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Capitol Hill Housing’s EcoDistrict Wrapup

By May 29, 2012

Tonight I attended Capitol Hill Housing’s 7th Annual Community Forum (along with about 250 other interested folks), Creating an EcoDistrict – How do we make Capitol Hill a model of sustainable development?

I went knowing embarrassingly little about Capitol Hill Housing (they own 43 buildings around town) and mainly interested to hear if we’d be getting more sexy buildings like the Bullitt Center.

Not surprisingly the campaign to create an “EcoDistrict” on Capitol Hill extends way beyond simply sexy buildings. The head of CHH described the effort as “a neighborhood committed to sustainability”. An effort that encompasses six environmental performances areas: energy, water, habitat, transportation, materials and community. Fortunately for us on Capitol Hill the effort is a collaboration of CHH and GGLO, funding from the Bullitt Foundation and is being led by Liz Dunn and Rob Schwartz.

CHH has an overview of the proposal [pdf] with many of the graphics they presented at the meeting. Or if you have the time, here’s the full report [pdf].

Why Capitol Hill of all neighborhoods? We’re engaged, involved and already pretty sustainable (we’ll have the world’s first two living buildings.)

Why now? 1. The economy is about to start cranking again. Now is the time to put a framework in place for all the economic development that is going to come. 2. We have major transportation to the Hill on its way. 3. 2030 Challenge.

What I enjoyed most was hearing from Denis Hayes (founder of Earth Day!?) about the challenges and opportunities in building the Bullitt Center. He talked about how Seattle’s building code made what they’re doing illegal and how they then needed to negotiate an exemption (he said in the future instead of building code prescriptions, we’ll have building modeling). Or that it is impossible to finance green buildings because financiers assume buildings only last 40-50 years and don’t know how to account for a building is being built to last 250 years. He also talked about the building’s window system which had to be built locally but the technology only existed in Germany and required getting an Everett firm licensed to build the windows. Or that there just isn’t enough info on toxins in materials in order to make thoughtful selections. He also mentioned that it is possible to make solar work and that in the future all buildings will have their own reservoirs.

The primary call to action was to get involved. However, I don’t see an online way for you to volunteer? Hopefully they fix that soon :).