Healthy People: Materials Science & Human Health

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 2

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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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Hurtling into the Future, Faster Than a Speeding Bullitt

If anyone is qualified to be the president of the super-sustainable Bullitt Foundation, it’s Denis Hayes. On April 22, 1970, he organized the first Earth Day, an environmental protection event that is now celebrated in over 190 countries. Hayes was also the head of the Solar Energy Research Institution during the Carter administration, was named Time Magazine’s Hero of the Planet in 1999, and has received a national Jefferson Awards Medal for Outstanding Public Service. Hayes has been with the Bullitt Foundation since 1992.

Bullitt Center 3

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Bertschi School: Living Building to Live Up To

Kids love gross things. It’s one of those constants in life that you can depend on like clockwork, like taxes or shoppers behaving like inhuman monsters at Black Friday sales. But Bertschi School in Seattle (also my alma mater) uses this fact to their advantage in their new Living Science Building, which is changing how kids learn about the world they stand to inherit.

Bertschi School, on 10th Avenue East in Seattle, was founded by Brigitte Bertschi in 1975.
Bertschi School, on Capitol Hill in Seattle, was founded by Brigitte Bertschi in 1975.

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