A Field Trip to Seattle’s Stone 34 Building

WoodHarbinger-611-Edit_1by Matt Woo, P.E., RCDD, LEED AP BD+C

A handful of my colleagues and I recently had an opportunity to tour the Stone 34 building, located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. Stone 34 is one of the first buildings to follow the Seattle Department of Planning and Development’s Living Building Pilot program, which aims to encourage sustainable development by providing design reviews and allowing deviations from the Seattle Land Use Code for projects seeking Living Building Challenge certification.

Sustainable Design in Practice

During our tour we saw a number of sustainable systems utilized throughout the building:

Hydronic Radiant Beams

This very quiet and efficient heating and cooling system is used in combination with wider heating and cooling dead bands (62-degrees F and 78-degrees F, respectively) to help to limit the system operation, to save energy, avoid frequent start/stops, and optimize system runtime/performance. A state-change fluid is chilled over-night during low energy demand and used for cooling during the day to minimize energy use.

Efficient Plumbing Fixtures and Rainwater Harvesting

These features reduce water use and waste water by about 50%. The building utilizes collected rainwater for irrigation and toilet flushing. Metered showers remind occupants to conserve water by taking quick showers.

Natural Daylighting and Vacancy Controls

The lighting controls gradually dim when there is ample daylight to meet required lighting levels. When used with the building’s very efficient LED Lighting system, the energy used for lighting is heavily reduced.

Vacancy lighting controls use occupant input to turn lights on, avoiding premature cycling on-off of lights, and use automatic short time delay (10 instead of 30 minutes) ultrasonic, and infrared sensors to turn zone lighting off when unoccupied.

Smart Power Strips

The plug-in power strips at the work stations have four outlets, for a laptop, computer monitor, table light, and small devices (e.g. cell phone charger) to plug into. The power strips monitor power usage from each device, which is then displayed via the Building Performance Dashboard. The power strips can also be switched off during building unoccupied hours to avoid phantom load power losses.

Building Performance Dashboard

A real-time graphical user interface, provides daily/annual water, lighting and plug load usage as well a daily/annual water, lighting, and plug load resource allowances based on building design goals (the building was designed to use 75% less energy and 50% less water than comparable buildings). This tool helps enable occupants to save resources by modifying their work habits and watching to see what immediate impacts that it has.

Holistic Building Performance Artwork

An art sculpture in the lobby utilizes pneumatic-actuated flowering petals connected to the building automation system to illustrate the building’s performance in a creative way that engages occupants. When the building is performing well—saving energy and reducing natural resources—the petals open wide to express a building in harmony with nature. And when the building is utilizing more resources than its designed goals, the petals close. Everyone in our group found this visual and innovative method of measuring building performance very interesting.

A Different Environment

In Wood Harbinger’s last Sustainability edition e-newsletter, my colleague Paul wrote about the role that building occupants play in a building achieving a high level of sustainability. He discussed the use of heating and cooling set points that are programmed a little warmer or a little cooler than people are used to, to reduce heating and cooling loads and thus energy consumption. As we saw, the Stone 34 building uses this methodology, reducing energy consumption with wider thermal comfort bands for some of its spaces. This means that it will get colder in some building spaces before the heating system kicks on and hotter before the A/C starts.

Using a wider temperature range like this requires necessary changes in building occupant behavior to accept these greater temperature variances. Companies in a building like Stone 34 probably have to adopt more lenient dress codes, allowing for short sleeve shirts or more casual, cooler dress during the summer and jackets or sweatshirts indoors during the winter. There’s more than just building and systems design to consider in the pursuit of high performance sustainability.

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