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Can Seattle Stay One of the Country's Greenest Cities?

Seattle's a leader among cities when it comes to sustainable development. Or is it? The speakers at our Seattle's Green Building Revolution event said more can—and should—be done to keep the city a leader in sustainability.

Daniels Real Estate president Kevin Daniels, who gave the keynote, said sustainable development is more than just improvements in equipment and building techniques, though those are important. He stresses sustainability can't be done without preservation, offering the revival of Pioneer Square as a prime example. The cities of the future will be about the old as well as the new. Sustainability is also about creating space for people—places where people want to come and want to be. He's snapped with Preservation Green Lab senior research manager Michael Powe, who moderated.

Our construction and management speakers said while Washington state has six certified net zero energy buildings, other states have more—even Florida, which isn't known as a green building leader. Net zero for energy, as well as highly efficient water and waste systems, ought to be pursued more vigorously as development goals here. The place to start is before construction of a building's envelope, since great efficiencies can be achieved in the design phase. Snapped: Paladino director Dina Belon, HomeStreet Bank VP Katie Plett and Point32 project manager Joe David.

More important than any kind of certification is making the building work for its owners as a sustainable structure, our speakers said. Is the building going to be revenue driven? Mission driven (such as to house a nonprofit)? Or some combination of those? Establishing the why of sustainability is a critical first step in how a building is going to be sustainable. Here's DLR Group Northwest region workplace sector leader Mark Ludtka, who moderated, and Skanska USA preconstruction manager and sustainable initiative lead Stacy Smedley.

Our development speakers explained that a lot of green features are penciling out more easily than they used to, mainly because of improving technology, which usually means lower cost. LED lighting is a prime example. Only a few years ago, it was expensive and unproven. Now it's much cheaper and almost standard operating procedure. But not all property types are equally cost-effective when it comes to sustainability; multifamily can be particularly challenging. Trammell Crow Residential managing director Mark Hoyt and Unico Properties director Brett Phillips, who manages the Bullitt Center.

It's difficult to recover the costs of sustainable features in multifamily developments, unless residents can be educated to care enough about sustainable living to pay a little more. That's doable sometimes, such as among a population of renters who live enthusiastically green themselves. But that's not the majority yet. Till then, incentives need to help. Pictured: Seattle 2030 District executive director Susan Wickwire, who also moderated, and Wallace Properties president Kevin Wallace, who's also the Deputy Mayor of the City of Bellevue.

Seattle and the surrounding counties do reasonably well when it comes to encouraging green development, but the incentives could be better, our speakers said. "If sustainability is considered a public good, the public should enact better incentives," one speaker asserted. One suggestion was that sustainable incentives could be modeled on the Multifamily Property Tax Exemption (MFTE) Program, which has successfully provided incentives for affordable housing.

Finally, there was a giveawayIntegral Group principal Dean Astren, along with Bisnow's Mike Martinez and Dina Belon, drew a card from the basket. Integral, which is a deep green engineering firm and Bisnow sponsor, gave away an iPad.