Communities around the world and locally face pressing health challenges associated with the intersection of health and the built environment. While our genetics and access to quality health care are important factors for our health, our environment and behavior choices significantly affect our health. Aside from our personal transportation and food choices, our built environment and land use choices directly influence the health of our families and communities.
Health and well-being have long been pillars of sustainable design at a variety of scales: material selection; design elements to promote active transportation; and connectivity at the neighborhood & infrastructure scale. As we strive to create high performance projects that strengthen the local economy, enhance the quality of life in all our communities, and protect the environment, health is increasingly the lens through which we are evaluating neighborhood investments.
GGLO is proud to support Seattle’s world-leading goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 through its work with the Seattle Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) on the 2013 Seattle Climate Action Plan (CAP), climate-friendly neighborhoods visualizations outreach project, and Green Ribbon Commission (GRC) Recommendations report. The City actions in the 2013 CAP focus on those sources of emissions where City action and local community action will have the greatest impact: road transportation, building energy, and waste, which comprise the majority of local greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and actions to increase local resilience to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
The overall vision of Capitol Hill’s EcoDistrict will evolve over time, but the starting point for the study detailed in our report is a vision of a high-performing, socially vibrant and equitable neighborhood; a neighborhood that is reflected in the Broadway light rail Station Area development and across the community; a neighborhood that meets environmental performance goals in six areas – Community, Transportation, Energy, Water, Habitat, and Materials – and becomes a model for EcoDistrict development in the city and region. This working vision was derived from a synthesis of the research presented in the report and input from community stakeholders.
In December 2009, GGLO became a founding member of the Seattle 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaborative working to create a ground breaking high-performance building district in downtown Seattle. Participants of the District include major property owners and management companies, utilities, engineering and architecture firms, and community stakeholders like Architecture 2030, Cascadia Green Building Council, the City of Seattle and BetterBricks.
Green infrastructure, such as green roofs, green walls, and rain gardens, are excellent strategies to increase habitat and biodiversity on and around buildings, manage stormwater flows on site, treat greywater, lower surface air temperatures, and provide public amenities like community open space or educational experiences.
On November 16, 2009, GGLO signed on to the AIA 2030 Commitment program, which seeks to further the goals of the “The 2030 Challenge” developed by architect Ed Mazria at Architecture 2030. The AIA program asks firms to take a leadership role in operational improvements and project design by reducing energy consumption in the built environment through design innovation, education, and promotion of new technologies and solutions.
In accordance with our core values, GGLO has developed an Environmental Action Plan (EAP) to guide progress toward reducing the environmental impact of its business operations. Launched in 2007, the EAP is a living document that establishes a commitment and procedures to measure and decrease the firm’s environmental impact in key areas, including consumables, indoor environmental quality, energy use, water use, transportation, renovations, and greenhouse gas emissions.
Parks in urban environments provide an essential outlet for residents as places for walks, gatherings, and recreation. Sustainable practices including use of drought-tolerant and native plants, low maintenance lawns, bioswales and storm water management, high-efficiency irrigation, and organic gardening practices are all very common. But where can we push further, to have the most valuable impact on our future parks?
We are proposing to reinvent parks as laboratories of innovation that operate across boundaries of environmental, social, economic, and aesthetic agendas; synthesizing nature and artifice, utility and recreation. The concept of “productive parks” put forth herein is that of parks as self-sustaining testing grounds that inspire communities to further action.
GGLO is part of a team comprised of some of the Seattle area’s leading green building professionals that formed The Restorative Design Collective to build a cutting-edge green science building for the Bertschi School, an independent elementary school on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Working pro bono, the team designed and built the new science building to meet the standards of the Living Building Challenge, a “deep-green” building program that encourages projects to achieve self-sufficiency by generating all of their own energy with renewable resources, harvesting and treating all of their own water on site, and operating at maximum levels of efficiency with a healthy indoor environment.