Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monroe Prison Gets Green Certification

Expansion for 200 men cost $39.5 million


MONROE -- The state's largest prison, which houses 2,500 men, is about to expand still further, adding hundreds of beds for its worst-behaved inmates. Yet as they lie in their 12-by-8-foot cells, gazing up through narrow windows at a tiny slice of sky, the criminals in solitary confinement at Monroe Correctional Complex will be using low-energy lights to read by and collected rainwater to flush their toilets.

Theirs is the first prison unit in the state to be certified as "green" by the U.S. Green Building Council, and officials at the Department of Corrections believe it may be the first such cellblock in the nation. It cost $39.5 million to build and will hold 200 men.

The new, energy-efficient cellblock for the worst-behaved inmates at Monroe Correctional Complex will open in January.

The effort to build more environmentally friendly prisons dovetails with an ambitious, $500 million campaign to expand inmate space around the state.

New units are in the works at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Franklin County; the state penitentiary in Walla Walla; Larch Corrections Center in Clark County; Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Thurston County; Airway Heights Corrections Center near Spokane; and Mission Creek, the women's prison near Belfair.

By 2009, when the construction is scheduled for completion, Washington will be able to house 3,500 more offenders. Even so, Corrections officials predict a 4,000-bed shortfall within 10 years.

"We don't think you can outbuild the inmate population," said Mike Kenney, assistant deputy of prison departments. "It's kind of a 'Field of Dreams' syndrome."

The real solution, he said, is a comparatively inexpensive $25 million re-entry program, aimed at curtailing recidivism so released inmates do not return.

"The whole purpose of re-entry is to turn back the tide so we don't keep building new prisons," Kenney said. "We don't believe that building is a long-term solution."

To advocates of reform, however, the skewed numbers -- $25 million for re-entry programs, versus $500 million for new bed space -- make plain the official priorities at Corrections.

"They do these little piecemeal things," said Ari Kohn, who speaks frequently with legislators about the need for improved education and transitional housing programs. "It's ridiculous, and it comes out of cowardice. All of these legislators are just scared to death at being labeled soft on crime."

Ken Quinn, superintendent at Monroe and a longtime associate of Corrections Secretary Harold Clarke, acknowledged that violent crime rates have been leveling off. But when offenders arrive at prison, they come with ever-longer sentences.

"They're younger, more violent and doing more time," Quinn said. "So we've had this need for more space."

Relatives of inmates at Monroe insist that overcrowding at the complex 45 minutes from Seattle has led to fights and several inmate deaths.

A new cellblock at Monroe Correctional Complex may be the first to be certified "green" by the U.S. Green Building Council.

But energy-efficient prisons, mandated by the Legislature, are more costly to build. The overhaul at Coyote Ridge, in which every component has been designed for a "green" rating, will add 2,048 beds and carries a $254 million price tag.

"It costs a little bit more to build," said David Jansen, who oversees capital programs at Corrections. "But over the life of the building it ends up costing less" to heat and maintain.
Paddy Hescock, facilities manager at Monroe, is a believer.

"There's a payback," he said. "It might be 50 or 60 years down the road, but with non-sustainable buildings, you have no payback at all."

Hescock gets his guidelines from the Green Building Council.

But inmates at Monroe have not been shy about offering their own ideas for saving water and electricity, some of them quite ingenious, he said.

Energy efficiency is particularly urgent at Corrections, which must keep lights on 24 hours a day in many prisons. To keep costs down, the department has taken an unusually proactive approach.

"The Department of Corrections," spokesman Chad Lewis said, "is now probably one of the greenest agencies in the state."

P-I reporter Claudia Rowe can be reached at 206-448-8320 or
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Web Tool Makes Carbon Neutral Building Easier


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SANTA ROSA, Calif., Oct. 12, 2007 -- Green Building Studio Inc. recently launched a beta program to help architects virtually assess a building's carbon neutrality.

Green Building Studio V3.0 is an updated web service that is geared toward the designers of carbon neutral buildings. Its carbon neutral building check can predict the feasibility of a building reaching carbon neutral status using local grid emission data.

The service can compute a building's U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR score or Architecture 2030 targets. The potential for use of a photovoltaic and wind energy generation at a given building can be analyzed, as well as PV potential for every building surface.

Architects, building owners and designers can perform a water use analysis to estimate water needs, efficiency savings, potential for rain capture and LEED credits.

The service also can peg the LEED Glaze factor for any room with lighting control energy savings. It's also possible to gauge whether a building is a good candidate for a natural ventilation strategy.

The web service was developed to create a whole building energy analysis linked to the design team’s CAD systems, cutting out the cost and time needed to perform energy modeling.

5th Snohomish County Conservation Awards Breakfast

5th Snohomish County Conservation Awards Breakfast
You are invited to attend the 5th Snohomish County Conservation Awards Breakfast November 15, 2007, 7:30-9:00 am at the Everett Events Center.

This year we are excited to honor Cliff Bailey and Duane Weston with the Phil and Laura Zalesky Lifetime Achievement Award and Rep. Rick Larsen with the Cascade Agenda Leadership Award. We are also honored to have Deborah Knutson, President and CEO of Snohomish County Economic Development Council as our Keynote speaker.

Special thanks to our PRINCIPAL SPONSOR

Davis, Wright, Tremaine

5th Snohomish County Conservation Awards Breakfast
Thursday, November 15th, 2007
Check in begins at 7:00 am

Everett Events Center

click here to register

Solar Decathlon

About Solar Decathlon

The Solar Decathlon is a competition in which 20 teams of college and university students compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The Solar Decathlon is also an event to which the public is invited to observe the powerful combination of solar energy, energy efficiency, and the best in home design.

The event takes place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., October 12 - 20. The team houses are open for touring everyday, except Wednesday, October 17, when they will close for competition purposes. An overall winner is announced on Friday, October 19 at 2 p.m. See the schedule for more information.

Teams of college students design a solar house, knowing from the outset that it must be powered entirely by the sun. In a quest to stretch every last watt of electricity that's generated by the solar panels on their roofs, the students absorb the lesson that energy is a precious commodity. They strive to innovate, using high-tech materials and design elements in ingenious ways. Along the way, the students learn how to raise funds and communicate about team activities. They collect supplies and talk to contractors. They build their solar houses, learning as they go.

Read more abou this go to

Carbon Tax Goes After Mortgage Deduction

By Kenneth R. Harney

Syndicated Columnist

WASHINGTON — Though the housing and real-estate industries oppose the plan, a key House committee leader's proposed "carbon tax" cutbacks on mortgage-interest deductions are attracting strong support from environmental and scientific groups.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, wants to phase out mortgage interest write-offs for houses larger than 3,000 square feet, using a graduated scale that ends at zero deductions for properties with 4,200 square feet or more.

Though Dingell says he recognizes newly constructed houses may be "more energy efficient" than older ones, their "sheer size, sprawl and commutes lead to dramatically more energy use — or to put it more simply, a larger carbon footprint."

In his latest draft, Dingell provides more detail about the housing-related tax elements than he did in earlier versions.

The new draft also offers some limited exemptions from the phaseout, including for "historical homes" built before 1900, farmhouses, certified energy-efficient homes and houses whose owners "purchase carbon offsets to make the [property] carbon-neutral."

Under the plan, owners of homes containing 3,000 to 3,199 square feet would be eligible for only 85 percent of the mortgage-interest deductions they currently receive.

Homes of 3,600 to 3,799 square feet would lose 60 percent, those of 4,000 to 4,199 square feet would lose 90 percent and ones over 4,200 square feet would get none.

Mortgage-interest write-offs are among the largest benefits in the federal tax code. The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates homeowners will take $402.7 billion in deductions between fiscal 2006 and 2010.

Some environmental advocates initially questioned Dingell's purposes in advancing an ambitious program to limit greenhouse-gas emissions because the Michigan lawmaker has been a staunch defender of the auto industry.

But Dingell's plan would impose stiff new taxes on gasoline (50 cents per gallon to start); a $50-per-ton tax on coal, petroleum and natural gas; plus the mortgage-interest deduction clampdown.

Now a number of scientific and environmental organizations think Dingell's proposals represent a gutsy first step not only to cut consumption of carbon-based energy products, but to focus on energy use and efficiency in the residential arena.

Lexi Shultz, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, says, "The residential part of the [climate change] problem is very significant," ranging from excessive carbon-based energy consumption in homes to exurban sprawl requiring long commutes and more highways.

Shultz's group favors taxes on energy consumption as a way to change behavior but also supports a companion "cap and trade" plan that sets specific carbon-reduction goals and auctions of "offsets" for industries and other high consumers of energy.

Revenues from the auctions could be used to assist low-income and other consumers who would be hurt by higher prices associated with carbon taxes.

Dingell's stated goal is to reduce carbon emissions in the United States by 60 percent by the year 2050.

Erich Pica, director of economic policy for Friends of the Earth, says Dingell's plan "overall is good," and applauds its focus on residential real estate.

"The mortgage-interest deduction was meant to be an incentive for people to buy and afford a home, but now we see it has significant energy impacts" — subsidizing development of ever-larger first and second homes in subdivisions far from the urban core, Pica says.

Though he says the choice of 3,000 square feet as a cutoff point "may be a little arbitrary, the intent is right."

Dingell has not yet introduced his legislation.

The National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of Realtors have criticized it as impractical and mistargeted at the square footage of homes rather than their measurable energy efficiency.

Environmental advocates say Dingell's plans will be highly controversial with some of the biggest, best-funded lobbies on Capitol Hill.

But they believe even if some portions fail in this Congress, growing public awareness of global warming — and the key role played by housing and real estate — will eventually help produce needed reforms.

Rory Cameron
Project Engineer
Perteet Inc.
206.436.0515 | 800.615.9900
fax: 206.436.0516 |
505 5th Ave S, Suite 210 | Seattle, Washington 98104

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Kirkland Want to be Guinea Pig for Green

October 24, 2007
Kirkland wants to be 'guinea pig' for green

By SHAWNA GAMACHEJournal Staff Reporter

Several local government officials told members of the design and building community Tuesday that their current regulations should not be a barrier to green building innovation.
Officials from King and Snohomish counties and the city of Kirkland said they realize local codes don't always keep pace and can even conflict with green design, but they are willing to be flexible in order to encourage sustainable building.

“Don't let a code be a barrier to what you want to design that's going to encourage sustainable building practices,” said Patricia Southard, manager of the GreenTools building program for King County. “Call early and call often. We're ready to make variances for all of you.”
Southard was one of four sustainability experts in a panel discussion Tuesday on “mainstreaming the green” at the Washington Athletic Club. The event was sponsored by the Seattle chapter of the Society for Marketing Professional Services. The Daily Journal of Commerce was one of many co-sponsors of the event.

Southard said her office already makes green projects a higher priority, moving them in front of others in the permitting process. She said King County completed permits in 30 days for a home that is targeting a five-star Built Green rating.

Ellen Miller-Wolfe, economic development manager for the city of Kirkland, said local governments should be spending less time on regulation and more on supporting projects that are pioneering sustainability.

Miller-Wolfe said she hopes Kirkland can become a place where designers and builders can “beta-test” innovative green buildings.

“Please come to us if there are things you want to try out,” Miller-Wolfe said. “Use us as your guinea pig.”

Miller-Wolfe encouraged all Kirkland companies and organizations to participate in the city's Green Business Program, which provides certified area businesses with window decals to demonstrate their green commitments.

Craig Young, watershed steward and a surface water manager with Snohomish County, said many government officials recognize new regulations are needed to encourage green building.
He asked builders to seek out economic justifications for building green and said it is an urban myth that green building always costs more up front. He emphasized the desire of local governments to help builders with sustainability and encouraged them to seek government help if it seems like green building won't be possible on a certain site.

“There are solutions we can use,” Young said. “Site wise and permit wise, we can overcome the barriers.”

Stuart Simpson, green building advisor with Washington's Department of General Administration, said builders can help the process along by staying current with modeling tools and developing specifications for green projects.

Shawna Gamache can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.