Archive for February, 2011

The Seattle neighborhoods defined as urban centers and urban villages received most of the City’s population growth during the past 10 years.  The U.S. Census Bureau recently released initial 2010 census data for Washington state.   I will have a series of posts about the new census data, and in this first post I look at Seattle’s neighborhoods.  I analyzed the new data at the census tract level, and compared it to 2000 census data.  I am learning to use GIS, so I hope to have colorful maps posted within a few weeks.

First, the top level info, shown in the table below: the City of Seattle grew by 45,000 people during the 2000’s (8%).  The central portion of Seattle (between the Ship Canal and I-90) grew the fastest, at 11%.  The city as a whole has a population density over 7,000 people per square, similar to the City of Detroit, while the central portion is nearing 10,000.  For comparison, a typical neighborhood of single-family homes has a density of 5,000 people/mi2, and Manhattan has an average density of 71,000 people/mi2.

The table below provides the population growth and density for each Seattle neighborhood.  I used the neighborhood names and boundaries according to the City’s Community Reporting Areas, shown on the map linked at the bottom of this post.  The 13 neighborhoods that each added over 1,000 residents represent two-thirds of the City’s population growth.  The remaining 40 neighborhoods added only one-third of the new residents.  The top 13 neighborhoods are most of the city’s urban centers, particularly South Lake Union and areas surrounding downtown.  Belltown surpassed Capitol Hill as the city’s densest.  The population of the greater downtown area (downtown plus Pioneer Square, Chinatown, Belltown and SLU) increased by 50% this decade, from 20,000 people to 30,000.  The largest population gainers north of the Ship Canal were the University District, Ravenna (i.e. University Village area) and Ballard.  The largest population gainers in the South end were the Seattle Housing Authority redevelopment projects: NewHolly and High Point, plus the West Seattle Junction.  “Gentrifying” areas such as Columbia City and Georgetown did not exhibit muh population growth; maybe that happens later.  Slowly but surely, Seattle is building the city.



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Citymusic: Cairo Edition

This edition of Citymusic honors the city of Cairo, Egypt, population 15,200,000, and its newfound freedom.  Chris Tomlin’s God of this City: “Greater things are yet to come; greater things are still do be done in this city.” (click link to listen)

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Natural gas, primarily used for building heating, constitutes 16% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Seattle.  As I noted in a previous post, a city seeking carbon neutrality can shut down the natural gas distribution system, bringing these carbon emissions to zero in one fell swoop.  Building heat and hot water can be provided by several energy sources, including electricity. 

Mini-B Passivhaus on display at the Phinney Neighborhood Center

But where will all the electricity to replace natural gas come from?  In Seattle, we are blessed with carbon-free hydropower.  But we have a limited supply, and any additional electricity would need to be purchased on the open market or come from new generation.  However, the cheapest electron is the one you never need to generate, due to energy efficiency.

Passivhaus is an emerging standard for buildings that uses up to 90 percent less energy than conventional construction; a maximum of 4.75 kBTUs/square foot/year for heating.   The Passivhaus standard uses thick insulation and high-performance windows to prevent heat losses, and recovers heat from exhausted air through a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV).  A 300 square foot Passivhaus, the Mini-B, is on display at the Phinney Neighborhood Center in Seattle.

By building new construction to Passivhaus standards and developing cost-effective Passivhaus remodeling strategies, the electric demand for building heating can be vastly reduced.  Which will leave the hydropower electricity available for other uses when we move away from fossil fuels in buildings.

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