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Ever-greener Seattle leads in LEED buildings, bike trails, climate action

May 18th, 2009

Green buildings

Clean energy and efficient buildings are a key aspect of Seattle’s green plan which includes such LEED-certified buildings as Seattle City Hall, the Central Library, McCaw Performance Hall and the Seattle Justice Center.

One up and coming project is a West Seattle neighborhood renovation called the High Point Redevelopment plan. The project has replaced subsidized housing that was built quickly after WWII. The revitalized neighborhood includes 1,600 houses, condos and apartments and 34-block drainage system that protects Longfellow Creek, Seattle’s most productive salmon-spawning stream. The community also claims to be the first neighborhood in the nation built specifically for children with asthma. Phase I was completed in 2006; Phase II is scheduled to be done this year.

In 2008, the city introduced a Green Building Task Force that develops ways to improve the energy efficiency of Seattle buildings by 20 percent by 2020 through solar and other renewable energy sources. The city’s power company, City Light, exceeded conservation goals by 20 percent in the last year – saving enough energy to power 9.800 homes in Seattle for a year.

Seattle’s carbon footprint

How close is Seattle to meeting its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to meet the 2012 international goals of the Kyoto Agreement?

Nickels says that the city of Seattle was already 8 percent below 1990 levels in 2005. However, he says, “without continued improvement in our carbon reduction strategies, our population growth will push us above the Kyoto target by 2012. Our office of Sustainability and Environment has developed a carbon reduction assessment that provides a path to meeting Kyoto and setting the stage for future reductions in order to meet our city’s goal of 80 percent reduction (below 1990 levels) by 2050.”

Seattle, with its strong record of conservation achievement, may be capable of reaching that goal. It has already shown it can reduce water use and trim its garbage load.

The city uses less water today than in 1975, even though the number of people living there has increased; and in 2005, Seattle recycled 44 percent of its waste, and hopes to recycle 60 percent of its trash by 2012.

“Seattle is definitely one of the greenest cities in North America — from a variety of standpoints including the culture, level of awareness and the policies in the community, ” says Jason McLennan, CEO of the Cascadia Chapter of the US Green Building Council.

But McLennan, a resident of the city, says the bar needs to be much higher.

“We have a far way to go and it’s best not to be complacent. We are all very far from true sustainability. I applaud the steps that have been taken, but much more needs to be done. Beating the rest of the country is easy when the bar is set so low in North America!”

With the Obama administration’s Green Team in place, cities throughout the U.S. will undoubtedly experience a green push. Mayor Nickels says he is encouraged to see the new administration working with cities on carbon reduction strategies, but that progress must occur locally.
“It is important,” Nickels says, “for the federal government to understand that metro areas are the economic engines of our country, and are also the places where we have the greatest potential to reduce greenhouse gases. “

(Photo credits: Mayor Nickels with constituents and Nickels and street car, City of Seattle; High Point Redevelopment Plan, Seattle Housing Authority;)
Copyright © 2009 | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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