectives:

Identify the key components of the Living Building Challenge

Describe the Living Building Challenge Community resources and certification process

Discuss the rationale for restorative design principles

Understand successful strategies for compliance with each performance area (Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity, and Beauty)

Recognize financial, regulatory and behavioral barriers and incentives related to hight performance design

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b y joanna gangi

MAJORA CARTER Imagine a neighborhood with clean air, safe places for children to play and abundant green spaces – all the attributes of a healthy community. Many people lack these basic amenities and I ask myself why? Are these fundamental needs not the rights of all people? Majora Carter has spent a large part of her life fighting for environmental justice and promoting the idea that “you don’t have to


Fall 2010

move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one.” As a child growing up in the South Bronx, she watched her once thriving neighborhood disintegrate under the weight of poverty, industrial waste, and the worst kind of urban planning. Subsequently, pollution rose, health rates declined and the economy weakened. Carter began fighting for the revitalization of the South Bronx and secured a $1.25 million Federal grant to re-

T ransformational people

photo credit: james burling chase

develop the South Bronx waterfront in hopes of bringing environmental improvements to her community. To continue this fight, Carter founded the Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx), a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming underserved urban communities into sustainable places to live. Her work at SSBx boosted the creation of environmental education

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programs, green job training and community projects. Carter now serves as the President of the Majora Carter Group, where she concentrates her efforts on environmental remediation with clients. People like Majora Carter make me believe that a healthy and sustainable community is indeed attainable for all people. Her work promotes the idea that a collaborative model


where government, developers (business & industry) and community unite to create environmental justice is attainable. A clean green economy can exist where all people can thrive and live healthy sustainable lives. Majora talks to Trim Tab about revitalizing communities and promoting environmental justice for all societies. TRIM TAB: There is a major social equity gap in the environmental movement. Why do you think that has been the case? What can we do to make our movement more inclusive? majora carter: Most real social change in societies comes from the advancement of equality. The American Revolution, the Suffrage movement, Labor Rights, Civil Rights, even the internet. The environmental movement has traditionally left people behind in environmental sacrifice zones, which are almost always populated by poor people – usually non-white, but not always. So, for instance, while the environmental movement may have had past successes in getting land preserved or automobile emissions cleaner, it has not worked as hard to ensure that working-class people living near preserved land can make a living through sustainable stewardship of the area, nor have the oil refineries near where poor people live become any less toxic. If we had located our power, waste, transport, and megaagriculture infrastructure near wealthy people like we have with poor people, we would have had a clean, green economy decades ago. Instead, the environmental movement turned its back on the point sources of green house gases and pollution in favor of their own backyards and favorite animal species. The public health stats illustrate this phenomenon quite clearly. If we can turn the “Environmental” movement into and “Environmental Equality” movement, I believe new allies will come on board with more passion and tenacity than we’ve seen before. Clean air, water, and


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land is not evenly distributed. Poor people are more likely to breathe dirtier air, drink dirtier water, and live, work or go to school on toxic soils. The hunger for equality will always be greater than support for “Cap and Trade” or some other effort that has no tie to the lives of people. If we bring everyone together for Environmental equality, many of the traditional environmentalists’ goals will surely be met as well. TT: As you have said, economic degradation begets environmental degradation, which begets social degradation. What do you see as the key leverage points for breaking that cycle? mc: I think comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the long term consequences of environmental management is the best place to start. For example, look at coal country in West Virginia: You have a traditionally poor rural area, so you can assume the people there have little to no political power. Mountain top removal strip mining moves in and destroys their water table and their air quality while producing very few jobs. So now they have no cheap clean water supply, dirty air and continuing unemployment. It adds up to hopelessness which leads to drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, poor school performance among kids, increased teen pregnancy, etc. These problems all cost a lot to combat, but the company pulling the coal out of the area does not pay, taxpayers do. If we look at the 2 – 4 years worth of coal energy produced in such an operation, against all the social and environmental services costs in the context of quality, it’s not economic development in any rational sense of the word. I think this template can be applied to everything from shopping malls to feed lots and that positive alternatives to bad projects will make better economic sense when we first look at the fallout from inequalities among our fellow Americans that a given proposal might produce. TT: What is your message to people living in underserved neighborhoods who want to make a difference but may not know where to start or have the appropriate resources?

photo credit: sundance channel

mc: Your local elected officials and your fire, police and parks departments are there for you and most of them really do care – but you have to engage them in a constructive manner. Start by talking among your friends about what you would like to see different in your area. This is not just for “underserved” neighborhoods – all communities can benefit from some intelligent discussion. So, if it’s a traffic light that doesn’t give enough time to cross a dangerous intersection, a truck route near residences, not enough green space, or locating a landfill, power plant, or other noxious infrastructure near people, it all matters. Start with the people responsible for your area and see what you can accomplish. Not everyone will respond, but that might mean your approach is not appropriate for what they can do. Make sure you ask, they will probably say yes. Positive momentum can go a long way. When I wrote a $1.25M federal transportation planning grant, I had no idea what I was doing. But I kept the conversation alive in various settings and asked for help. People came out of the bureaucratic woodwork to guide the process and help shape the language for the system. It worked, and today the project has secured over $20M in local funds and another $30M in Federal Stimulus funding (shovel ready). This is more money for a project designed with positive community projects in mind than the South Bronx has seen in almost a century. But it all started with regular people talking constructively to one another. TT: You’ve said that the economic and environmental injustices inflicted on the South Bronx were a direct product of urban planning. When you look at large scale urban planning projects going on now, do you see signs of improvement? mc: Not really. I think the use of eminent domain to promote purely private development is a disturbing national trend. Government subsidized stadium construction is often lurking in the shadows of these un-

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“you don’t have to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better one.”


democratic land deals. In my hometown, we watched with disbelief as New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg and our former Borough President Adolfo Carrion supported a new Yankee stadium to be built on an 18 acre public park with trees over 100 years old – all gone now. This is the richest baseball team in a part of the city with the lowest parks to people ratio. Both of these characters are running around the country promoting themselves as “green” now. I can’t think of any current large scale projects that are going to bring about more equality.

His administration purchased large tracts of suburban land in anticipation of the sprawling slums that ringed the city. The DOT connected the land via bike/pedestrian routes to local shopping areas and mass transit hubs – but no automobile access except for emergency and delivery vehicles.

In a short time, developers were putting private investments into housing along these non-auto routes. Simple, resident generated community improvements were implemented in the existing poor neighborhoods; while relatively higher income Bogotaños The real intelligent planning and execution is happen- occupied most of the new housing. ing on a community/neighborhood level. This is where the real heroes are, but they remain largely unsung. I am Bike repair and juice stands opened along the routes – currently putting together a new TV series with Sun- owned and operated by previously unemployed people. dance Channel to highlight these innovative attempts. Police spent less time on car theft and more time on community. Public health improved. Everybody gained, TT: You’ve identified the players involved in making and I hear it’s gotten better since I was there in 2005. the triple bottom line work for development projects: developer, community, government. Can you think TT: The International Living Building Institute is of an example when these three entities have really hosting the Living City Design Competition. The come together for the greater good? competition calls on designers, students and activists from around the world to create inspiring but realismc: Yes of course, my favorite is Bogotá Colombia. In tic visions for the future of civilization. Competition the late 90’s while Enrique Peñalosa was Mayor, he teams will conceptually retrofit existing cities, demontook a hard look at how much money was going into strating how real communities might transform their transport infrastructure and who was benefiting. He relationship with the resources that sustain them. didn’t have much money to work with, so he looked for low cost investments that would produce the high- What do you think the most important consideration should be for teams working on this competition? Do est quality of life impact.

“I come from the most ‘urban’ place in the U.S. but I have directly comparable experiences to people in rural areas and places in between.”


Fall 2010

you think communities like yours in the South Bronx would be interested in this kind of visioning process? mc: I think that people in communities across America, who currently experience environmental inequality, would be interested in seeing the teams demonstrate how to transform the relationship with resources that sustain others. How do we remove the unequal environmental burdens that currently befall some people disproportionately?

TT: Your personal story is a major source of inspiration to many people who have felt marginalized by the green movement. What have you learned along the way that surprised you the most? mc: I learned that my message plays just as well in “Red” States as they do in “Blue” States – based on the heartfelt personal reactions I get. I come from the most “urban” place in the US, but I have directly comparable experiences to people in rural areas and places in between. The solutions are often based in shared experience too.

Beyond that, locally maintained horticultural infrastructure should be integrated into all new and reno- I am so happy to see that an idea like “you don’t have vated buildings & landscape design. The technology to move out of your neighborhood to live in a better is there to utilize greywater, manage storm water run one”, is gaining ground everywhere! off, incorporate hi-yield agricultural systems, reduce urban heat island effect, and more.

J oanna G angi is empowered by

The effects of smart policies that incorporate those environmental services cost savings in the mix would be a great thing to see – what would the government savings over the typical 20 year municipal bond issue be?

the fantastic beauty of nature residing in Seattle where she works at Cascadia as the Communications Coordinator and Trim Tab Managing Editor. | 503.804.1746

We can help make your home and environment better through energy efficiency.

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Andrew Morphis


Certified Passive House Consultants.



Visualizing the Future of Civilization The International Living Building Institute invites the world’s most talented and daring designers, planners, artists and animators to create a new global vision: a breathtaking, compelling model for the future of civilization. All entries must comply explicitly with all 20 Imperatives of the Living Building Challenge SM 2.0. COMPETITION PRESENTED BY:

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The tyranny of the big and the beauty of the small: how scale determines sustainability

photo: Fall“The 2010View from Burj Dubai”, © 2010 shebanx 26

Transformational TH OUGHT

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.” —E.F. SCHUMACHER

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900 800

The World’s Tallest



600 500


Burj Khalifa



Taipei 101



Shanghai World Financial Centre

Dubai, UAE

Taipei, Taiwan

Shanghai, China



International Commerce Centre Hong Kong, Hong Kong



Petronas Twin Towers Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


828 m 162 floors 2010

508 m 101 floors 2004

492 m 101 floors 2008

484 m 108 floors 2010

The world’s tallest built structure, Burj Khalifa, looms 2,717 feet over Dubai’s central business district, boasting the human species’ modern architectural and engineering capabilities. This glass-andsteel behemoth outstretches Chicago’s Willis Tower by 1,266 feet and is more than 2.5 times the height of the Eiffel Tower.

452 m 88 floors 1998

is reminiscent of an exaggerated line graph that begins at zero before shooting sharply upward to its highest point then plummeting dramatically back to nothing.

In my opinion, Burj Khalifa’s silhouette stands as a poetic – and prophetic – representation of the past and future of ridiculously oversized ways of building and living. The tower’s profile reminds us that we beLess significant than its stature, though, is Burj Khali- gan our architectural history by designing modestfa’s profile. Viewed from any angle, the building’s shape sized dwellings (close to the earth and the y-axis)


Fall 2010

The Righteousness of Scale In his book, Small is Beautiful, E.F. Schumacher delivered compelling arguments in favor of appropriate scale. “Man is small, and, therefore, small is beautiful,” he wrote. First published nearly four decades ago, the book is equally if not more relevant today. While Schumacher’s thesis was aimed primarily at 1970’s economics, his assertions apply perfectly to 21st-century supersizing trends. Environmentalists still relate to Schumacher’s message that a person or a thing need only be as big as required to fulfill its intended function. Otherwise, beauty, meaning and accountability are lost.

image via flickr creative commons, © awesomest1

before “progressing” over time to our current skyscraping, unsustainable abilities. Soon, environmental realities will force our return to designs that better suit the human scale. The fact that Burj Khalifa was funded by vanishing oil money only reinforces the idea that the era of enormity in our structures, roads, homes and egos must and will come to an end, just as the global inventory of fossil fuels is undeniably finite.

Simply put, we have let things get way out of hand by distorting scale. Our tendency to oversize says more about our egos than our wisdom; our lust for power generates a craving for big things. Perhaps this is a species-wide manifestation of “little man syndrome” or an attempt to prove that we are superior to our evolutionary ancestors. Whatever the cause, we must arrest this toxic tendency to build/eat/live large. Now is the time to return things to a scale that is relatable and survivable. Nature does this, so why can’t we?1 1. And where nature doesn’t (such as when populations surge beyond capacity) the system quickly corrects itself.

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The Burj Khalifa, a hotel in Dubai and the tallest building in the world, measuring 828 meters from base to roof.


A family farm where the size of the farm allows an intimate connection and knowledge of the place.

A mega-farm where fewer and fewer work the land shown here in a combine that literally drives itself.


Fall 2010

The Size Creep

ability to understand and truly make a difference in Throughout history, empires have built structures to the systems we have built. We have lost the ability to symbolize their power. Temples, coliseums, cathedrals relate to and understand our food systems, economic and statues all rose to great heights to dramatize so- systems, energy and transportation systems and ulticietal influence. Often, these creations were meant to mately the environment itself. We’ve exceeded the carintimidate individuals and remind average citizens of rying capacities of the very places where we live. Like their relative insignificance. For centuries following the Egyptian pyramids, our sky-high towers and our their construction, the pyramids of ancient Egypt were out-sized systems are unsustainable. the world’s largest and most complex structures, broadcasting messages of wealth, power and the effective- The Logic of Natural Connection ness of marshaled resources. As awe-inspiring as they At a certain scale, we become strangers to the things we were in their day, they were ultimately abandoned and create and strangers to nature itself. We are decreasingly left to rot as priorities shifted and empires crumbled. connected to the natural world, which makes us increasingly apathetic to its destruction. A skilled hunter, for exOur modern societies have elevated the “build to honor ample, is an environmentalist even if she doesn’t consider power” effect by engineering taller high-rises, longer herself one, given her familiarity with the land and her bridges, larger dams and more expansive power plants. proximity to the source of her food. A good farmer is one Similarly, in the name of progress, we shear the tops off who knows his fields, including his soil and water health. of mountains and rely on huge factory farms for our food. Across the globe, mega-metropolises (Los Angeles, Mex- Our societal disassociation with food sourcing and ico City, Mumbai, Tokyo and Moscow among them) are production allows us to tolerate the widespread expanding as if growth alone was a desired outcome. abuses to land and animals because we are consumOur economies are driven by enormous corporations ers and it is none of our concern. To know something and financial institutions that dwarf previous economic means to connect with it on a relatable scale. Our paradigms. All of these large-scale societal components food systems used to be part of our knowable comwork together to yield little more than greed, waste and munity – now it is ‘somewhere else’. The natural eninequity as far as the majority of humanity is concerned. vironment used to be all around us – never far from our towns and villages – now nature for most people There is a point where individual accountability, famil- is an abstraction – something seen only occasionally iarity and sense of place disappear. And we have reached on TV – again ‘somewhere else’ and not relevant to it. Taking things to these extremes has minimized our our daily lives.

“There is a point where individual accountability, familiarity and sense of place disappear. And we have reached it.”

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Big-Time Ripple Effects The U.S. was built on supersized initiatives, interstate highways, the military-industrial complex and massive retail empires among others. The idea that bigger is better is embedded into our cultural psyche; large size, we’ve been told, is the surest way to compete and succeed in a global marketplace. To compete you have to get bigger. Growth is typically framed as size-based rather than quality based. This assumption, of course, implies that local and small equal backwards and inefficient. Even political agendas come into play. National policies, subsidies and incentive programs support large corporations and have contributed to the demise of small-town enterprise. Family farms get absorbed by factory producers as official policy. Local dairies can’t compete with regional operations. Community banks struggle while national financial institutions grow “too big to fail”.

Along the way, a handful of people get wealthy as communities suffer and the environment pays a heavy price. Now, we realize that we have a brewing crisis on our hands, which is coming from numerous angles. Our economy is nearly ruined, a victim of its own belief system, and we devote what little capital we have left trying to prop the machine back up. Our centralized food system is wreaking havoc on citizens and the planet and making us increasingly vulnerable to widespread disruptions. The attention that is finally being paid to global climate change has essentially been lip-service with only the vaguest goals to reduce emissions – in the future, rather than now – to still unsustainable levels. Yet we attempt to solve these problems using more mega-solutions since it’s all we know how to do. Headlines announce plans for giant smart grids, nuclear power plants and massive

A traditional ‘dense’ community with a clear delineation between town and country.


Fall 2010

Our landscapes are now filled with man-made constructs completely out-of-scale with the human paradigm.

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wind farms – agronomists look for the next ‘green revolution’ to avoid change and politicians prop up Wall Street rather than Main Street. Whether our politicians are too caught up in a pattern of pork spending or the lobbyists are simply too compelling to refuse, we tend to throw big answers at big questions as if they were the only solution.

would go straight to demolition-and-salvage — except that it costs money to do that, and who exactly right now will make a market for used cinder blocks and aluminum window sashes? I expect these places to become squats for the desperate homeless.”

The expression “too big to fail” should set off blaring I would further Kunstler’s assertion, predicting that alarms every time it is uttered. When something is too the age of the skyscraper2 will also come to an end big, I believe it is destined to fail. There is a ‘right-size’ within the next couple of decades. An experiment that for any system that if exceeded, spells certain demise began just a little over a hundred years ago, culminateven if for a time the growth seems impressive. There- ing with the Burj at nearly 1.000 ft taller than its confore, failure and risk should be managed so that size temporaries, will be done within twenty years. In an alone can never take down an entire system. Nature of- era of peak oil, declining environmental health, global fers countless examples of this rule through diversity, population above 7 billion and climate change, it will redundancy and resilience. When we shoot for same- be impossible to sustain the paradigm in which highness, uniformity and sheer magnitude, we are setting tech materials come from all over the world and largeourselves up for failure. Sadly, societies throughout the scale technological solutions are required to fix creepworld have adopted the U.S. size standard and our mis- ing large-scale engineering problems. Our experiment guided influence is now affecting communities around of building mega structures will be complete. As Kunthe globe. Debating on the ‘right size’ for any system stler has said, “many buildings being built today will never is extremely difficult, but these days it is almost never get retrofitted.” Certain historic structures, will get rea topic amongst economists, in corporate boardrooms stored, as the Empire State Building recently was, for or in the halls of power. The right size is always deemed a variety of cultural and locational reasons – but we’ll to be bigger than whatever is currently in place. We just be done with new buildings over 500 feet by 2020. My can’t seem to get our heads around the idea of limits. belief is that we cross the scale barrier with buildings somewhere between 12 – 14 stories high. Moreover, we The End of the Built Environment As can reach suitable densities well beyond current American norms with average heights closer to 6 – 8 stories We Know It (“Density and Sustainability,” Trim Tab, Spring 2009). We’ll return our focus where it belongs: closer to the James Howard Kunstler, noted author and speaker and ground. Our structures may end up being less lofty, but recent Living Future keynote, has addressed the ineviwe’ll be able to reach all we need. table demise of our present built environment. Earlier this year, he wrote on his blog, The future of our built environment will need to be rooted in solutions that endure through time. The “The vast oversupply of malls, strip malls, office unique carrying capacities of each place – its comparks, and other furnishings of the expiring ‘conmunity, its watershed, its ecosystem – must define sumer’ economy is about to become the biggest the scale of the projects it houses. When solutions and liability that any economy in world history has systems cross these boundaries, they become too big. ever seen. Who will even want to buy these absurd Elegance is lost when overshadowed by size. The only properties cheaply, when they will never find any oversized movement we need is the one that takes us retail tenants for the badly-built structures, nor closer to small, localized solutions. be able to keep up with the maintenance (think: leaking flat roofs) or retrofit them for anything? 2 . A skyscraper can be loosely defined as taller than 500 ft. In a really sane world, a lot of these buildings


Fall 2010

I predict that many buildings like this will never get retrofitted. The age of the skyscraper is nearly over.

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Put It To The Test So how do you determine if any system, institution, building or process is too big to be healthy and sustainable? While it’s difficult to set rules that apply in every situation, I’ve found that if any of the metrics described below are exceeded for any given example, the thing in question has likely become too large:

Risk Scale

When the risks of a system’s failure exceed those of its benefits, the system crosses the ‘risk scale barrier’. Risks, in other words, must be proportionate to (and in truth should be significantly lower than) the benefits.

Temporal Scale

When the consequences of a system fall to those in a different generation than those who will see the benefits of the situation, it crosses the temporal scale barrier. Risks should be handled by the same generation that benefits from it. Only benefits should accrue through time.

Physical  Human

When the size of the system or artifact in question is not relatable to human scale through its design or function and has the effect of diminishing community/human interaction rather than increasing it, it can be said to have exceeded the human scale. Our constructs should create, not diminish, community by bringing us together, not pushing us apart.



Fall 2010

Mental Map Scale

When the size of a system cannot be understood, grasped or managed by a small group of people who know and can relate to each other, it has crossed the mental map scale barrier. Decisions should not be made by people who neither understand the consequences of their decisions, nor empathize with those their decisions affect.


When the activity of a system permanently degrades the health and biodiversity of any ecosystem, it has crossed the environmental scale. Environmental impacts are inevitable, but working within the functional carrying capacity and natural resilience of a place is essential.


Economic/Social Scale

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When a system by its nature only concentrates wealth rather than distributing it, then it has crossed the economic/social scale. When the workers whose labor supports a given system can’t afford to purchase the very things they make, it has crossed this line.


We can often feel when something isn't the right scale – most easily understood when its something that we hold – like a teacup. But we need to learn to recognize 'oversized' design solutions wherever they are.

Right vs. Wrong

Good designers, whether they focus on buildings or I am huge proponent of finding any initiative’s “right size, systems or solutions, are always sensitive to scale. They or sweet spot” I believe that something is scaled properly ensure that people experience their work in ways that when it serves its intended function as simply as possible are appropriate relative to the task at hand. Structures with little to no waste. In the wise words of Antoine de built within traditional human-scaled modules, like a Saint-Exupéry, “Perfection is achieved not when there is noth- brick or a board, have an easier time remaining within ing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” an appropriate scale – although not always. Any material – in the right hands can be made to fit. The best-designed objects are those that have, almost magically, achieved the ‘right size’. The product of good I often think of the lovely Thorn Crown Chapel, dedesign seems to perfectly fit our grasp. All of us, to some signed by E. Fay Jones and sited in Arkansas’ Ozark degree, can relate to the idea of something that just doesn’t Mountains. Built to reflect the light and beauty of ‘feel right’. While designing to a ‘right-sized’ object is dif- its surroundings, the chapel pays constant tribute to ficult, knowing when you haven’t achieved it is easier. You nature. Perhaps more profoundly, in order to protect can feel it. A perfect teapot, an iPhone, the right chair – we from the typical site devastation when machinery gets know when a product has achieved it. Similarly, I think it’s involved, Jones dictated that each structural element possible to feel when the scale of a street or building is ap- be small enough to be deliverable through the woods propriate or even when a farm or market is the right size. by no more than two men on foot. With this attention to scale and impact, something profound was They feel and function as they should.


Fall 2010

created. Individual pine beams were hand-carried to the location and larger elements were constructed and raised on site. The result is a beautifully scaled, responsibly organic place of worship. It just fits.

too high detaches us from the earth; far-flung sprawl eliminates a sense of place.

The same idea must be applied to the size and scale of any system or institution. We must seek the “sweet spot” in our designs to ensure our ability to relate Smaller Can Be Sweeter The days of the “big project society” are numbered. to our buildings, communities and systems. FindWe will be forced to change our ways because our ing the appropriate and sustainable size for all our access to inexpensive energy will diminish before systems is indeed the work of our generation. It’s disappearing altogether – we have already entered about realigning the scale of civilization and reconthe extreme age of oil. Just as our economy adjust- ciling it with the technology we’ve developed to this ed from the exploitation of human labor in the 19 th point. If we apply our ingenuity within the context century, we will need to find alternative approaches of a right-sized society, we can begin to correct our to petroleum-based systems. By bringing solutions errors and sustain ourselves into the future. And we closer to home and scaling them more appropriately, can begin again from the far side of the metaphorical we can begin to relate more directly with the things Burj Khalifa line graph. we build, purchase and consume and make a graceful transition from paradigms that only worked because energy was plentiful. I have written previously about the “sweet spot” of urban density, discussing the ecological and societal implications of designing cities that offer just the right amount of people-per-square-feet. Housing that is

jason f. mclennan is the CEO of the Cascadia Green Building Council. He is the creator of the Living Building Challengesm, as well as the author of three books, including his latest: Zugunruhe.

Thorn Crown Chapel in the Arkansas Ozark mountains. Designed by E. Fay Jones.

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b y K athleen O ’ brien and K atie spataro


Fall 2010

Transformational ACTI O N

Creating Effective Energy Efficiency and

Conservation Strategies In Your Community:

A City’s Guide For Getting Started Energy Efficiency & Conservation Strategies (EECS) & Strategic Energy Plans: What are they?

Many government municipalities around the country have taken advantage of Energy Efficiency and Conservation (EEC) Strategy Block Grant money authorized by the National Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to fund strategies that reduce energy use and fossil fuel emissions and improve energy efficiency in transportation, building and other sectors as appropriate. For many cities, counties and states, the funding represents an opportunity to act on commitments to respond to climate change, to identify and capture operational savings as a measure of fiscal prudence and to assist citizens in doing the same.

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The Block Grant covers developing and implementing an EEC Strategy, which may include everything from conducting audits, developing financial incentive programs, analyzing and updating codes and enforcement and implementing public education, among others. Completion of the EEC Strategy is a requirement before Block Grant money can be spent on implementation activities. The budget for the planning element tends to range from approximately $100,000 to $250,000. Although the EEC Strategies we’ve seen thus far range in scope and detail, they generally include some form of action or implementation plan. Often this involves project descriptions with budgets and projected results associated with those budgets


Consider all the ways energy is consumed in a community. Then identify the opportunities for change. (such as energy savings, job creation, emissions re- Sustainable Future” is a good example of a stand-alone ductions). These project results help prioritize and document. Burlington, Vermont’s Energy Plan is a section of the City’s 2006 Municipal Development Plan. disburse remaining Block Grant monies. King County, Washington, has an Energy Plan that it Budgets for implementation can run to the mil- continues to update as it internalizes ongoing analyses lions. Las Vegas, Nevada’s Implementation Plan, an- of its operations and transportation energy efficiency nounced in July of 2009, represented a proposed in- measures and impacts. vestment of nearly $28 million, which also included the planning element, and incorporated items such An outline for an ideal strategic process for developas solar covered parking structures, a solar powered ing a community energy plan is provided by the Dewaste water treatment plant, facility and exterior partment of Energy (DOE) in its publication “Comlighting retrofits, financing and incentive programs, munity Greening: How to Develop a Strategic Energy and many more sustainable elements. Charlotte, Plan.” Like most community strategic planning, the South Carolina has a more modest budget, roughly DOE outline proposes a stakeholder process, vision$6.5 million. Again, this investment is proposed for a ing and goal setting exercises, benchmarking existnumber of different activities, primarily retrofits im- ing conditions, identifying programs to fund as well proving energy efficiency of existing facilities and in- as ways to fund them, prioritizing those programs corporating renewable technologies. Like several of and memorializing all of this in a written document, the EEC Strategies, the Charlotte Strategy proposes which is then subject to review and ratification. that some of this funding be used to staff a position Our Approach to coordinate implementation. In addition to EEC Strategies, we are also seeing a growing number of “Energy Plans” at the city, county, and state level. Not surprisingly, these are often allied with a concurrent commitment to addressing Climate Change. The City of San Diego’s “Energy Strategy for a


Fall 2010

O’Brien & Company and Cascadia Green Building Council are currently working together to develop a EEC Strategy for the City of Ellensburg, Washington, with the assistance of Makers Architecture & Urban Design, Transpo, and The Watershed Company. This

work is in conjunction with an update of the Land Use Development Code, led by Makers. For this project, we will be looking for opportunities to build on existing assets, remove regulatory barriers and identify additional opportunities to promote cost-effective longterm sustainability in the City of Ellensburg through energy efficiency, conservation and renewables.

people to participate in renewable energy production without having to buy a complete PV system, or having good solar exposure at their home or business.

In recent developments, the “solar” tag name has been replaced with “renewables” to allow the farm to expand beyond solar. A planned expansion, which will be funded partly by a federal matching grant and commuEllensburg is a very special place, as it is the only City nity contributions, will include concentrating solar as in all of Washington State that actually owns all of its well as a comparison field study of eight wind turbine utilities. This puts it in the driver’s seat regarding en- technologies. ergy, electric and water savings and has already allowed the City to provide exemplary leadership in this regard. In addition to the renewables farm, existing energy “asThe City’s 36kW “solarpark” went on-line in Novem- sets” include a vital energy conservation program offered ber 2006 and won national recognition as the first com- by the City’s Energy Services Division, as well as community invested solar facility in the country. It was also munity interest evidenced by exemplary private sector the first “virtual net metering” system allowing City of and University green building projects and a local green Ellensburg utility customers to purchase shares of the home building program. The community also boasts a photovoltaic (PV) array and have their share of PV pro- strong historic core of buildings, which serve as an “enduction deducted from their electric bill. This allows ergy bank” that can be tapped with energy upgrades.

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In looking at communities in general, an EEC Strategy or Energy Plan will involve, as a starting point, considering all of the ways energy is consumed in a community . This also enables a community to identify conservation opportunities. In the pie chart (below), we show just a few opportunities associated with identifiable sectors of energy consumption. It will also involve setting a baseline and future requirements for energy consumption and generation. With the EEC Strategy there is a strong interest in tying the effort into local economic development and job creation, so existing conditions in this arena would be helpful as well. Remove Regulatory Barriers

Communities seeking to establish energy plans may consider the ways in which their codes and regulations present possible barriers to implementing ener-

gy efficiency and conservation strategies. Evaluating codes and regulations against EEC Strategy goals is necessary to assess what stands in the way and needs to be either updated or eliminated, as well as what provisions may be missing. Obstacles can exist in the content of land use and development codes, design standards, building and energy codes, as well as in the regulatory process itself. Simply navigating the system for approvals can be off-putting to innovative energy projects. The City of Ellensburg has embarked on a unique approach to identify and remove regulatory barriers by aligning their strategic energy planning with their land development code update process. This approach maximizes opportunities to support implementation of efficiency and conservation measures that would otherwise be hindered by their codes (or regulatory processes).

Energy Conservation & Carbon Reduction Strategies Commercial


• • • • •

Energy efficiency codes LEED incentives Renewable energy Waste management Historic preservation/ adaptive reuse • Heat recovery incentives

• • • • •


Residential (construction and operations)

• Transit supportive development • City fleet upgrade • Trip planning • Pedestrian and bike access • Compact development

Pie chart content via O’Brien & Company.


Fall 2010

• • • • •

Process savings Water treatment LEED incentives Co-generation incentives Waste management

Compact development Energy efficiency codes Renewable energy Waste management LEED incentives

Common land development code obstacles include provisions that restrict or prohibit onsite renewable energy systems. Height restrictions and setbacks may limit the feasibility of building-mounted systems such as PV or small wind turbines. In addition, strict provisions around building orientation and eave overhangs can deter passive solar design strategies. Updating codes to allow for greater flexibility during site planning to address solar orientation and instituting solar access regulations can result in measurable energy efficiency advancements for new developments. Zoning codes have a direct relationship to a community’s transportation-related energy use. A recent study conducted by King County to map residential carbon pollution generated by neighborhoods found that local urban form plays a significant role in the quantity of travel-related carbon emissions. The study found that mixed use neighborhoods had the most significant influence on carbon emissions, pointing towards the benefits of walkable, compact communities. Transportation energy savings can result from updating codes to promote infill and mixed-use development, reducing minimum lot sizes and increasing densities or permitted Floor Area Ratios (FARs). These code changes support Smart Growth principles adopted by many communities, including greater connectivity and walkability. Barriers can also exist in building codes and even in energy codes intended to promote energy efficiency. For example, structural and ventilation requirements may unintentionally conflict with advanced energy efficient measures such as superinsulation. Another problem is when energy efficient design strategies are not specifically prescribed. An example of the latter might be code “silence” regarding non-conventional construction such as strawbale. In these cases, building officials may require extensive (and expensive) testing to permit such strategies, require redundancies that make them economically infeasible or prohibit them all together. Even less obvious are prohibitions by local health districts against water saving strategies such as composting toilets. Less water to treat means less pumping and process-related energy spent by the local wastewater treatment facility.

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Energy codes establish minimum energy performance and often fail to incentivize higher performance and more efficient buildings. Lack of energy code enforcement or performance testing requirements or assistance has resulted in many buildings falling short of meeting even minimum energy code standards. A comprehensive approach to removing regulatory barriers involves not only updating existing standards but also filling in missing gaps. A number of communities are developing new standards for renewable energy and water conservation, such as solar and wind ordinances and even requiring new homes to be solar-ready or pre-plumbed for water reuse. Flexibility within the codes to allow demonstration projects to test innovative strategies is essential to provide information to policy makers that can be incorporated in future code updates. Lastly, regulatory agency staff need ongoing education and credible sources of information on energy efficient design strategies in order to make reasonable interpretations when faced with new technologies and practices. Understandably their main concern is avoidance of health and safety risks. Better information can reduce the perception of risk and open the door to energy saving innovations. Identify Additional Opportunities

In addition to removing regulatory barriers, it is important in developing an EEC Strategy or Energy Plan to think beyond the typical regulatory construct. A number of opportunities exist for communities seeking to implement energy efficiency and conservation measures at both the building-specific and the community-wide scales. Examples of local jurisdictions at the forefront of progressive policies and regulations exist from around the country, serving as models for those just getting started with EEC Strategy planning. Evaluating a community’s existing energy use, identifying the biggest energy users and defining a benchmark for measuring efficiency and conservation actions serves as an important starting point for future policies and regulations.


Resources US Dept. of Energy

Community Greening: How to Develop a Strategic Energy Plan US EPA

Sustainable Design and Green Building Toolkit for Local Governments Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban and Suburban Zoning Codes Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute

Sustainable Community Development Code and Reform Initiative Cascadia Green Building Council

Codes and Regulatory Research Publications

Accounting for Greenhouse Gas Emissions by

requiring new developments to calculate and report on the emissions associated with construction and ongoing operations; and going beyond this by incentivizing or even requiring mitigation of these impacts as a way to inspire conservation. Building-scale Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy approaches might include:

Grants & Fee-Bates

that offer financial support to developers in offsetting increased first costs associated with efficiency measures.

Special Permitting Assistance

for exemplary energy efficiency projects such as reduced permitting fees and streamlined approaches for code departures. In times of highly competitive industry activity (not now!) expedited approvals can also be an incentive.

Increased Density Bonuses

for energy efficiency and conservation measures, or for cottage-style housing.

Support for Energy Audits and Upgrades on exist-

ing buildings by offering free or reduced costs auditing services and grants or low-interest loans for energy retrofits. At the Community Scale, out-of-the-box Energy Efficien- What’s Right for Your Community? cy and Conservation Strategy approaches might include: Embarking on an EEC Strategy will entail a unique Eco-District Zoning that establishes codes and process guided by the champions and leaders within regulations to support district-scale utilities, allowing your community and influenced by resources availcommunities to take advantage of energy and water able for the process. Although the Department of Enconservation strategies at the neighborhood scale. ergy process outline (discussed above) should work for most communities, the devil is in the details. It is our Incentives for Smart Growth such as allowanc- experience in community planning that a one-size-fitses for mixed use zones and pedestrian-friendly street all approach will not succeed. Each plan should be taistandards to promote walkability or requirements for lored to reflect the goals and interest of the stakeholdopen space protection and green infrastructure. ers and be directly related to city and utility planning efforts. Begin by asking three high-level questions: Support for Urban Food Production by developing code provisions for small-scale agriculture and ani- 1. What planning efforts are already in place that mal husbandry, permitting accessory structures such would support an EEC Strategy (such as comprehenas pens and storage sheds and allowing or requiring ur- sive and code update cycles, greenhouse gas emissions ban agricultural areas in new residential developments. planning, or community master planning)?


Fall 2010

2. Where is the leadership and strongest support for efficiency and conservation within the community: the building and design sector, policy makers, public? 3. What federal, state or county technical assistance and funding is available to assist with strategic energy planning in your community?

an EEC Strategy is a worthwhile venture. While it is most certainly an opportunity to save energy, it is also an excellent an non-partisan way to build community—in itself a transformative gesture.

Where to next?

Kathleen O’Brien is President of O’Brien

Once you’ve pondered these questions, we anticipate a hunger for more information. Fortunately, resources are abounding for local governments seeking assistance with strategic energy planning, removing regulatory obstacles, and developing policies and standards in support of energy efficiency and renewables. A few of our favorites follow. In the meantime, good luck! Whether your motivation is operational savings, civic duty, environmental protection—or all of the above—

katie spataro is Cascadia’s Research

CASCADIA-IN-THE-HOUSE Green Building Education Designed for Your Needs, Delivered at Your Office

& Company, Inc. She is currently Principal-in-Charge of the firm’s planning, policy and programmatic work (including the Ellensburg project).

Director for Codes and Standards. Katie heads up Cascadia’s Research Department which provides groundbreaking research and technical consulting services.

Living Breathing Buildings


Is your organization looking for customized green building education? Check out Cascadia’s menu of targeted educational topics. We’ll bring expert practitioners right to your office and get you and your colleagues caught up with the tools and know-how you’ll need to create Living Breathing Buildings . SM

SAMPLE TOPICS OF COURSES AVAILABLE INCLUDE: • Living Building Challenge Roadshow • Site Design • Energy • Materials • Water • Business • LEED • Process Please contact us at for inquiries on pricing and further information, or pick up a copy of our program guide. Let us know if there are other topics you are interested in and we may be able to help!

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b y B R I A N T. O ’ B R I E N

living buildings in ireland that there was never enough time for the refinement and consideration that seminal design warrants. During this era, there was certainly nowhere near enough questioning about the role of architecture and building in the ecoWith the support of the International Living Building logical and economic tumults. There were notable exInstitute, a founding circle of Irish green building pro- ceptions in the form of a few determined and pioneering fessionals and supporters came together to create the sustainably-minded architects, ecological designers and Living Building Institute of Ireland. We were honored builders who toiled away, but they had little ability to reto have both Jason McLennan, founder of the Living route what was essentially a runaway train. While this era Building Challenge and Eden Brukman, Vice Presi- certianly brought change and –in some cases – hardship, dent of the International Living Building Institute, a sense of opportunity began to arise where new ideas and approaches are now beginning to see light. with us on the auspicious day. The advancement of the Living Building Challenge worldwide had a small but significant boost this summer when the Irish contingent of the movement was launched.

Ireland has just come through what many would feel was a great epoch for (conventional) Irish architecture: many good, and some great, buildings were completed within the maelstrom of one of the worlds biggest property booms. Most involved, however, would also admit


Fall 2010

This milieu propelled the Living Building Institute of Ireland. On a hot morning last July in the sumptuous and biophillic courtyard of the Daintree Building, Jason, Eden and the Irish founding circle members broke bread, shared ideas, visions and future hopes, and be-

The Founding Circle (left to right): Tom Woolley, Tómas O'Leary (board vice-chair), Peter Smith, Eden Brukman, Jason McLennan, Erik Van Lennep, Olann Herr, Brian O'Brien (board chair)

gan friendships. Later that day, the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland (RIAI) met with the founders of the International Living Building Institute on Dublin’s historic Merrion Square. The evening started with some impromptu words of welcome from the RIAI president, who had arrived unannounced to hear what all the “living building fuss was about”. He spoke about the importance of sustainability and the environment to a crowd of nearly 100 people. He was perhaps surprised to find out that the audience comprised of a majority of non-architects, which underlies the appeal of Living Building Challenge to those of all professions and backgrounds.

a measurement of wealth). Jason’s presentation engendered inspiration toward the restorative principles of the program. The audience was left touched, uplifted and called to action (results, we suspect, that are not unfamiliar to Jason). The evening finished with an introduction to the Irish founding circle members, enthusiastic discussions and a few glasses of organic wine.

Jason spoke inspiringly about his childhood and early influences, his work in practice and the vision of the Living Building Challenge. Intriguing and interesting questions sprang up, ranging from nature’s transport systems to the relationship between time and wealth (i.e. time as

brian t. o’Brien, Chair, Living Building Institute Ireland (LBII).

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Now the work to make Ireland the European pioneer of creating Living Buildings, Sites and Communities begins.


b y steven peck and damon van der linde

Green Roofs & Walls: Their Social Benefits

Courtesy of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities; photo by Steven Hall, John Ronan Architect

Long acknowledged for their environmental value, green roofs and walls have social benefits that have gone unrecognized until now. Because green roofs are in their infancy as a component of the modern built environment, we owe it to ourselves to take stock of the potential for these living systems to help restore a humane ecosystem. The scope of benefits from green roof and wall technologies bridges the public-private divide, and these technologies have the potential to unite the building, site and broader community. Even after more than 30 years of world-wide research, we are still learning about the benefits of green roofs and the relationship between performance and design. To date, benefit analysis in North America at the building scale has centered largely on stormwater management, plant survival and energy savings. We are now looking more at how Greenroofs fit into integrated water management systems. While very few peer-reviewed scientific studies have been conducted on the social benefits of these technologies, we are rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence that green roofs and walls improve the quality of life for those who interact with them.

Greener Cities for Healthier Citizens Widespread green roofs coverage can decrease the need for health care services through reductions in ground level ozone resulting from a diminished urban heat island and its attendant heat stress fatality and illness. The reintroduction of vegetation into cities promotes natural cooling through reflection and evapotranspiration. These processes contribute significantly to the reduction of ambient temperature in densely packed urban environments. Green roofs also contribute to the mitigation of the urban heat island effect by covering some of the hottest surfaces in the urban environment – rooftops. Traditional black roofs can reach temperatures of 158°F/ 70°C and as a result have an enormous effect on building and ground level temperatures.

The Gary Comer Youth Center (left) is located in one of Chicago’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, providing a constructive environment for area youths ages 8 to 18.  This intensive green roof covering 8,160-square-feet is located over the gymnasium and cafeteria and encircled by the broad windows of the third floor, providing students who have little access to safe outdoor space the opportunity to freely interact. trim tab


Photo courtesy of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, Eco Housing Corporation

The Eastern Village Condominiums (EVC) is an adaptive reuse of an office building constructed in 1957 in Silver Spring, Maryland, abandoned for several years, and now transformed into 56 condominium units housing a thriving urban community. The green roof includes paved walkways, a gazebo, two pergolas, a children’s play area, rail-mounted planter boxes, and in the future will host a meditation garden and raised vegetable beds. Its lightweight growing medium consists of pumice and organic materials, 5” deep. Irrigation was unnecessary and maintenance requirements are minimal. Cohousing combines private home ownership with shared community facilities, activities and decision-making. Residents have been involved since the beginning of the project and continue to help manage the green roof.


Fall 2010

A study completed in 2006 by the Columbia Center for Climate Systems Research found that the daily mean temperature in New York City was 7 degrees F warmer than the surrounding area. Hotter cities use much more electricity to power air conditioners. Electricity production consumes vast amounts of water and, depending on the source, contributes significant air pollution. Higher cooling costs have negative social and human health impacts on the underprivileged. The Columbia Center report looked at nine mitigation scenarios and concluded that a combined strategy of tree planting and green roofs offers more potential benefit than any other measures. Some cities are more advanced in dealing with the urban heat island than others. Tokyo has implemented strategies which employ urban trees with large canopies and roof and streetscapes design to pull cooler air from parks through main thoroughfares and into the hot city. Everybody benefits from these strategies, regardless of their social standing or purchasing power.

and lower rates of medication than those without. Hospital green roof projects, which often employ water features also provide spaces for visitors and staff to relax.

From Roof to Your Plate Urban agriculture is becoming a hot topic and given that at-grade land in many urban centers is too expensive for community gardens, roofs are increasingly being used to support urban agriculture. Rooftop food production may ultimately be the source of green roofs greatest social benefits. There are a wide variety of applications for rooftop gardening, ranging from commercial greenhouse production, to community gardens, to schools. Rooftop agriculture can help meet nutritional requirements and reduce household expenditures on food, while creating accessible meeting places and activity areas that can increase social interaction and community cohesion.

Seattle has declared 2010 the “Year of Urban Agriculture� as part of a campaign to increase community acGreen roofs have also been shown to have a positive cess to locally grown food. The Department of Planeffect on health by providing both active and passive ning and Development (DPD) has proposed a number experiences with nature and vegetation. For instance, of municipal code changes to support and encourage rooftop gardens can serve as a therapeutic tool for physi- local urban agriculture including food-producing cal and mental rehabilitation (e.g., in hospital or nursing green roofs and walls, and rooftop greenhouses. The home settings). Given that many hospitals are located in DPD sees a tremendous opportunity to develop lohighly developed areas, green roofs are a good way to ex- cal sources of healthy food by turning existing urban pose patients to nature and improve the healing process. space into productive agricultural plots, helping to creA study at Texas A & M University that compared post- ate livable, walkable and sustainable communities. In operative recovery rates for patients with a natural view response to all of this interest, Green Roofs for Healthy to those without found that the former made quicker Cities will be launching its first training course on recoveries, had fewer negative evaluations from nurses, rooftop food production this year.

Horticultural Therapy

Green roofs create jobs because they draw upon many disciplines for their design, installation and maintenance.

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CitiesAlive: from November 30 to December 3, 2010 8th Annual Green Roofs and Walls Conference will be held in Vancouver B.C. The event will feature more than 60 expert speakers, tours, a trade show and new, leading-edge training opportunities. See for details.

Green Roofs = Green Jobs Green roofs create jobs because they draw upon many disciplines for their design, installation and maintenance. As the demand for this technology increases, so will the demand for green roof professionals, such as installers, landscapers, and suppliers and manufacturers of green roof components . The green roof industry in North America is rapidly expanding and the need for trained professionals who are familiar with green roof benefits, design, implementation and technology has never been greater. A recent North American industry survey reports the green roof industry grew by more than 16% in 2009 over 2008. Over the past eight years, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities has developed the Green Roof Professional (GRP) accreditation. GRPs are ideally positioned to be critical members of any green roof team, possessing knowledge of the special requirements and challenges of green roofs from design through implementation and maintenance. Other organizations, such as DC Greenworks and Sustainable South Bronx have established programs to train youth about green roof installations. Social justice is a major objective of these organizations and training youth for future employment opportunities, while contributing to the sustainability of the local community is a win-win-win. And there is plenty of work to be done. A 2008 study by the Alliance for Water Efficiency and American Rivers estimated that if building owners converted just 1% of the potential building area in the U.S. to green roofs, we would generate 190,580 jobs. (Living Architecture Monitor, Winter 2008).


Fall 2010

Photo courtesy of DC Greenworks

DC Greenworks is an organization that provides green roof job training for underprivilaged youth in the Washington D.C. area.

Green Roofs and Walls = Opportunities for Integration One of the recognized barriers to building more restorative and regenerative communities is the lack of cooperation and coordination in the development process. Green roofs and walls don’t have to be designed and implemented in a collaborative fashion – but the most exciting, beneficial and award winning ones always are. The multiple social, economic and environmental benefits of these technologies, combined with their ability to inform building systems and the surrounding site and broader community, provide opportunities to advance holistic, integrative design practices. This year, the City of Toronto broke new policy ground in North American by requiring green roofs on almost all new buildings and establishing a construction standard for green roof projects. Toronto’s new regulation means that designers leapfrog to the next level. Instead of starting the conversation by saying, “let’s put a green roof in”, they can go straight to the deeper questions:

“how can we use this green roof to its maximum potential? How can we design it to be accessible, grow food, support bee habitat, improve solar photo-voltaic efficiency or simply delight the senses? Cooperation is one of the larger themes of green roof development because every project engages so many stakeholders: from building owners and developers who plan and finance, architects and engineers who design, contractors and maintenance workers who build, to policy-makers and citizens who incorporate green roofs into their neighborhoods. In order to create an effective development process, overcoming barriers that provide solutions to a more holistic, integrative and collaborative design process is critical.

Conclusion We have much to learn about the ability of green roofs and walls from their contribution to high performance, and the connection between regenerative buildings and

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communities. We have an equally long way to go to understand the full extent of how these technologies contribute to the all too often neglected “social leg� of the three-legged sustainability stool. However, what we have seen so far gives us reason to be confident that green roofs have a crucial role to play in the physical and mental health of an increasingly urban world population. steven peck, is the founder and presi-

dent of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, a non-profit trade associated dedicated to developing the green roof and wall industry.

Damon Van der Linde, is the Communications and Research Coordinator at Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.


Moving Upstream The Oregon Sustainability Center Gains Ground The Portland City Council recently voted to begin

design for the Oregon Sustainability Center. The $75.3

The Tyson Living Learning Center at Washington

Building Challenge. The project will fuel a spate of re-

Building. Check out Tyson on their local news chan-

million mixed-use building is aiming to meet the Living

search projects and is part of Oregon’s plan for expanding green industry.

Democracy Now! Goes Green As the widely known program Democracy Now! grew

and reached a national audience they began to look for

University in St. Louis was just certified as a Living nel’s profile of the project!

Let’s Make Schools Healthier and Better Places to Learn – Sustainability is on the Fall Ballot

a new space to house their growing program. With a

Referendum 52 made it on the fall ballot in Wash-

space was renovated to meet LEED Platinum certifica-

efficient across the state. Cascadia Green Building

little help from The Rocky Mountain Institute, their new tion making it the first radio or television studio to reach such heights.

Imagine a Public Composting Toilet in the Middle of Manhattan The Riverside Clay Tennis Association has recently

proposed building a complex in Riverside Park that will meet the Living Building Challenge. The complex will

include a public composting toilet that would compost sewage to fertilize the park.

The Living Buildign Challenge was launched by the

Cascadia Green Building Council and is currently run by the International Living Building Institute.


The Tyson Living Learning Center Is Highlighted on the News

Fall 2010

ington State. It aims to make schools more energy Council endorses Ref 52.

making progress? Do you have a lead on cutting-edge green building progress in the region? Contact and put “Moving Upstream News Lead” in the subject line.



SAVETHEDATELF2011 Vancouver, british columbia APRIL 27 – 29, 2011

Our Children’s Cities: Visualizing a Restorative Civilization


OUT FOR SUSTAINABILITY One of the most fun OUT for Sustainability events in 2009 was a workshop called “Queer DIY,” featuring a sustainable sex talk by women-owned sex toy retailer Babeland. The event exploded barriers, inspiring laughter and learning around a very personal topic that connects us all. It’s still hard to forget the opening line: “the most sustainable sex toy you have is your hand.” Queer DIY highlighted the importance of blending social and environmental impacts, building partnerships that personalize the movement and having fun every step along the way. Social justice and the environmental movement are, in theory, joined by the friendly handshake of sustainability. However, many still see sustainability through the narrow lens of carbon emissions, recycling or district heating. As the movement evolves, this is changing; after all, sustainability is everything. The environmental movement has tapped only a fraction of its demographic potential. Sustainability advertising and leadership showcase young, Caucasian, straight, Democratic, well-educated families. This may be more relevant to some of us than the hippy roots our movement can’t deny, but it still fails to reflect the global majority. One such under-represented community are your friendly Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ ) neighbors.


Fall 2010

OUT for Sustainability (O4S) believes the LGBTQ community and the sustainability movement can be friends. The idea came to founder Gerod Rody (yours truly) while at the Bainbridge Graduate Institute, where Co-Founder Julian O’Reilley and myself were earning our MBA in Sustainable Business. I was frustrated with the dating pool in the sustainability world and figured there had to be others besides us who were out gay and lesbian individuals. Over games of tennis that summer and community engagement that fall, we saw the idea grow from making friends to making a difference at the intersection of social and environmental sustainability. Formally launched in January 2009 at the social heart of the movement, Seattle Greendrinks, OUT for Sustainability is the first (and possibly still only) nonprofit like this in the world. Its mission is to engage and mobilize the LGBTQ community to advance social and environmental sustainability. Members make all this happen in 4 arenas: education, volunteering, advocacy and community. Education focuses on 12 topics encompassing social and environmental sustainability. On the social side are gender, age, ability, race/ethnicity, orientation and community. On the environmental side are building, food systems, energy, water, transportation and natural resources. O4S writes a monthly syndicated article featuring one topic paired with actionable steps, plus a look at a local organization doing good work in that area. They also hold periodic “Social Hours” to engage with dogood organizations; Ingersol Gender Center and Puget Soundkeeper Alliance are among some organizations tha have been featured. O4S’s premier education event is the annual Social Sustainability Conference. Last year saw panels of guests including Tom Rasmussen, Heyok Kim and Darryl Smith discuss topics like Gender & Healthcare and Race/Ethnicity & Housing. Out for Sustainability believes that volunteering should be fun, so they hold the annual “EARTH GAY” event to celebrate Earth Day. Earth Gay volunteer Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said of last year’s event, “Integrating environmental action and social justice is critical for Seattle’s future. OUT for Sustainability’s success with

Earth Gay in engaging the gay community with the environmental movement exemplifies the much-needed cooperation between our city’s social and environmental groups.” OUT for Sustainability supported 100 volunteers, including a Girl Scout troop, working in 4 service sites throughout the city with over 3-dozen partner organizations from Boeing to Grow Food.

Social justice and the environmental movement are, in theory, joined by the friendly handshake of sustainability. Advocacy is a growing facet of OUT for Sustainability, largely focused on Greenfest and Pride. With Greenfest, the focus is on integrating social issues into a historically environmental conference, while with Pride, the focus is on environmental responsibility as the most visible showcase of LGBTQ equality in cities across the globe. Community is engrained in every O4S event, but the most tangible community-building event of the year is “Celebrate LOCAL,” a fundraising dinner and auction where local food is highlighted as a pivotal part of a sustainable local economy and community. This year’s dinner was October 21st and had partners including Sustainable Seattle, Viva Farms and Dry Soda. Out for Sustainability continues to push the barriers within the environmental movement. It provides an avenue for the LGBTQ community to engage in social and environmental sustainability while bridging the gap between the two. We hope that more people from all walks of life continue to get involved with sustainability.

Gerod Rody is the Executive Director of OUT for Sustainability and Marketing and








Gerod was named one of the 40 people redefining green by Grist in 2010.

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b y pa u l werder

SHADE FOR EVERYONE: A Leader’s Role in Social Justice


Fall 2010

I have been given a life of privilege and I have the ability to respond to the social injustice that plagues our planet due to the unsustainable and destructive activities of humanity. We are creating more sustainable buildings. Our environmentally designed communities are more comfortable using fewer resources. It’s a good feeling…a satisfying feeling. Take a moment to feel the beauty of living in more harmony with our natural environment. It reminds me of sitting in the shade, while looking at the most beautiful mountain lake I had ever seen in the wilds of Montana. The shimmering sunlight on the water was stunning and my shady viewpoint was as perfect as it gets.

how to blame. Then I became angry and wanted to save the world. Anger is a legitimate feeling, but my focus was in the wrong place. I had to transform my anger into inspiration. I had to let go of thoughts that went like this, “If the evil, greedy people plundering the world would just wake up and do the right thing, then everyone would be better off. And I could enjoy my life so much more.” These thoughts were fruitless. They prevented me from being in reality and discovering who I was.

We live a privileged life. Many of us have had many moments of sitting in the shade. For the most part, our lives have been comprised of one stunning opportunity after another. We are having a wonderful life as they say in the movies. Yet, there’s more to our human story. The World Bank tells us that 90% of the world’s population lives on $10 per day and every 6 seconds a child dies from hunger. Our focus on sustainability asks us to focus on our global community. As a planet we are experiencing deep suffering. Social justice is the issue with which we have not known what to do.

Much later, I spent time believing that I had earned my prosperity and beautiful home in the woods. I told myself, “I’ve studied hard and worked even harder while others have not.” I was especially ashamed of those sentiments when I finally realized that being a successful professional had been a gift. Everything I had was a blessing that had been given to me. Yes, I had done my part to nurture my opportunities, but the opportunities I was born with did not set me up to live on $10 a day. My family, my schools, my friends, my employment opportunities – all of it simply came to me for a reason I needed to discover.

My first childhood view of poverty frightened me. I could hardly look at the people involved, and I was relieved when my dad drove us back into “our part of town.” I was ten years old and had no way to comprehend why I had so much while others had so little. I am still answering that question today. I know that I am not alone in this.

After decades of soul searching, my discovery is this: I have been given to so that I can give. In spite of seeing myself as an ordinary human being, I was born to be a leader; someone willing and able to help others. I suggest the same is true for you. We are not here to accumulate wealth and comfort beyond what we need. We I’ve felt much anguish regarding social injustice as I’ve are here to be of service to our communities, both local progressed through life. First, I felt as if I was some- and global.

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As I began to grapple with leadership, I struggled with my role and the scope of my service. Saving the world is not our responsibility; none of us have the capacity or assignment of single-handedly altering what humanity has done with our planet. Nor is it right to ignore the 90% of our global community for whom mere survival is a struggle. When I looked more deeply at the word ‘responsibility’ I realized the answer to my question was in the word itself. Responsibility means “ability to respond” – my ability to respond.

We can transform ourselves. We all crave the natural way life was meant to be lived. If we orient our culture around consuming only what we need, sharing and giving, then we will find that this planet has enough shade for everyone. If others do not see this opportunity or are unwilling to look at life this way, we can go first. That’s what leaders do.

We can give to fill our hearts with joyful living. We can confront our own smallness and cleanse our fears and doubts until we trust that our own needs will be cared I have been given a life of privilege and I have the abil- for when we live up to our highest ideals and values. ity to respond to the social injustice that plagues our planet due to the unsustainable and destructive activi- How can we know ourselves and discover our own ties of humanity. souls if we do not give, and expand ourselves again and again? Let’s turn the world upside down in a good I discovered my only constructive choice was to ascer- way. All of the holy books call for sustainability and tain how I could best do my part. Deep within our souls social justice, but this work is not about religion. As we are not angry or overwhelmed. We simply yearn to leaders, our work is to fill ourselves up with love to do our part. If you feel that longing, you will want to the point of overflowing with compassionate incluknow what’s possible in your own scope of service. I siveness. You and I are seeking the moment we affirm believe this is our next huge challenge and I invite you the purpose of our existence. to take it on squarely with me. Seize this moment and be a leader who brings about Think of the time when you freely contributed your- healing for your own humanity – just by responding self or your money or your work for the sole purpose of to injustice with a consciousness that longs to cleanse helping someone in real need. You extended yourself in your heart of limitation. Let’s rid ourselves of our a way that allowed you to give more than you thought petty complaints, obsessions, laziness and wasted you could or should give. The recipients’ response energy. Let’s personally bring another person withwarmed your heart. You felt exhilarated, expansive, out privilege into the shade. Let’s feel the joy of doand alive with satisfaction. I might suggest that this felt ing so. And then we will do it again because it feels so even better to you than your own moment of shade by good. Let’s allow the scope of our service to remain a your mountain lake with sunshine sparkling across the mystery as we take one excellent action after another. Only then will we discover the meaning of our exiswater. Think about it. tence. Eventually, others will follow. And ultimately, Why are we here? We have a transformational oppor- your world will be blessed with overflowing love, fultunity when it comes to social justice. We can look fillment, and happiness. at social inequity in the eye and shift our focus from horror to anger to responsibility, and ultimately to opportunity. Giving of ourselves to those in need is an Paul Werder , CEO of LionHeart Conopportunity to cleanse our hearts of our own toxic sulting Inc, is the author of Mastering tendencies to play small. Giving what we can reorients Effectiveness. You can reach him at us to look at the traces of selfishness, greed and ful consumption that continue to creep into our own personal lifestyles.


Fall 2010

In a world ripe for total transformation, people are taking action.

Ambassador/Advocate Organizational Interest

The International Living Building Institute’s network is growing rapidly. Starting in January 2010 with the launch of the Ambassador Program, 150 self-selected individuals have been motivating a global audience to implement restorative principles in design, construction and operation. There are now representatives in 25 states across America, 5 Canadian provinces, Australia, Colombia, Dubai, France, India, Mexico, Northern Ireland, Philippines, Republic of Ireland and Spain. Thanks to these dedicated

and passionate leaders, the Living Building Challenge SM is reshaping expectations and aspirations all over the world. Advocates and Ambassadors are trained volunteers who facilitate in-person introductory presentations and other outreach related to the Living Building Challenge. They also organize opportunities for ongoing dialogue about regionally appropriate solutions through the creation of local Living Building Challenge Collaboratives.

Request a presentation for your organization or attend an upcoming Collaborative meeting. Refer to the online calendar to view scheduled events. Apply for the Ambassador Program today at trim tab


by madeline ostrander

From Vacant City Lots to Food on the Table

How to Grow Food Where We Need It


Fall 2010

The first time I went to Richmond, Calif., nine years ago, my friend, who ran a punk music recording studio out of a converted warehouse, told us not to park our car on the street. The day before, vandals had walked the block and smashed several car windows. At least a few things have started to change in Richmond since then: A berry garden sits beside a bike trail in the Iron Triangle, a neighborhood at the center of the city bordered on three sides by old rail lines. Once a month, Latino and African American families–often people who live just a few blocks from each other but rarely had a chance to meet in the past–gather at the garden and have a barbecue. Tomatoes, chard, and corn grow in raised beds across the street. Muslim families from the local mosque just a few blocks away pluck fresh mint from the garden for making traditional Arabic tea. The garden is the work of Urban Tilth, one of the dozen or so groups at the center of Richmond’s urban garden movement. It was built by community members, often young people, and is tended in part by students and teachers from the elementary school next door. And it has become a community gathering space. Richmond boomed in the mid-20th century and now is like hundreds of other places around the country where industry walked away. The city is isolated from much of the cultural and economic life of the rest of the East Bay region. Young people can’t find jobs, and they move away, or their restlessness is channeled into all the wrong activities—vandalism, gangs, crime. People rarely get a say in what happens to land when their city falls apart. But in the last five years, some Richmonders have taken matters into their own hands. Often with official permission but sometimes without, they have planted more than two dozen gardens in public lots and school grounds all over the roughest parts of town. Urban Tilth calls them “farms,” and last year grew 6,000 pounds of food, which went to dozens of local families.

What happens when land becomes more valuable as a condominium development or a mall than a public garden? agricultural regions of Central and South America. But many of Richmond’s young people haven’t been exposed to these traditions. Now Richmond’s urban gardening movement is yielding a small but radical cultural change. Urban agriculture has become a regular part of the curriculum in two local high schools. Areas in and near the gardens that seemed off-limits or unsafe in years past are becoming gathering places where Richmonders have picnics, play outside, pick berries, and ride bicycles. And dozens of young Richmonders have been given the chance to grow something in a community they thought had little future. The Comeback Kids The train to Richmond leaves Berkeley and passes miles of strip malls, junkyards, and abandoned warehouses before reaching the Iron Triangle. Doria Robinson, Urban Tilth’s executive director, meets me at the station, wearing sweat pants with a racing stripe and talking nonstop.

Many Richmonders have gardening traditions that go back several generations, brought by families from The granddaughter of an avid rose gardener and a local the rural South who came for shipbuilding jobs dur- minister, she was one of the kids who left Richmond as ing World War II and by more recent immigrants from soon as she could.

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“I wanted to get out, like most people. I was like, oh, my God, what a lost cause. Nobody ever said anything positive about Richmond,” she says.

last six months has the school district itself negotiated a formal land-use agreement with the organization. I asked a facilities engineer in the school district administration how Urban Tilth started its four school gardens. “They just did it. Nice, huh?” he said, a bit sardonically.

She went to college on the East Coast and lived in San Francisco for several years. She moved back five years ago to take care of her great aunt’s house and started working with Urban Tilth. Now, at 36, she’s Young energy drives Urban Tilth—20-something acfocused on bringing young people back into the fab- tivists, recent grads looking for work, students—and ric of the community. not just A-students. Tania Pulido, age 21, joined Urban Tilth last October after years as a self-described Robinson and her colleague, Adam Boisvert, drive me “troubled youth.” through the city in a pickup truck, first to the berry garden and then to Richmond High School, one of Ur- “I used to cut school a lot, and I barely graduated,” she ban Tilth’s two school-based farms. says. She now studies new media and film, is a political activist, and leads gardening projects on the bicycle We have to clear a pair of security guards and pass through trail and at the schools. a temporary metal fence before walking into Richmond High’s paved schoolyard. The school is still reeling since Seven of Urban Tilth’s 11 staff are under 30, and severone of its students was gang-raped by a group of teenage al began as high-school apprentices. Jessie Alberto was boys after a homecoming dance last fall. among the Richmond High students who brought the school’s garden back to life. Now 20 years old, he trains Behind the rust-colored trailers that serve as extra students to garden at Richmond and Kennedy High classrooms stand 12 vegetable beds and a shed that Schools. He doesn’t like the words “behavior problem.” has been remade into a greenhouse. Beyond them and behind a football field are six long raised rows, nearly “I want to say we have kids who are really high in ener800 square feet of cultivation space. They were built gy,” he says. He puts these kids in charge of their peers on a Sunday in February by 67 Richmond High stu- on labor-intensive projects—weeding, pruning, and dents, teachers, administrators, and volunteers from digging. “The thinking and the vigorous work calms local neighborhoods. them down,” he says. A class of 30 students has planted chard, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, and beans, with help from Urban Tilth staff and a teacher paid by the district. The content of their “Urban Ecology and Food Systems” class is a little subversive. It’s about fairness, nutrition, food deserts, oil, and why some people get left out of the economy. Robinson enjoys a certain act-now-apologize-later approach to getting hold of land. At Richmond High, the project started when students wanted to fix up an old garden that had been neglected for a decade. At other schools, Urban Tilth has gotten keys from staff and teachers and persuaded groundskeepers to switch on the water, then asked the administration for permission. Only in the


Fall 2010

Rights to the Garden There is a basic question that comes up when you sow seeds on land you don’t own. When parking strips and vacant lots fill with flowers and fruit trees, property values spike, then rents and taxes. Daryl Hannah and Julia Butterfly Hill brought national attention to South Central Farm, the famous urban garden in Los Angeles that was cultivated by 350 mostly Latino families. But their efforts couldn’t stop the property’s owner from bulldozing it to build a warehouse. What happens when land becomes more valuable as a condominium development or a mall than a public garden?

People rarely get a say in what happens to land when their city falls apart. My last stop with Robinson and Boisvert is Adams Middle School, which closed last fall as part of the school district’s budget cuts. The school is up a winding street in the hills to the east of downtown. Property values rise with elevation in Richmond, and this school is on expensive ground. There is a level, circular plot behind a row of trees where Urban Tilth has planted tomatoes, an heirloom green called purple tree collards, nopal cactus, carrots, peas, and raspberries. Boisvert and Pulido have sketched out permaculture designs for this land, including a rain garden and a water catchment system. The school district is using this property for storage. Boisvert and Robinson admit that the land is worth millions. The school district has no plans to sell but concedes that Urban Tilth would likely lose the garden if the land attracted a buyer. Robinson is negotiating with a local land trust to see if they might be willing to purchase the garden and keep it in cultivation.

food plants in city parks through a program called “Adopt-a-Park.” The city also gives them free logs to border raised beds, salvaged containers, wood chips, soil, and anything else that can be scavenged and repurposed for a garden. The city manager and mayor and local gardening groups are discussing a possible urban food ordinance: Gardening activists hope to make it easier to grow produce in Richmond front yards, gain access to water, and raise animals like bees, chickens, and goats. I ask Robinson if she worries whether Urban Tilth’s prospects would shift suddenly if the city administration changes hands. “I don’t,” she says. “What’s really important is the food we grow and the time we spend investing in people. We know people in Richmond are smart people. We have a huge reserve of brain energy here and historic connection to the land. And we just need to draw on that, respect it, and have faith in it.” There’s more than food and land at stake here. If Urban Tilth can make gardening traditions into longstanding cultural institutions and use a tomato plant or a raspberry vine to convince a teenager that Richmond is worth saving, their efforts will outlast anything that happens to the gardens themselves.

Meanwhile, the city has hired 26 high-school kids to work with Urban Tilth through a summer youth program. Robinson plans to use their energy to build a new orchard. Four years ago, Richmond became one of the only major cities in the country to elect a Green Party mayor, Gayle McLaughlin. Under the mayor’s progressive food policy, local gardening groups plant flowers and

trim tab

madeline ostrander wrote this ar-

ticle for A Resilient Community, the Fall 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Madeline is senior editor of YES! and grows potatoes in her backyard.


fwd: read this! CLICK SUBJECT: Washington Refines Its Regulations on Use of Reclaimed Municipal Waste Water Reclaimed water for non-potable uses is a step in the right direction! “The Washington Department of Ecology (“Ecology”) is preparing a proposed rule that will, for the first time, comprehensively and formally address the use of reclaimed municipal wastewater in Washington State.”


SUBJECT: Small, Green, Affordable in The Big Easy The winners of the USGBC’s Natural Talent Design Competition were recently announced. 2 professional finalists and 2 students finalist were chosen and their designs will be built in the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans. Cascadia Green Building Council participated in the competition, and while no local designs were selected, Cascadia is excited to celebrate all of the winning teams!


SUBJECT: Metro Vancouver aims to boost local food production

SUBJECT: Tell the world why the Living Building Challenge Inspires You

“Metro Vancouver has developed an ambitious regional food strategy that includes creating a centre for excellence in food technology, a label to identify locally grown foods in retail stores and a school for sustainable agriculture at Colony Farm Regional Park.”

Whether it is creating a sustainable future for the next generation or seeing restorative design elements put to work, create a video and tell the world why the Living Building Challenge inspires you. The International Living Building Institute will stream it on their Living Building Certified Projects webpage.




Fall 2010

If you have something that should be included here please send it to us!

Event Calendar: October – November 2010 Workshops, lectures and other opportunities throughout the bioregion.

Other Events & Workshops Presented by Cascadia

Transformational Lecture Series

Seattle Branch Signal Issue Workshop: Placed Based Communities Seattle, WA – 11/11

Paul Horton

Other Events LEED Canada Core Concepts and Strategies Workshop Vancouver, BC – 11/10

Bend, OR – 11/4 Portland, OR – 11/10 Timothy Beatley Seattle, WA – 11/9 Brenna Bell Vancouver, BC – 11/18

LEED GA STudy course Vancouver, BC – 11/24 – 25

Gordan Howell

workshop: understanding “Net-zero energy” implications for design/engineering teams Alaska – 11/09

Zoe Bradbury

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Victoria, BC – 11/23

Eugene, OR - 12/07

comple te de ta il s, ple ase v isit www.casca di lenda r



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Trim Tab v.7 - Fall 2010  

The International Living Future Institute's Magazine for Transformational People + Design

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