Posts Tagged ‘development’

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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Cascadia concept (Source: http://www.livecascadia.com)

Two large-scale master planned communities have been proposed in the Puget Sound area over the past decade.  Cascadia would provide 6,500 homes and office parks on 5,000 acres, on a forested greenfield site 21 miles east of Tacoma and 43 miles southeast of Seattle.

The Yesler Terrace project replaces a low-rise public housing project with up to 5,000 homes and 1,500,000 square feet of commercial development, on a 30 acre site directly across I-5 from downtown Seattle.

The Puget Sound region is expected to add over 1 million new residents in the next few decades.  It sounds logical that the metro area must continue to expand at its edges to accommodate all these people.  But 30 acres near downtown can accommodate nearly as many people as were proposed for 5,000 acres on the exurban fringe. There is plenty of capacity within existing urban areas to accommodate everyone, if we choose to build the city.

Post script:
As of September 2010, the proposed Cascadia community is defunct, repossessed by a bank from the bankrupt developer.  For the Yesler Terrace redevelopment the City will issue the project EIS in February and plans to begin construction in 2012.

Yesler Terrace concept (Source: Seattle Housing Authority)

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