Living Building Pilot Program


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Bonus Development for Sustainability

Through the City of Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program, the opportunities to to pursue added height and building area through bonuses are a worthwhile exploration. Within the core of Seattle, the development bonuses provide an addition of two floors beyond the maximum height, and 25% extra commercial area, which is governed by Floor Area Ratio (FAR). The added area provides additional RSF for substantial sustainability upgrades.

Graphite’s strength in understanding the program allows us to quickly evaluate the suitability of each project for these sustainable building upgrades. Our understanding of the program also leverages timing. Knowing that the decision to commit to the program comes later in the process, we develop alternative strategies that allow clients more time and a smooth transition to participate in the program. Graphite has experience with this pursuit:

Block 46 LBC

Project: Block 46

Location: South Lake Union, Seattle, Washington

Size: 235,000 ft2 (300,000 ft2 with Living Building Pilot Program Bonus)

Office: 226,000 ft2 (290,000 ft2 with Living Building Pilot Program Bonus)

Retail: 9,000 ft2

Block 46 was pursued as a speculative office building through Schematic Design. During this phase, we strategized and designed two versions—one with and one without these bonuses—to obtain city design approval. Graphite’s approach allowed the development to pursue flexible options which gave the client time for a decision without delaying or disrupting the baseline design and entitlement schedule.

Petal Certification Process

The Living Building program consists of seven total petals: Materials, Water, Energy, Beauty, Health and Happiness, Place and Equity. A full living building completes the full petal in all these categories. A Petal Certified building only needs to achieve the full petal in Materials, Water or Energy and complete the ‘core imperatives’ of the other six petals. In both cases, the sustainability development bonuses for Seattle are unlocked.

LBC petals updated

Block 46 pursued the Petal Certification, including the full Energy petal, which includes 105% of energy use accounted for with on- and off-site PV arrays. The off-site array opportunity allows energy needs to be offset by supplying clean energy production to other jurisdictions within the Northwest Power Grid. This allows for taller, narrower buildings like Block 46 to achieve compliance in circumstances when roof area is limited.

The other six pedals require ‘core imperative’ compliance, primarily focusing on flexible solutions and financial obligations. To reduce uncertainty and risk, Graphite is equipped with the expertise to quantify the commitment by studying resolutions early. Additional water requirements to obtain the city bonuses will require studying low flow fixtures, robust water harvesting, and exploring vacuum assisted toilets, which are becoming more commonplace in the commercial market.

Block 46 LBC section updated

Optimizing the Development’s Potential

By designing the project with and without sustainability bonuses, this offers alternative paths to compliance while providing added time to consider commitment to the program. This means the entitlement process continues without delay and overlaps the timeframe needed for due diligence. On Block 46 this allowed the design team to complete further analysis of the water requirements post-entitlement approval, giving the client an overlap and time savings for the pursuit of the program.

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If pursued, the result would be a building that goes beyond the standards of office development in Seattle. A Living Building is healthier, more equitable, more sustainable, and a larger development than is allowed due to the site’s zoning constraints. Maximizing a building’s size, opportunity, and flexibility is fundamental to Graphite’s sustainability outlook.