All Case Studies
American Assets Trust developed this mixed-use three-building project that spans four blocks as part of Portland’s Lloyd EcoDistrict. The three buildings share one of the largest natural organic recycling treatment systems in the US, which treats all the buildings' wastewater (including human waste from toilets) for reuse for toilet flushing, mechanical cooling and below surface landscape irrigation in an urban setting. It was permitted as a Water Pollution Control Facility with two on-site injection dry wells. The project showcases the economic and ecological benefits of district scale onsite wastewater treatment and reuse.
The Full Plane Passive House gives modern form and presence to the owner’s ecological and social values, while providing a playful environment for her son to grow and be educated in sustainable living in the City. To meet net-zero water goals she combined stormwater catchment, graywater irrigation for her living landscape and composting toilets. It all complied with Oregon’s statewide alternative water re-use plumbing rules adopted a decade before many other US Cities even considered it.
Construction of a 40-unit apartment complex with a 1,000 square-foot community building. Plus an additional 8 units in a future phase, bringing the total to 48 units. Site was developed with Glass Cullet (made from crushed bottles diverted from municipal waste) as a 100% substitute fill material to construct a slab-on-grade foundation capillary break, and for waterline pipe zone bedding. Approval of the alternative material required endorsement of geotechnical engineer and warrant by subcontractor of product quality, using manufacturer supplied 3rd-party product testing data. Glass cullet provided a low-cost, highly workable, permeable and structurally stable (equal or better) alternative material that is also clean and safe for workers and the environment.
Replacing an old and poorly installed fireplace resulted in the construction of a handcrafted brick and plaster masonry heater. The owner/builder faced fire hazard concerns, structural hurdles, and indoor air quality standards but used hands-on experience and an extensive support network to see the project become the centerpiece of her household.
High efficiency, building science and technology make a house that is extremely airtight and insulated. It differs from standard design in that a large central heating system is not required. The project’s uniqueness challenged the building official to find a way to permit a smaller-than-standard heating system while still adhering to all building code regulations and generally assumed rules. The building official used the authority found in WSEC Section 103 – Alternate Materials. The heating system was permitted with a caveat that the home’s heat load be monitored over the pilot year, and, in the case of sub-standard heating, a prescriptive heating system be installed. The structure also had to meet all Washington State Energy Code Heat Load requirements.
Garden Raised Bounty is a non-profit environmental learning center built upon the generosity of a whole community. The first-floor walls were constructed with Faswall ICF’s (insulated concrete forms), creating an efficient open-diffusion permeable wall system. Non prescriptive parts to this project include custom engineering for an ICF, energy code compliance an non prescriptive wall assembly.
This project was primarily challenging due to innovative insulation technique (straw bales); Tumwater and Thurston County jurisdictions were previously inexperienced with this type of engineering. Due to material choices based on ecologically based decision making, straw bale walls were approximately 2’ thick, this required extra discussion to verify footprint, whether to count sq ft from internal or external footprint of house—an important qualification to meet ADU permitting guidelines.
This home’s exterior envelope was constructed entirely from Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs), and the interior was heated with a Ductless Heat Pump and included a Heat Recovery Ventilator for indoor air quality, all resulting in an extremely airtight, energy efficient non-standard home. While no building codes were ignored, the home incorporates several systems many building officials may be unfamiliar with. There is no code section detailing the use of SIPs as a roof structure, however an engineer or architect may sign off on this usage. Premier SIPs, the company that supplied the Panels, offers technical information for SIPs in roofing and other non-prescriptive uses. Plans were only approved after several educational meetings with Thurston County Building Officials, including Rowland Zoeller, Scott Bergford, his designer, and several building scientists.
GRuB (Garden-Raised Bounty) was a project with a lot of community support. Local outreach and a history of service to the area were factors that led to this non-profit’s headquarters being located in a Single Family Residence neighborhood with a conditional use permit. Their facility includes a 5-Star Green Built farmhouse, which they use to stage their activities that provide fresh produce and garden beds for low to no-income households in the South Puget Sound area. GRuB Farmhouse was permitted to build a commercially designated building in a single family residence zone in Olympia, WA. This was accomplished by the acquisition of a conditional use permit through the City of Olympia.
This technology was permitted as a part of the home’s larger, airtight design. This home is constructed from Structural Insulated Panels and only requires 7800 BTU to heat, however the smallest DHP available produces 21000 BTU. Thanks to much education, the building official was willing to permit this technology, understanding that despite challenging the code, this solution was the most efficient for the home’s overall design
All of Thurston County, Tumwater, Olympia, and Lacey's wastewater is cycled through the LOTT alliance. Methane is a natural bi-product of the entire water treatment process. This methane needs to be either used or disposed of, most companies doing the latter. The LOTT Alliance chose to recycle this methane using an innovative technology, the Co-Generation System that turns the methane into electricity. To permit this system, it first had to meet several key requirements.
Washington Middle School installed a 1.1 KW solar photovoltaic array on the roof of the library. The permit for the panels took over four months to be approved. The panels were installed as part of the Washington State Senate Bill 5509. The panels offset energy costs throughout the school.
Washington Middle School installed a rainwater catchment system. There is a large fiberglass cistern in the ground used to collect rain water from the roof. This system uses the water from the cistern to flush toilets throughout the school. Although no permits were obtained for the school to install the system, the catchment system was installed as part of the Washington State Senate Bill 5509.
The Bullitt Center is a unique, first-of-its kind office building in downtown Seattle at 1501 Madison Street. The building is designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), including Net Zero Energy and Net Zero Water. Working directly with the City of Seattle and their LBC pilot program, new technologies and design elements for sustainability were permitted or allowed through conditional-use permits, variances, and exclusive permissions from the city. Micro-foam-flush marine toilets with an onsite composting system are used to help achieve the Net Zero Water goal and adhere to the requirements of the city’s pilot program.
The Yauger Park Low Impact Development (LID) Project provides for enhanced water quality treatment, additional storage volume and improvements to the recreational facilities at the City of Olympia’s Yauger Park regional stormwater facility. In this case study, the permeable pavement (porous Asphalt) at the Yauger Park Low Impact Development (LID) Project is examined. Federal funding under the “American Recovery Act” was used to build a demonstration project employing environmentally sensitive Best Management Practices (BMPs). There are several environmental innovations being used at this one site, and permeable pavement is just one.
This case examines the partnership between the residents of Camp Quixote – a self-governing tent community of homeless adults – and Panza, their nonprofit support organization, Thurston County and the City of Olympia, to site a permanent supportive housing community in a light industrial zone. This required a comprehensive plan amendment and a zoning code amendment adopted by the Olympia City Council over the objections of neighboring commercial property owners, as well as a conditional use permit. On Christmas Eve, 2013 Quixote Village welcomed its previously homeless residents to their new homes, which include a 1700 sq. common house with shared facilities, and 30 individual “tiny house” 144 sq. ft. sleeping units.
The Yauger Park Low Impact Development (LID) Project provides for enhanced water quality treatment, additional storage volume and an enhancement to the recreational facilities at the City of Olympia’s Yauger Park regional stormwater facility. This green infrastructure stormwater treatment project includes bioretention areas (Wetland and Wetponds) that harbor native flora and fauna to promote biofiltration. The bioretention areas of wetlands and wet ponds function as educational and recreational purposes for the community. It also functions to innovate Best Management Practices within each other for demonstration for private property owners and municipal jurisdictions.
Cob is an ancient building material made of clay, sand and straw. Once compacted, it is durable, energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing. The cob Eco-Sense building, home to Ann and Gord Baird, was a labor of love. The Bairds used a variety of innovative strategies to complete the permitting process, including wall sensors to track moisture levels, custom engineering for lateral load requirements, and a rototiller for cob mixture consistency. The house is efficient and uniquely harmonized with the family’s lifestyle and values.
This permitted installation of straw/clay wall insulation had to meet Washington energy code and International Building Code standards. Existing code supplements from other states were referenced and applied by the building team and the approving building department. The straw/clay insulation filled a 12” thick split stud cavity in a single family structure at the Port Townsend Ecovillage. It appears that this was the first straw/clay house permitted in the State of Washington. The permit was issued in May of 2013
Crushed glass cullet was used below a sidewalk as fill and leveling agent in place of sand and gravel at 304 West Bay Drive in Olympia, WA. The material is made up of glass otherwise unsuitable for typical glass recycling and is created at a local quarry. Due to knowledgeable building officials and engineering examiners in Olympia, the material proved to meet the IBC compaction requirements with no additional procedures to permit the project. The project was successfully completed and crushed glass cullet proved to be safe and cost effective.
To futurefit our home (remodel for the future) to the Passive House Standard, we air sealed to reduce air leakage by a factor of 5. Without this "accidental ventilation" we needed to add balanced, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. At the time, no UL-listed heat recovery ventilator (HRV) was available with the necessary combination of 75%+ effective heat transfer and low electrical consumption. The ZehnderAmerica CA 350 HRV was certified by the Passivhaus Institut (PHI) for superior performance, but it was not tested and listed by Underwriter's Laboratory (UL). The City of Portland allowed us to install it without UL listing as an alternate material through its Alternative Technology Advisory Committee (ATAC) process. We enjoy superior ventilation, indoor air quality, and energy efficiency with our HRV.
Green Hammer’s Ankeny Row homes meet the Passive House Standard with whole-house, balanced, continuous ventilation with heat recovery. This ventilation system includes an exhaust vent located in the kitchen. Code requires a direct-through-envelope, intermittent operation, high-volume range hood exhaust system. On appeal, Green Hammer demonstrated the passive house ventilation system is environmentally superior because it provides more ventilation than the code requires as well as heat recovery for greater energy efficiency. The City of Portland allowed this ventilation system as “an alternate method/material.”
The Bertschi School Living Science wing is an award-winning building completed in 2011, which includes a small classroom, science lab and ethnobotanical garden. It was the first building certified under the Living Building Challenge V2.0, considered to be the most stringent green building certification in the world. The LBC's Net-Zero Water imperative requires on-site supply, treatment and reuse of all the building's water needs. They met this in part by installing an innovative rainwater harvesting system that uses filtration and sanitation to treat water for potable use by the school's staff and students.
The "Moving Green Infrastructure Forward" Project is a two-year stormwater monitoring project at Terminal 91, Port of Seattle. Using the Splash Boxx, a bioretention planter box used for stormwater management, the project compares the pollutant removal efficiency two bioretention soil mix designs: one with conventional sand/compost and another with volcanic sand/compost. Splash Boxx is recognized by the Washington Department of Ecology as equivalent to a bioretention facility, so the project was easily approved by the Port of Seattle. It was also designed consistent with City of Seattle guidelines for bioretention planter boxes.
We reduced air leakage and thermal bridges by replacing our through-roof plumbing waste piping vent system with a combination of air admittance valves (AAV) and a two-way, filtered outdoor valve. Oregon’s plumbing code recognized AAVs, but restricted their use to 3 per house and required one through-roof vent. On appeal, the City of Portland allowed us to install AAVs according to manufacturer’s guidelines so we could eliminate all through-roof vents, using the "alternate materials and methods" provision through its Alternative Technology Advisory Committee (ATAC) process.
Conventional heat pump water heating systems use synthetic refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP). Japanese engineers developed heat pump domestic hot water heaters (HPDHW) using CO2, an abundant, natural refrigerant in the 1990s (known as “Eco-Cute”). Oregon’s plumbing code prohibits installation of a domestic hot water heating system until it is tested and listed by a testing agency approved by the State of Oregon. Although Sanden’s Eco-Cute is not yet tested by an approved agency, the City of Portland allowed us to install the CO2 HPDHW system as an alternate material through its Alternative Technology Advisory Committee process.
This sustainable community development of 16 homes used innovative Diamond Pier precast pin foundations to virtually eliminate soil disturbance and storm-water impacts on their hydrologically sensitive site, as a result, no excavation & grading permit was required. By implementing this technology as part of a low-impact development strategy for the whole development, Clearwater commons navigated a path to compliance that protected their watershed, while allowing more homes, that were more affordable than would have been possible with other low-impact development strategies
The ground source heat pump used at 21 Acres farm helped to earn them a LEED Platinum certification. A geothermal system is the most efficient and healthy way to heat a building, with minimal environmental impact and long lasting performance. The heating/cooling system uses 1/4th the amount of energy as a conventional system, and when coupled with radiant floor heating, delivers an even dispersion of heat across the floor, making it suitable for buildings with high ceilings.
The Bertschi School Living Science wing is an award-winning building located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, completed in 2011, which includes a small classroom, science lab and ethnobotanical garden. It was the first building certified under the Living Building Challenge V2.0, considered the most stringent green building certification in the world. Among other deep green features, the project reuses greywater from handwashing sinks to irrigate an interior living wall. This helped the project achieve “Net Zero Water” as defined by the Living Building Challenge, i.e. a building that collects, treats and infiltrates all water used on the site. To meet state and local code requirements, the greywater system had to have a conventional overflow connection to the city sewer but under normal operation, no water is sent down these pipes.
The Bullitt Center aspires to be the "greenest commercial building in the world" by pursuing the Living Building Challenge which includes a net-zero energy goal to produce all the energy the building uses. The Northwest's variable amount and intensity of daylight affects solar production values, so scaling the system to meet the needs of a six-story building required a 244 kW array with 570 solar panels, which installed cover an area larger than the footprint of the building, overhanging the sidewalk below. Normally this would not be allowed, but a land use interpretation helped them gain approval.