Sustainability in Seattle

Posted by Oliver Hogue on 01/08/2014

Imagine an entire city centre of property owners, managers, developers and tenants collectively focused on reducing the environmental impacts of building construction and operations in the city centre. Well, that’s the aim of a collaborative arrangement between government and private enterprise in the American city of Seattle.

Known as Seattle 2030 District, and representing an area roughly three times the size of Brisbane's CBD, the group of property owners, professionals and community stakeholders are collectively working to reduce energy consumption, which they hope will help create an environmentally high-performing city centre to inspire the rest of the world.

Strong testament to the groups’ ambition is the ditching of typical building-by-building approaches to goal setting. Instead they have set a target for the whole district to reduce energy use, water use and transport-related CO2 emissions by 50% before 2030.

And while members are provided with access to professional services, educational tools and peer support to help achieve this target, it is an 'online dashboard' that is helping to engage and inspire the entire community.

Using real-time energy monitoring, the online dashboard allows buildings to track their performance and openly share the results. It is claimed to be the first time a group of commercial buildings have voluntarily shared energy, water and transportation data with the public.

So far, the group has attracted about 25 percent of the Seattle 2030 District area, with the initial attention focused on existing larger commercial buildings due to perceived resource challenges with existing smaller buildings.

Of course, to achieve the Districts’ overall energy reduction target, each existing building that has signed up must be assigned its own target, and there are even stricter standards for new buildings. However, targets are not legislated, allowing some buildings to crawl toward their target while others must over perform. Nonetheless, success requires much cooperation between neighbouring buildings.

Heat recovery and distributed generation are among the more advanced energy efficiency ideas with others using occupant alerts to open and close windows and reflective roof systems. Discounted travel passes to encourage greater use of public transport, electric vehicle charging stations and building lobby transit information systems are just some of the transport-related initiatives.                                                                                              

And the improvements are doing more than just realising environmental benefits. Some owners and managers have reported lower operating costs and increased desirability to tenants, which has helped them to remain competitive in a tight real estate market.

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