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.

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