Creating Community as part of Green Building

Graham Black, gProjects, LLC
Brad Stohl, b9 architects

3/6/9 10:15-11:00 am

There are loose notes from the Built Green Conference in Seattle, the morning session I went to. I will clean this up later – but it is good to get it up now for all my readers!

Omitting square footage and creating a framework for people to have shared experiences makes for a better life and gives them a sense of confidence and community and enable them to engage at another level elsewhere.

Their two key points are: Providing space for spontaneous interaction. Putting car at edge of project and creating space at the center of the community for pedestrian movement opportunity is created.

Project at 19th and Pine. 7 home project. 5 star BG, clustered around reclaimed brick courtyard. Deconstructed 3 homes that were there. They reused materials from the 80-90 year old homes in places where they encourage new homeowners to linger, creating a direct connection back to the homes that used to be there. Site planning is important to creating this sense of community. They allowed the brick path to run and fall with the ground contours – they did not resculpt the land. It gives the project a feeling of depth or a sense of having been there for a long time.

Half of the homes are set into the slope 4.5-5 feet. So your kitchen window, when looking across the "canyon",  is looking at the wall across, not a window – and you are experiencing texture. So your neighbors does not have a view into your private space.

Some of the siding is from the barracks at Ft Lewis. Also wind fallen timber. Found mid-project and incorporated into e construction. The barracks siding is fir, which is unusual for building exteriors. Each home home has a different width so there is variety in texture in the canyon.

They really do not want to provide space for cars. They did not build garages. Some of the covered parking is a deck for one of the homes. One of the carports has a green roof. They discouraged use of cars to the extent of shrinking the driveway width to 8 feet from 10, and there is a tree there that must be navigated around. The thought process was when you wanted to go to the store, getting the car out was such a hassle that you would decide to walk or use your bike instead. They have a community agenda and look actively to discourage its use.

They have a community garden (about 700 sq ft) and the mailboxes are in the center to encourage accidental interaction. Another example, the deck was off one of the bedrooms and far from the kitchen, encouraging the owner instead to put the grill out in front of the house, which was much  closer to the kitchen, and would allow interaction with neighbors and perhaps "picking up a new spice rub",

Site specific approach needs to be for more than just the architecture, but in relation to the building code. Do you have to do just what the code says?

Front doors are required to face the street. The homes that are only in the canyon have their front doors in the canyon so they also face the street. The decks of the homes are also in the canyon, to encourage interaction and connectivity with people there, no matter what space they are in (on a deck, or on the ground). Private outdoor spaces are also provided, on the outside of the homes, that are screened with landscaping materials and low fences.

They included public art in the project. Timber in the arbor is from the homes that used to be there. The mailboxes are standard mail boxes that have each been painted. He recommends pushing back at the USPS, it really wants you ot use those big square hulking things.

There are PVC on the roof of the shed. During the day they put energy into the grid, and in the evening the power goes to the community.

The project is set up as an LLC.

BGC09 Keynote Speaker: Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Audio was recorded by

“The challenge facing us today for the future is how to use energy efficiently.”



Our nation is being beggared by the greatest transfer of wealth to a country that does not even share our values or beliefs (China).

RFKJ 1.3 trillion in subsidies to the oil industry in the USA every year. A trillion to coal, and half a trillion to nuke. Every nation that has decarbonized its society has experienced immediate and instantaneous prosperity. Iceland. Sweden. Brazil. Costa Rica. Entrepreneurs then rush to these countries to build theire business – especially environmentlaly related ones.

Solar thermal plants in the desert of the Southwest would power 100% of America’s needs, evne if everyone owned an electric cr. We have enough wind power in MT, Dakotas and TX to power the needs of this country. “The impediments are the huge subsidies we pay to the carbon cronies.” The market advantage the carbon companies gain frmo these government subsidies is what is creating this imbalance.

The grids are under-built, misaligned, or non-existent. People who are able generate their own power (wind farm) can’t connect to enough grid in order to transfer enough electricity to make a difference.

We need a smart grid. $150B to build a grid to erach every American home. Also public utility commissions are an impediments. They restrict access to the grid. Instead of being paid based on for consumption, they should be paid to conserve. (Pull vs push.) Right now buildings that do produce their own power, when they do sell it back to the utility (where they can), they are limited to how much they can return, and they are not paid market rates. This thinking is just wrong.

Solar plants – in the SW they are being built for cheaper than a coal plant, or nucleur plants – and once they are built they are practically free to operate. Electrons are hitting the Earth for free every day – if we could just build a way to capture that and transport to every home in America. For one investment of $650-750B we should have free energy forever.

We’ve done this before. We built an internet grid, a national backbone to every home in America, in 1979. It is practically free to use/maintain today. The cost of electrons will do the same if we build a national grid. We need a national marketplace that rewards good behavior – efficiency – and punish bad behavior, inefficiency, that is waste. We need to realign our marketplace rules so they rationalize with our national interests.

Israel is going thru transition now. Every parking space is having an outlet installed next to it, and swap stations are being built. You would drive your car in and a robot would swap out your exhaust battery and put in a new one in less than 2 minutes – less time than it takes to fill your tank. They are going to give the cars to Israli drivers for free, and they will be charged based on their usage. like cell phones today – most are free, and what you pay for is minutes and other services.

The reason why the cars can be given away for free is because the internal combustion engine is just inherently inefficient. It is heavy and costs a lot to move. An electric car weighs a lot less and requires less inputs to operate it. The driver owns the car, and the utility owns the battery. Batteries not currently in use are a power storage facility for the national grid. Conversations to make this happen in Hawaii and parts of California are currently under way.

He is listing a number of people who are head of major initiatives and departments in our national government that are actually against the thing they have been appointed to “protect”, I will sum it up this way – those damn lobbyists. He says there is nothing wrong with busines people being in government. But there is something wrong with people entering government service to enrich corporate pockets and not protect what they were appointed to protect.

Shoot, he said something about Brittney Spears and I missed it!

Control of the press – Reagan abolished Fairness Act in 1988. Instead of informing us, now they entertain us. This was a big tangent he went one, I can’t possibly keep up. There is a gap in scientific information and public perception because media no longer is responsible for reporting.

Pediatric asthma epidemic in our country – there a number of arguments of what is causing it, but the attacks are triggered by what is in the air. He lays out the different presidential administrations and The Clean Air Act. He also said that in many states it is not even safe ot eat the fresh water fish because of mercury contamination. He says he has so much mercury in his body from eating fish that his levels are more than double what is considered safe by the EPA. You can have your mercury levels tested by sending a lock of your hair to the Waterkeeper Alliance. (Will insert details later). Mercury levels can be reduced within about 5 years when cleanup happens.

“It is not just the destruction of the environment, it is the subversion of democracy.”

We are not protecting nature for the birds and the trees. Nature is the infrastructure of our communities.. That is why we are protecting it.

“Good economic policy = good environmental policy.”

It is not diminishing our wealth, it is an investmemt in infrastructure. He says there is no stronger advocate for free market capitalism than himself.. The best thing that can happen to the environment is if we had true free market capitalism. It promotes efficiency, not waste. And pollution is waste. The undervalation of resources causes waste. In a free marker society, when you make yourself rich, you make the people around you and your community rich. Polluters make themselves rich by making everyone else poor – and they do it by escaping the free market. “Show me a polluter and I will show you a subsidy.”

The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. Humans have appetites for things other than money. This is why the environemnt must be protected.

Factory farming has ruthless market control. The only way they are able to shut out the family farmer is because they are given free subsidies for inputs to run the factory. If they had to internalize the true expense as they do their profit, they would never survive in a true free market society.

There was a lengthy religions parable – most religious rebels challenged the established hierarchies. It’s not just about destroying a landscape – it is an attack on our values. The roots of culture come from nature. Art, poetry, literature – nature is the unifying value found in these things humans value. A respect for nature and a respect for future generations. It is about creating communities with dignity. It’s not just about reducing global warming emissions – it is about pride in being Americans and the moral sense we are going to be respectful of future generations and leave something for them, and not just be selfish for us.


3/8/2009 Follow-up: Another local green blogger,, live streamed video during the event. Unfortunately the audio is pretty bad. I tried listening to this on my desktop with the speakers at full blast and still could not hear it clear enough to listen to it for nearly two hours. I have tried contacting via Twitter and also an email from his blog to see if there was any way to improve the audio portion but he has not responsed. If I find a
link to a similar speech I will post it (he was doing an event in Whistler BC two days before appearing in Seattle.

At the BGC (Built Green Conference)


We are getting close to opening comments at the Built Green Conference in downtown Seattle. We are on the very top floor of the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. To my right is a contractor from Kettle Falls, WA, an hour and a half of north of Spokane. He just told me an amazing story – the wildlife they have there is abundant. On my left is a student from the UW who is working on her thesis. Her speciality is essentially where the land meets the water.

Morning announcements – beginning at noon you can sign up for the after party at the new LEED certified Hyatt hotel – the party is at the Olive 8. Free drinks!

Industry comments – BG props consistently carry higher value, retain value, and sell faster than non-green products. Quality, value and message are what sets BG props apart.

The WA state Director of Department  of Ecology is now speaking. He is referring to a modeling workshop that was done here a couple of weeks ago. I saw this in a newsletter I received at the office this week and will come back to this later. He says the modeling predicts negative impacts in the future. He knows the future definitely holds change based on the number of people here at today’s conference.

He is basically now speaking of where I live- a Built Green home in a Built Green community, where you walk everywhere and know your neighbors. (I live in High Point in West Seattle). He proposes by reducing our petroleum usage by $16B a year, we can put that money towards building more communities (and emission free cars are a part of this scenario, and he does not mean golf carts). He suggests in the future you will be working in a LEED certified building that will produce more energy than it uses.

He is introducing Mayor Greg Nickels.

Mayor Nickels is recapping current economic times, but assures us that we will all get thru this. This afternoon he will be breaking ground for the 2nd light rail line, out to the UW. You will be able to get to the airport from downtown Seattle in 19 minutes. UW to downtown in 7 minutes. This is a great step forward. It will employ 2,900 workers onsite, so local jobs too! He thanks the voters who approved final funding for this project this last fall.

Seattle has a reputation as a green city. He speaks of the Kyoto protocol 2/16/2005. He and the Mayor of Tacoma stood up at a press conference and urged people to shower together to save water, and even for Seattle that is a radical thought. The snow melt that year was so drastic. He stood up on that day and said Seattle would reduce its carbon emissions even further than what the Kyoto protocol called for – 7%. He said last week even Detroit signed on to the Kyoto protocol, and that’s no easy feat for that city.


He now introduces our keynote speaker, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a frequent visitor to Seattle. He says during the last 8 years RFKJ has been a loud voice speaking up for the protection of our climate, to protect it for future generations.

Reminder: Live Blogging Event Tomorrow Morning from the Built Green Conference

Just a reminder to tune in here tomorrow morning to hear news, quotes, and other gems & tidbits I learn at the Built Green Conference. My netbook arrived yesterday and by tonight I will be an expert at using it with my PPC as a wireless hub (or something).

Two days ago I posted about Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as pick for the keynote presentation “How business can utilize sound environmental policies and procedures through the adoption of green business practices.” at 8:15 AM. All I can say is, I am glad they are providing breakfast because as a real estate professional I am more used to working the evening shift, not pulling an early morning one!!

Here is the agenda for tomorrow’s conference. I haven’t finalized my picks for the break-out sessions yet. Guess you will have to stay tuned!

Mar 6, 2009
07:30 am
Complimentary Breakfast and Registration

08:15 am
Conference Introductions and Keynote Presentation by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

10:15 am Educational Sessions

Going Beyond Green Building – Community Development and Social Connectivity

Multifamily Post Occupancy Evaluations

Open Round Table Discussion on the Keynote

The Growing Green Job Market

11:00 am
Exhibit Floor Opens/Complimentary Lunch

1:30 pm Educational Sessions

Built Green/LEED Comparison Report

Does Green = Quality?

Fostering Balance Between the Built & Natural World/Gaining a Competitive Advantage with Salmon Safe Certification

Selling and Promoting Green Without the “Wash”: How to differentiate and make green meaningful to your customers and the media

The Market Value of Green Certified Residential Projects

3:15 pm Educational Sessions

Early Adopters: Taking Ourselves and Our Networks to the Next Level

Future Smart Heating Choices

Green Homes and the Mass Market

Market, Political & Financing Solutions for Energy Retrofits: Energy Performance Score, the Future Market for Measuring Energy Performance

The Myth of Sisyphus: A Roadmap to Greening Our Buildings

5:00 pm
Post-Conference Reception
Hyatt at Olive 8

New Tax Breaks on the House

My husband and I spent over 8 hours last Saturday doing our taxes – self-employment definitely creates more work and I haven’t seen a 1040EZ since I was 25.

Using Turbo Tax you see at the top of the screen in a red box “Federal Tax Due” and a dollar amount. It wasn’t until we entered our mortgage interest and our PMI payments that we went from a red box to green and a Federal Tax Refund. Reaffirming once again what a great asset (although it is a huge debt) a house is to have.

From today’s Realty Times:

Your home likely provides more tax relief than any other acquisition, thanks, in part, to new federal laws designed to ease financial suffering in the recessionary economy.

Read New Tax Breaks on the House by Broderick Perkins

So, just who is Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and why is his keynote at the Built Green conference on 3/6/9 important?

As I posted last Thursday, (Looking for live blogger at Built Green Conference), I will be blogging live from Friday’s 2009 Built Green Conference at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. will be linking to me for the benefit of their readers, and I will also tweet green gems via #SeattleGreenRE on Twitter (follow @greenspacesre). What is all of the hullabaloo about?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (I will refer to him as RFKJ) is nephew to former president John. F. Kennedy and senator Edward M. Kennedy. He is “an environmental activist and attorney”. He’s had a few dustups with the law in his history, most recently serving jail time for trespassing at Camp Garcia, the US. Navy training facility on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. He was part of a group that protested use of a small section of the island for naval training exercises. The incident did suspend live-fire exercises for almost 3 hours, and he was sentenced to 30 days in jail even though his attorney was former Governor of New York Mario Cuomo. Interestingly enough, his youngest son, born 5 days before his sentending in July in 2001, has “Vieques” as one of his middle names. It obviously was a memorable experience.

I think RFKJ can thank his 1983 arrest for heroin possession for getting him involved with the environmental group that launched his career, the Riverkeeper organization. His in a regional airport in South Dakota led to two years probation, periodic tests for drug use, treatment by joining Narcotics Anonymous, and 1,500 hours of community service. He joined the Riverkeeper organization in 1984 to satisfy his community service sentence. He worked with the group to sue alleged polluters of the Hudson River in New York (the location of the recent plane crash where everyone survived thanks to “Captain Sully”). After he fulfilled his community service hours, the group then hired him as their chief prosecuting attorney.

It obviously has been a great partnership, as he is still with Riverkeeper. From his formal bio on the Built Green Conference web site,

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. Kennedy was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success in helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. The group’s achievement helped spawn more than 160 Waterkeeper organizations across the globe. Kennedy serves as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, chief prosecuting attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and president of Waterkeeper Alliance. He is also a clinical professor and supervising attorney at Pace University School of Law’s Environmental Litigation Clinic and is co-host of Ring of Fire on Air America Radio. Earlier in his career, he served as assistant district attorney in New York City.”

RFKJs family connections and lengthy body of work (even his run-ins with the law) have made him the man he is today. He is a prolific author and defender of the environment.

At the Built Green Conference on Friday he will be speaking on “the state of environmental activism and how to meaningfully address the environmental problems that face us”. I for one am really looking forward to this speech.

I also am appreciative of the opportunity to share this event with everyone around the world who is interested in hearing what he has to say, and what conference goers and participants are also doing to help improve our world. Individually we need to pay attention to what is our own largest contribution to our personal carbon footprint – our home.

Be sure to tune in Friday morning for live updates from the conference floor and the keynote presentation that may change your world for the better.

Real Estate Outlook: Housing Positioned For Growth

From today’s Realty Times:

No economist has more information at his or her disposal than Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, and what he told Congress last week should be encouraging news for anyone interested in real estate: The recession that has gripped the country painfully for 18 months will “end” later this year – moving us into positive economic growth.

Full Story:

Testing mobile blogging for live keynote from Built Green Conference

While I am waiting for my new netbook to show up, I am testing mobile blogging from my PPC.

Friday morning Robert F. Kennedy Jr will be opening this year’s Built Green Conference at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. I am looking forward to tbis event It will be the first time I have gone; the last three years during conference time I was working on other real estate contracts. This year I am able to exclusively focus on my green real estate business and I am very excited that my blog will be linked to for the keynote speech.

I will also be posting little gems via Twitter. You can follow me @greenspacesre and also check #SeattleGreenRE.

More soon!

Sweet little starter in SE Seattle, 2+ bedrooms, 2 garages, corner level lot, garden space and room for the 4-legged friend to romp!

My out-of-state seller client recently reduced the price of his home near Kubota Garden in Upper Rainier Beach by $30,000. The area provides easy access to just about everything, like I-5, the new light rail station, etc. The house is ON bus route 7, so if you use mass transit you will love how convenient this is for you.

The home is staged and the heat is on. Full basement has tons of potential. Lots of new features including a new gas furnace. Nice view of Lake Washington as you come and go daily.

Real estate inside the city limits always retains its value. Be sure to check this home out and make an offer! If you are a DIYer and want to make an appointment to see it, call me at 206.686.HOME.