Triple net-zero buildings are in the works

Two metropolitan cities in the Pacific Northwest are leading the nation in green construction with plans to put up living buildings. The Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction, a six-story complex with a basement, will be constructed in the heart of Seattle. The Oregon Sustainability Center, a seven-story, $64 million project, will go up in the eco-district of Portland State University’s downtown campus.

Both buildings hope to attain the Living Building Challenge certification from the Living Future Institute and will, no doubt, provide critical data for the future construction of sustainable buildings elsewhere. The lead architect on the Seattle Project is Brian Court, who says that building a multi-story green building presents a huge challenge. The Cascadia Center will draw solar energy from the roof, while the Oregon Sustainability Center plans to utilize both solar and geothermal technology.

The two projects are striving to meet a triple net-zero status, where energy, water, and waste are generated, utilized, or recycled on site. Here’s how they plan to manage waste. Rainwater will be collected and treated for consumption. Greywater (wastewater from hand washing, for example) will be recycled for toilets and to cool mechanical equipment. Blackwater (you can guess what that is) will be funneled to onsite natural biological treatment systems and returned to the building as greywater. All environmental eyes are on the Pacific Northwest. If the buildings meet their triple net-zero goals, you can bet that other cities will follow suit.