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Public, Private Players Driving Seattle Sustainability


There's a massive push in greater Seattle, both on the part of public and private players, to make the region one of the most sustainable anywhere. Is it a realistic goal? Yes, according to the speakers at our recent Seattle Sustainability event at the Grand Hyatt Seattle.

A lot of focus is on sustainable features in new construction, but existing buildings also are very important to sustainability since they're contributing to climate change in a major way, our speakers said. Buildings need to be tuned up throughout their useful life, and there are incentives in Seattle to help building owners do just that—and they deserve to be better known.

For example, owners can get up to 70% of the cost of energy-efficiency updates covered by Seattle Light. Also, Puget Sound Energy offers a Comprehensive Building Tune-Up program, which helps pay for work done on energy efficiency.


The next step is to help building occupants make their space more sustainable, our speakers said. There can be great improvements in areas such as energy efficiency or recycling by teaching occupants to be more sustainable.

There's only so much the physical structure of a building can do along those lines; occupants can do much more, provided they're cognizant of what to do and motivated to do it. One small example at the University of Washington are 3D visualizations for what goes in waste, compost or recycling bins.

Snapped: Seattle 2030 District executive director Susan Wickwire, who moderated; Seattle Office of Sustainability & Environment Sustainable Building Program manager Sandra Mallory; UW Sustainability director Claudia Frère-Anderson; Paladino & Co director Dina Belon; and Solterra greenroof and living wall specialist Walker Leiser.


The official push for sustainability in the built environment is quite strong, our speakers noted. Among other initiatives, King County has a strategic action plan—well-respected even on the global level—that calls for the reduction of greenhouse gases by 25% by 2030, modeled after 2030 District goals.

The green building ordinance in King County, one of the strongest in the country, mandates LEED Platinum for new public buildings and retrofits, and there's a push to have 10 Living Buildings in the county by 2020.

Here's Dina Belon, who also moderated; Unico Properties director of sustainability Brett Phillips; Dwell Development principal Anthony Maschmedt; King County program director-green tools Patti Southard; and Susan Wickware.


Sound Transit 3 is going to have a large effect on growth and sustainability, our speakers said. It's important to get right—and now the period of public comments is coming to an end. There's still a lot of planning needed for station locations and land use planning around those stations.

Done right, it will incentivize TOD and dense development around urban hubs, which is the sustainable way to do it, and promote carbon reduction. Electrifying the region's transportation system will be a major step toward meeting carbon reduction goals.