Healthy Planet: Materials & the Environment

Materials Matter is a five-session series from the AIA Seattle chapter that delivers comprehensive, high-level knowledge and strategies for assessing and selecting healthy, sustainable materials. I had the opportunity to attend the first run of the newly-developed series with many of the local industry leaders who helped create the innovative course materials. AIA Seattle is currently hosting the series for a second time.

The series encompasses everything tied to building materials and how they impact our lives: human health, the tools and data available for assessing and prioritizing materials, and strategies for integrating informed decision-making into projects and practice. Join me as I discover exactly why Materials Matter.

AIA MM 1

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Girl Power

On Saturday, January 21, I joined 5 million other people worldwide for the Women’s March. In over 80 countries, on every continent, women and men marched peacefully in solidarity for women’s and LGBTQ right, health care, immigration, the environment and racial justice. Although I’ll try not to contribute overly to a political confirmation-bias echo chamber, it was an incredibly powerful movement to be a part of; Seattle alone had 175,000 attendees of all ages, nationalities and lifestyles. To march with the strong women in my life, my allies, my community and my parents gives me hope. The overwhelming feeling of love, acceptance and courage is exactly what I need right now.

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What Are You Drinking?

Seattle is the biggest small city (or the smallest big city, if you prefer) that I’ve ever encountered. I’ve traveled all over the world and seen people and things that connect back to the Pacific Northwest: a bartender in the British Virgin Islands who went to O’Dea High School on First Hill, or the schoolboy in Uganda wearing a Mariner’s baseball cap, or a KEXP t-shirt in a small Irish coastal town. This urban identity of home-grown grown up is presenting an odd comparison of local vs. big business, similar to “green washing” in the building industry – the act of appearing local and independent rather than actually being so.

When you go to the store, you’ll be hard pressed to find a product that is owned by the company on the packaging. Unilever, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson and a small handful of other companies own almost everything on the grocery shelves of national chains. Many local companies in the Seattle area are truly independent; some started that way, then got bought by larger companies but continue to perpetuate their former grass-roots identity. This is especially prevalent in Seattle’s two favorite beverages: coffee and beer.

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Hometown Heroes of Seattle (Part Two)

“Who are Seattle’s hometown heroes? In many ways they are just like you and me. They walk the same city streets, with grand visions and dreams etched in their minds. They put on their shoes one at a time, then inspire us with their giant strides.”

These words adorn a bronze plaque in downtown Seattle, on the side of the flagship Nordstrom store. Growing up in the area, I’ve passed it many times, as well as the footprints of these “giant strides” from iconic Seattle entrepreneurs, politicians and artists – many of whom, like Olympian Apolo Ohno and baseball star Ken Griffey Jr., are pretty well known to people outside the Pacific Northwest. But as someone who has lived in Seattle for nearly my entire life (minus 7 years or so), there were some hometown heroes that even I hadn’t heard of!

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Hometown Heroes of Seattle (Part One)

“Who are Seattle’s hometown heroes? In many ways they are just like you and me. They walk the same city streets, with grand visions and dreams etched in their minds. They put on their shoes one at a time, then inspire us with their giant strides.”

These words adorn a bronze plaque in downtown Seattle, on the side of the flagship Nordstrom store. Growing up in the area, I’ve passed it many times, as well as the footprints of these “giant strides” from iconic Seattle entrepreneurs, politicians and artists – many of whom, like Olympian Apolo Ohno and baseball star Ken Griffey Jr., are pretty well known to people outside the Pacific Northwest. But as someone who has lived in Seattle for nearly my entire life (minus 7 years or so), there were some hometown heroes that even I hadn’t heard of!

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Getting to Net Zero with AIA: Change Your Mind

Our world is changing, and with 82% of the population living in cities, how we design and build our cities should be changing too. At this point, we need drastic measures that reverse the effects of years of planetary neglect. The Living Building Challenge, developed by the International Living Future Institute, is a rigorous set of building, material and operations criteria that result in beautiful, contemporary net zero energy projects. Only five buildings worldwide have achieved certification so far, but over 190 additional projects are in some sort of design, building or operation phase. And Seattle is pioneering net zero energy in a new way.

Typical commercial buildings of the same size have an Energy Use Intensity of 92, while the Bullitt Center is designed to have only 16 EUI. Photo credit: Louisa Gaylord
Most large commercial buildings have an Energy Use Intensity of 92, while the Bullitt Center is designed to have only 16 EUI. Photo credit: Louisa Gaylord

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Getting to Net Zero with AIA: Integrated Design

It’s impossible to deny that Seattle is at the forefront of sustainable building design in the US. Although there are more than 500 LEED-certified buildings in the city, LEED only lessens the damage of large construction projects. More developers are aiming for a Living Building Challenge, which creates net-zero buildings (and Seattle already has twice the number of certified projects than most other US cities). In order to reach these ambitious goals, integrated design is becoming increasingly important to the building process. Many investors see it as a serious commitment of both money and time, a commitment they are often unwilling to make. But Seattle’s variety of green buildings prove that integrated design produces structures that are economic, environmental, and enjoyable to work in.

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Metropolis Editor Susan Szenasy Talks Seattle Design

Susan Szenasy has been the editor in chief of Metropolis magazine, a New York-based publication devoted to world design and architecture, for almost 30 years. She is an internationally recognized authority on sustainability and design, and sits on the board of organizations like the Council for Interior Design Accreditation and the Landscape Architecture Foundation. Susan recently came to Seattle to share a dialogue with an interested audience at an overflowing Seattle Design Festival event at Cornish College. I had an opportunity to sit down with Susan the morning after the event and hear a bit more about why she thinks the next big thing in art and architecture will come out of Seattle.

metropolis covers

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One Flag, Two Flag, Green Flag, Blue Flag

Superbowl XLVIII is a little more than a week away, Seattle has officially succumbed to Seahawks fever. It has been quietly simmering away just under the surface of society since the beginning of the season 5 months ago. But after winning over 80% of their regular season games, enthusiasm for the Seattle Seahawks has finally boiled over. The Seahawks as a part of the Superbowl is a relatively new idea that people have to get used to (they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2005), but it’s not like fans haven’t had faith all along – CenturyLink Field has consecutively sold out for the past decade, and the waiting list for tickets has 10,000 names on it.

So who has the display of ultimate Seahawks fandom? Who is the #1 12th man? Here is a handy guide to seriously kick-starting your Seahawks Superbowl spirit, as well as examples of some of the local businesses and organizations with the most eye-catching team spirit.

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Choose Your Own New Year’s Eve 2014 Adventure!

Like many of you, I have been so busy recovering from Christmas that I’ve barely had any time to plan anything for New Year’s Eve. This time of year when I naturally reminisce about everything that has happened over the past 365 days, it only seems appropriate that the year end with a celebration of the good things of 2013, and a ‘good riddance’ to the not-so-good things. Fortunately, Seattle is one of the nation’s fastest-growing metropolitan cities (over 630,000 residents and counting), so there are dozens of great parties and gatherings to choose from. I can plan the perfect New Year’s Eve 2014 with one simple question: what Seattle public radio station do you listen to?

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