EVERETT — How do you design a green building? Start with a compass.
Determining the cardinal directions is step one, says Tim Jewett, principal at Dykeman Architects, an Everett firm that specializes in designing sustainable buildings.
If possible, “You want to orient the building to the south,” Jewett said. “Most of the living spaces that people are going to occupy during the day should face south,” said Jewett. “Not only do you get good natural light, but you let a lot of warmth into the building.”
After you’ve gotten your bearings and located due south, pay attention to which way the trees grow. “They provide shade during the summer and when their leaves fall off in the winter they let the sun in,” Jewett said.
Dykeman, which was founded in 1967, began focusing on sustainable building design in the 1990s, Jewett said.
The science of energy efficiency hasn’t changed much in 20 years, though some construction techniques have evolved. What’s different is that building it green from the get-go has become less expensive, Jewett said.
Take triple-pane windows. They’re 20% more efficient than double-pane windows. Installing the triple-pane version at a 60-unit housing project in Marysville is expected to add about $10,000 to the project’s $19 million budget, Jewett said.
Commercial solar energy systems and solar panels, the mainstay of many a green construction project, have also come down in price the past decade or so, he said.
“In 2008 we budgeted $6 per watt, now we budget $2 per watt and it often comes in under that,” Jewett said.
Today, low-income housing and K-12 public school buildings account for about 85% of Dykeman’s business, Jewett said. Tambark Creek Elementary School and North Creek High School, in Bothell, and Lake Stevens High School are recent projects.
“These are clients that build, hold and operate their building for the life of the building,” Jewett said. Reducing energy and maintenance costs while staying on budget is at the top of their list, he said.
Last year, a Dykeman design, HopeWorks Station at 3315 Broadway in Everett, took top honors for its energy-saving and eco-friendly features.
The $30 million Housing Hope project features 65 affordable apartments, first floor restaurant, training kitchen and retail space.
The U.S Green Building Council, a nonprofit, gave HopeWorks its highest certification, a Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
Creature comforts and style were also part of the plan, Jewett said.
Outdoor corridors and an open courtyard offer fresh air breaks and city and mountain views. Local artwork and a curved facade add curb appeal, Jewett said.
Dykeman has again paired with Housing Hope to design Twin Lakes Landing, an “ultra-green,” affordable, 60-unit housing complex in Marysville. Work gets underway this spring.
For Fred Safstrom, CEO of Housing Hope and HopeWorks, building low-income housing that’s also green are twin goals.
”Global warming is an existential threat to our survival in the long run,” Safstrom said. “It’s absolutely critical as responsible human beings that we include a sensitivity to that threat in everything we do.”
Just when you were feeling good about driving less or taking the bus to reduce your carbon footprint, Safstrom cites an Environmental Protection Agency study that points to buildings as a significant source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.
“Buildings create 48 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States,” Safstrom said. “There’s a lot of attention given to automobiles and energy production, but buildings are huge contributors.”
The goal at Twin Lakes Landing is to achieve Passive House Certification and the state’s Evergreen Sustainable Development Standards.
The “passive house” part refers to an older European standard that’s making inroads in the states.
“It’s a state-of-the-art building which requires very little mechanical heating,” Safstrom said. And where a mechanical heating and cooling system is required, it’s either much smaller than a typical system or intended as a backup. Typically, they’ll use 40% to 80% less energy than a conventional building.
“In a properly designed passive single-family house, you should be able to heat it with candles and body heat,” Jewett said.
It’s an ideal that starts with a “super insulated building envelope,” Jewett said. Insulation goes into the roof and walls but also extends under the entire concrete floor slab. Up to a quarter of a building’s energy can be lost through the foundation and under the slab.
The Twin Lakes Landing project is another opportunity for Dykeman to help alleviate homelessness and contribute to solving climate change at the same time, Jewett said.
About $1.5 million of the project’s $19 million construction budget is for enhanced energy work, Safstrom said. Sustainable construction can reduce building operation costs in the long run, but if you’re looking for an immediate return on your investment, it may not be there, Safstrom said.
“If you’re approaching this purely from an economic point of view, your rational decision may be the payback may be too long,” Safstrom said. “You have to ask yourself, what are your values?”
Janice Podsada; firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods