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Preservation Green Lab, Vulcan and City of Seattle Team Up to Pilot New Strategies for Maximizing the Energy Efficiency of Historic Buildings
Historic Preservation Blog from -
Contributed By: National Trust for Historic Preservation
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SEATTLE, WA – As local governments across the country struggle to balance economic and environmental goals, a new agreement announced today creates a national model to do both. The City of Seattle, in partnership with the Preservation Green Lab and Vulcan Real Estate, is piloting a new energy code designed to help developers of historic buildings meet rigorous energy efficiency goals in the most cost-efficient way.

The deal, codified in a Memorandum of Agreement signed by all the three partners, will exempt the Supply Laundry Building, a historic 30,000 square-foot building in South Lake Union, from many of the prescriptive energy code requirements that commonly discourage developers from renovating older, historic buildings. The City of Seattle will set clear and rigorous energy efficiency targets for the building, but will not dictate precisely how those targets must be met. The move provides building owner Vulcan and its engineers far greater flexibility in reaching required energy efficiency targets.

Liz Dunn, director of the Preservation Green Lab, the Seattle-based think tank focused on sustainability and historic preservation said, “Existing buildings present unique challenges and opportunities for energy-saving, and a one-size-fits-all code approach does not serve them well. Supply Laundry shows we can protect the historic character that’s vital to South Lake Union, while exceeding energy efficiency targets.”

The new outcome based energy code also recognizes the impact of occupant behavior on a building’s energy use, something that the conventional energy code and permitting process do not consider. In this case, the City will monitor the Supply Laundry’s energy consumption for 18 months following occupancy, and will impose enforcement measures as necessary to ensure that the building meets stringent targets for energy consumption.“

We are proud to be the first developer to adopt these outcome based standards and to demonstrate how a thoughtful, alternative approach to energy efficiency can exceed the current code,” said Ada M. Healey, Vulcan’s Vice President of Real Estate. “We’re very glad to see the City of Seattle leading the way in this effort.”

The outcome based code approach enables the Supply Laundry design team to maximize the energy-efficient features typical of older and historic buildings. These features include natural day-lighting and ventilation through working windows. Conventional energy code, by contrast, does not recognize energy savings achieved by passive features.

"In tough economic times, it is particularly important for the City of Seattle to look for ways to be flexible while still meeting energy efficiency objectives,” said Diane Sugimura, director of the Department of Planning and Development. “With the Supply Laundry project we are saving an important piece of history while still achieving energy performance outcomes we need. It’s a precedent that cities everywhere are paying close attention to."

About Preservation Green Lab
Launched in March of 2009, the Seattle-based Preservation Green Lab was established by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with the mission to further the scientific understanding of the value of our existing building stock. In its work, the Preservation Green Lab develops and promotes strategic policies for integrating the reuse and retrofitting of older and historic buildings into city and state efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve other sustainability objectives. Its funders include the Kresge Foundation, the Doris Duke Foundation, and the Bullitt Foundation. 
For more information, visit

About Vulcan Real Estate
Vulcan Real Estate directs all real estate activities for Vulcan Inc., a Paul G. Allen company. The company’s experienced, talented team of real estate professionals offers a full range of development services from site selection to build-to-suit construction. Its real estate model is based on quality, sustainable development that builds new value across the entire community. To date, Vulcan has delivered nearly 4.3 million square feet in 21 new office, biotech, residential and mixed-use projects in South Lake Union. The company has approximately 500,000 square feet currently under construction. For more information, visit 

David Brotherton
Brotherton Strategies

Josh Chaitin
The Fearey Group

Posted: November 12, 2011
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