FIELD TRIPS

select which field trip you want to visit — click!

Van Dusen Botanical Garden — Vancouver, BC
Mt. Vernon, Washington — Etera
Portland, Oregon — Holistic Vegetation
Blaine, Washington — Peace Arch
Vancouver BC — Convention Centre
Vancouver BC — Design Meditation Pt. 1
Vancouver BC — Design Meditation Pt. 2
Bellevue, Washington — MSEEC

Van Dusen Botanical Garden — Vancouver, BC

I have been eagerly awaiting a chance to visit this project since first seeing its design parameters unveiled at the 2010 Cities Alive! Green Roof and Wall Conference. The building, designed by Perkins+Will, acts as the main gate to the Van Dusen Botanical Garden and is the new visitor’s center for the 55-acre complex. Seeing it with my own eyes, finally, did nothing to disappoint my lofty expectations. The 19,000 square-foot building is a jaw-wobbling marvel of architecture and, for $22 million, it had damn well better be. If it passes the rigorous test of the Living Building Challenge (LBC) which defined its “green” construction and utility — it could become a benchmark of environmental design which others may learn from, emulate, and aspire to as we make efforts to produce more efficient, self-contained, and sustainable buildings.

The short version of the LBC is that it is LEED on steroids — this building handily will attain the highest levels of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating criteria, Platinum certification, but aims even higher by attempting to meet the zero net energy consumption, zero net water usage, and, effectively, zero net impact to the environment which LBC mandates. It is an absurdly high goal and, for this reason, only a handful of buildings on this planet have even attempted to attain certification. If any building deserves merits for trying, then the Van Dusen should earn its badge. The building will need to prove itself, over the course of a full year of using and analyzing all of its systems, before it can truly state that it is the first LBC structure in Canada.

Besides generating all of the on-site power for the building on the rooftops, including using some fancy gizmos like a geo-exchange system and a “solar chimney” to moderate temperatures, the abundant green roofs undulating over the leaves of the building act as the first filtration stage for the water capture and re-use systems. Sadly, the various employees at the Van Dusen seemed to not have the slightest idea of the technical or environmental aspects of the building (sending me to “ask the guy at the gift shop” should have been an early clue) so I remain unclear whether the goal of filtration to potable standards, via natural and mechanical filters, is still being pursued. All of the “gray” water uses, such as toilets and irrigation, are supplied by the roof systems and, perhaps more impressive, all of the sewage — or “black” water — is treated on site.

I love being able to visit a truly gorgeous, truly sustainable, facility like the Van Dusen. The 55 acre botanical garden, with its world-class art, thematic woods and walks, and massive ponds, will make a visit well worth anyone’s time on their own strengths. If, however, I wanted to snivel over details, I would start with the glaring one: This building, at over $1,000 per square-foot, does not seem to promote “going green” as an even remotely attainable goal for real-world construction budgets. As such, I fear this marvel will remain more of a lone novelty than a new norm. From where I sit, novel is enough.

I can’t wait to go back and see it again, when the roof and plants are really booming, next spring.

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Mt. Vernon, Washington — Etera


Etera is a division of Northwest Horticulture and was formed three years ago in response to the growing demand for green roof vegetation. As a distributor to such mega retailers as Lowes and Home Depot nursery departments, Northwest Horticulture was well-positioned to enter the roofing market — they had the land, the greenhouses, and the expertise to crank out bulk quantities of plants. Etera currently offers three primary types of products for green roofs; plugs,  bulk cuttings, and tiles. Since the nursery has abundant rows and nearly 50 varieties of sedum plants to harvest from, Etera can also assemble special orders for clients if given enough lead time.


While customization is an option, most buyers seem content selecting from the four mixes that Etera has designed. These mixes are sedum-based and target goals of hardiness, color, seasonal variety, or shade tolerance.  David Gilmore, Etera’s green roof specialist for its Western Division, said the tiles and cuttings are the most popular options for green roofs and seem to be selling with roughly equal vigor at this point. While the tiles will cost more than cuttings — at $4.00- $5.50 per-foot depending on the size of your order and delivery requirements — they do have the considerable advantage of providing instant coverage and, simultaneously, reducing the demands of early maintenance or threats from wind or weeds. Etera’s 15″x20″ tiles, which are rooted in a cut-able mat of woven coconut husk, can nowadays be seen in retail nurseries. If you are hankering to experiment with them, then you should find prices only slightly higher than the quotes Gilmore suggests for per-foot coverage. (I’ve seen them at Lowes and Fred Meyers for $12-13, but at least one local nursery has decided that $30 is an appropriate price!)


While some of the exuberant claims of double-digit annual growth within the green roofing industry seem hard to swallow, there is little doubt that Etera is doing a dandy bit of business. The division already has committed 25 acres to green roof production at its nursery in Mabton, Washington, and Gilmore said the Mt. Vernon site will soon be tripling in size to have 15 acres devoted to sedums and future green roofs. Since shipping costs can play havoc with a project’s budget — Etera has delivered as far away as Alaska and South Carolina — we ‘Hamsters might count ourselves lucky to have such a massive resource for neighbors.

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Portland, Oregon — Holistic Vegetation

In the realm of urban planning, few contenders are sexier and smarter than Portland, Oregon. If the unstated goal of a city is to make itself useful, interesting, accessible and pleasant for residents, then Portland succeeds. If the goal is to try to be “more European,” Portland wins. If urban planners need a template for how to avoid turning their cities into turgid ghettos of commercialization and modern blight, they need only visit Portland. It has city problems, of course. But a few geezy street urchins humping my leg and trolling for quarters will not deter me from proclaiming Portland perfect. It is. Portland is perfect.

This is, ostensibly, a green roof blog. With that in mind I suppose I should point out that the reason for my visit was to attend the 2011 Ecoroof Portland Fair, an event hosted by the city, for free, to promote and educate the gospel of green roofery. I should cite the 273 registered green roof projects in the city, or the $5 per square-foot incentive the city offers to those interested in installing a green roof, or the fact that Portland has such a successful green roof program — now 12 years old — that it is considering adding a by-law to its building codes to make green roofs required for new construction. I should also mention that, upon exiting the gorgeously restored train station, I walked ten feet. When I looked to my right I saw a new condo project with every inch of its roof festooned with solar panels. To my left, on the otherwise uninspiring Greyhound Station, I saw about two acres-worth of green roof peeking over the awnings.

I could prattle on endlessly about green roofs. Instead, here, look at this puppy.


Portland, unlike some cities, values its waterfront. Rather than plopping an impenetrable wall of trinket shops, condos, and overpriced “seafood” restaurants on its riverbank, Portland’s planners instead seeded hundreds of acres of lawns and trees. It is weird, unsettling even, to see this after spending so many years living in Seattle and, as a result, wishing only for a tsunami or Biblical hail (poisonous frogs?) to eradicate the structural blotsum that imprisons the Puget Sound, the wall that keeps it stupid, vapid, unworthy of humanity. I lived in Seattle for seven years. I can count my visits to its waterfront on one hand or, if you prefer, three testicles. It is a worthless public place. It is a space that has been lobotomized for the lowest common denominator, sterilized, homogenized, processed, left-for-dead, and, ultimately, de-valued.

There is some hope, and an opportunity, coming from the demolition of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. The City of Seattle awarded the re-design contract to landscape architect James Corner and there is some prospect his efforts will keep the planned $123 million waterfront park and promenade from becoming (yet) another desolate brick courtyard within the “Emerald City.” Corner’s latest acclaimed project, incidentally, might hint at the future of that viaduct highway: The High Line, a former elevated railway that was converted to a massive intensive green roof, is one of many reasons New York City is becoming more functional for human beings than Seattle. We can keep our toes crossed, or our testicles, but I fear the worst from a city that allowed Westlake Park to become a shopping mall.

My photos of Portland’s waterfront generally suck hairy goat farts. I suppose there is some rational reason why the green roof industry thinks it is cute to schedule conventions when most of the plants are writhing in withered and wilted agony from months of winter weather. It makes sense, I guess, if you want people to stay dry, inside, on the convention floor.

As substitute, I stole a shot of this girl who ran, sprinted, up to this statue and hugged it. I don’t know her, have never seen her before this documented moment, and never will see her again. I love that she exists, however, and I love that Portland — besides offering hundreds of acres on its waterfront — has these huge swathes of open space carved out of its downtown core. This open space has grass, trees, many sculptures and, apparently, cute girls.

I stayed at the Portland Hawthorne Hostel for reasons of poverty and a fixation with green roofs which, come to think of it, are probably closely related afflictions. While that is not me brown-bagging my liquid breakfast on the sidewalk, I can attest that — for once — my photos of the Hostel are at least as decent as the hosts’ website.

The Hawthorne District is abundantly funky. A slogan, painted boldly on downtown buildings, commands: “Keep Portland Weird.” In the Hawthorne part of town, well … mission accomplished!

Still, for the most part, Portland and its neighborhoods just felt like Bellingham on steroids. Local businesses, small scale buildings, walkable streets, some queer gurgling of civic pride and eccentric bravado fermenting below the surface — all elements are mish-mashed together to create a kaleidoscopic whole. The citizens have to fight, constantly, to maintain this quotient of fragile livability — powerful interests, after all, are magnetized by popular housing and job markets — and the onslaught of Big Box condos or WalMarts will menace everything worthwhile about the place. The blunt force of American-style capitalism is a threat, really, to any place.

Locally, especially down on Bellingham’s nubile Waterfront District, the impulse to put razorwire and concrete allover is going to be difficult for planners and council members to resist when Blow Big Towers, Inc. saunters in with their $97 million proposal and nifty haircuts. Cities are made of stone and steel. Only people, however, can put the stuff together in a functional way. Often they fail.

Part of the reason Portland succeeds is that its people are willing to confront challenges by trying something new. Low Impact Development, or LID, is a strategy to control, slow, and filter stormwater at its source using natural, typically living, systems. When Portland was threatened with litigation by the EPA for polluting its waters with street runoff and sewer overflows (from too damn much rain entering the pipes) it got creative with LID options.  The City of Portland still has invested over $1 billion in building the same dumb pipes that everyone else uses for stormwater — but it has been very aggressive with promoting direct responsibility for the impact of stormwater.  On private property part of the City’s stormwater strategy is to encourage green roofs. On public property, such as this downtown sidewalk, raingardens, bio swales, permeable concrete and various other forms of LID infrastructure are being used to naturally filter rainwater as close to the source as possible. I saw many examples around town — little bursts of engineered greenery nudging through the concrete — but liked this photo the best because it has that other thing, there in the background, the tube-wheeled white thing.

Locals in Portland called them “trains.” Weird.

I spent $5 for an all-day pass on the tube-wheel, but only because I forgot to collect the change that came out of the vendor robot. Tired of walking, always the walking, I grabbed the Blue Line to go to Portland’s Washington Park. Once I got there, after a too-fast ride in exquisite seated comfort, I promptly walked my ass off.

This 400 acre forest is one of the largest municipal parks in the nation (it ranks 19th) and it abuts the Portland Zoo, a world-class rose garden, and this jaw-dropping Japanese Garden. I met a kid, Niu, from Kwonloon, China, who also was very seriously lost. We squished around in the forest for roughly three hours trying to decipher the mysteries of the World’s Least Effective and Poorly Designed Map.

“How do you say ‘this map’ in Chinese,” began one of our typical chats. Niu would reply with an exotic word that I promptly mangled, repeatedly, with my club-like Anglo-Saxon tongue. Then he, after a polite pause and some quiet nods, would have a chance to ask me a question: “What does the ‘sucksgoatfarts’ mean, please?”

Tom Liptan, a landscape architect working for City of Portland Sustainable Stormwater Division, has been a driving force behind the city’s LID and green roof efforts. To see a more complete, and less profane, picture of how green roofs can help cities like Portland, or Bellingham, please visit the article posted above in the sidebar titled “Flow Motion.”

In the meanwhile, to condense, I’ll harvest a quote from Liptan: “Providing vegetation in the city, I think, is the way of the future.” Considering the syrupy fawning that the national press has poured upon Portland — complete with phrases like, “Most Liveable City in America!” — it seems that some of Liptan’s instincts are correct.

Patrick Carey, a Bothel-based green roof crusader who has worked on nearly 100 green roof projects, is also optimistic about the prospects for other cities to emulate Portland’s lead and, more specifically, those leads offered through some of Europe’s urban planning strategies.

“Our states are not like the countries over there with all of their borders, barriers and resistance,” Carey said. “Good ideas and bad ideas can metastasize and spread in the U.S. faster than they can in Europe.”

If either of these experts is correct, it spells certain doom to this website. In the coming years a blog bleating about nifty green roofs or LID strategies might seem as quaint and archaic as, I don’t know … fascinating trends in wireless phone technology? Dungeons and Dragons pick-up lines? MySpace music applications?

If the city you live in can be as cool as Portland, Oregon, then I’ll happily slither off to wherever it is we store the obsolete freaks in this country.

* (Special thanks to Donn Devore, AIA, who was working the convention booth for the Seattle branch of Diadem USA. Devore gave me — er, I mean my niece — a green roof LEGO kit which I know she’ll happily smear yogurt on and promptly feed to the dogs. Yes, she will do that. Someday. Probably soon. Whenever I’m done playing with it.)

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Blaine, Washington — Peace Arch

First: A special thanks to Eric Marsh with JE Dunn Construction for helping to finesse my visit to this secure job site. While I likely could have sauntered around on my own to capture some photographs of this roof, I suspect the agents working for the American border patrol would find issue with me traipsing about on their building.

Second: Thanks to Tara Nelson, assistant editor of Blaine’s “Northern Light” newspaper, for much the same reason. Nelson is one of those organized sorts who doesn’t forget her camera’s memory card at home and I recommend her highly to those eager to stir up international incidents via seemingly mundane Facebook or cellphone texts.

This 21,000 square-foot roof sits atop the vehicle inspection ports for the American side of the Blaine border crossing. Since Interstate 5 literally drives over the roof, it will be one of the rare flat green roofs that both bipeds and birds can appreciate.  The $107 million project (including the cost of freeway upgrades) should be completed by early 2011 and is targeting LEED Gold certification, making it the “greenest” of all border crossings in the nation.

The bleary October day was part of the problem, but the combination of adolescent and hibernating sedums made for a less than spectacular roof. Marsh said that using a broadcast technique (literally spraying sedum nubs on the roof rather than installing the more mature trays) saved the project money and allowed them to install for roughly $19 per square-foot including the EPDM membrane, drainage mat, and 6 inches of engineered soil. The photograph below is a test bed outside Marsh’s job shack which will be more representative of the roof’s future flora and, therefore, another good reason to drive slowly as you approach the border.

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Vancouver BC, Canada — Convention Centre

The 8th annual Cities Alive Green Roof and Wall Conference was held in Vancouver BC this year. The conference organizers, Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, sympathized with my feeble economics and low rank amongst the global green roof hierarchy and agreed to sponsor my attendance at the three-day event. Thanks to Bellingham’s fortunate proximity to Vancouver and to Damon van der Linde, the communications and research coordinator for GRHC, my route to the conference seemed clear and easy. It was only after surviving the vigorously surreal interrogations of the Canadian border patrol, however, that I was allowed to make a hasty bee-line via sky-train to this spectacular building.

The Vancouver Convention Centre earned LEED Platinum certification, the highest rating possible, to become the world’s first convention facility to meet such a lofty standard of sustainable design and construction. While the building has many truly jaw-dropping features, the one that stands out — or up, in this case — is the rolling 6.5 acres of green roofs that cover the million square-foot building and its adjoining courtyards.

Despite the bleary skies of early December and the wan texture of plants and grasses recently snowed upon,  this roof left my head reeling in disbelief. Its size alone is impressive as it easily eclipses the combined size of all of Bellingham’s green roofs many times over. (Even when 23 floors above this beast, its scale still overwhelmed the abilities of my tired point-and-shoot camera!)

What stunned me even more, however, was a slapping realization that was echoed many times over and in many iterations during the seminars held at the GRHC conference. This realization, if boiled down a bit, can be stated roughly this way: Green roofs are no longer the proprietary whimsy of seemingly eccentric hippies; the technology and proven science of a green roof’s benefits and durability are not abstract or delusional; buildings like this one — typically the largest and most expensive showcases of public infrastructure — are being covered with green roofs all over the world; very smart people, those academics, project managers, some politicians, scientists, engineers, architects, and the various industry specialists who all seem most exposed and tied to the consequences of a possible green roof failure, are now eagerly and confidently committing to these projects and, furthermore, they are supporting the policy changes that will make even more of them possible.

Boiled further and slapped harder, my realization was this: Green roofs have arrived like aliens from above, rather quickly and in a big way, and they have now penetrated our human landscapes to an extent that they can be a game-changing influence on our lives and the quality therein.

To learn more about the sustainability features of the Vancouver Convention Centre and to see far better photographs, please click the link here.

To see my gallery, please click on the thumbnails below. These photos try to represent both the architecture of the building and the events held at the GRHC conference. For general reference, this event was attended by nearly 700 delegates who came primarily from North American cities. The trade show covered 60,000 square feet and had industry booths for 75 green roof or wall representatives. Various symposia, poster sessions, and white paper reports were held and well attended throughout the convention center’s halls, many of which I hope to distill and share with you once I’ve had time to ferment with the data a bit and confront a few hairy learning curves.

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Vancouver BC — Design Meditation Pt. 1

The Vancouver Law Courts, located downtown in the sprawling public complex of Robson Square, was designed by Arthur Erickson in 1975. This building and its overhead and walkable courtyards represents a good example of an “intensive” green roof design — I remember the definition by thinking that big trees, paved pathways, and heavy loads imply an intense use of the space and underlying structure. By contrast, the Vancouver Convention Centre is a good example of an “extensive” green roof which I think of more as a continuous blanket of vegetation with no other infrastructure (paths, planter boxes, benches, etc.) interrupting the extent of its coverage. Both types of green roof serve similar ecological functions, so the definitions of “intensive” and “extensive” are used primarily in helping to define the nature of the roof’s design and functions.

The insides of the Law Courts looks similar to the outsides, which was fortunate for me since large portions of the exterior property are undergoing a major overhaul and renovation project. Not coincidentally, the landscape architect who is now overseeing this major horticultural endeavor, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, is also the same person who originally designed it 36 years ago. Oberlander won a lifetime achievement award during the GRHC conference and, being admittedly (or ashamedly) unintelligent about the history of green roofs, I was rather surprised when the packed ballroom of otherwise demure green roof delegates rose to their feet and clapped thunderously. Having explored her history a bit, I now understand what the rumpus was about.  I encourage you to visit Oberlander’s site and, in particular, to gander in tongue-lolling awe at her newest adventure, the VanDusen Botanical Garden Visitor Centre

This Vancouver building, designed by Busby Perkins + Will and currently under construction, is hoping to meet Living Building Challenge targets which, essentially, means it will be completely off grid. The VanDusen building will be responsible for its own energy production, through rooftop solar arrays, as well as its own water collection, filtration, and sewage treatment.

(image courtesy of: Busby Perkins + Will)

Urban gardens are beginning to sprout up in some unlikely places. During the GRHC conference, Paul Kephart, the designer of Vancouver’s convention center roof, explained how his thoughts evolved on rooftop gardens as he considered a new roof for a San Francisco hospital. “People always want to bring and give flowers when they visit patients in hospitals. Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of shipping flowers from Brazil or somewhere, they could instead go out on the roof and get them? And wouldn’t that — a flower garden — be the sort of space where the patients themselves would want to visit during their stay?” (Incidentally, since we are inadvertently on the topic of intensive green roofs in San Francisco, gander at another project Kephart is involved with there:  Transbay Center.)

(photo courtesy of The Fairmont Waterfront)

Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront Herb Garden, which overlooks the convention center from the 3rd floor of the nearby Fairmont Hotel, has been a long-standing example of the rooftop gardens Kephart and others are recommending. Established in 1991, the 2,100 square-foot herb and vegetable garden represents one of the first green roofs in a city that nowadays seems literally to be brimming with the things. Besides being able to offer freakishly fresh food, restaurants employing these models of urban gardening can save money on their staff’s time and gas bills while, simultaneously, reducing the carbon footprint of their enterprise. The Fairmont’s restaurant has gone a step further, however, by recently adding 500,000 bees and honey production into the garden’s ecological equation.

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Vancouver BC — Design Meditation Pt. 2

New Urbanism is a design philosophy that offers remedies to disgusting cities and public spaces in need of emergency care. Unfortunately, many urban areas lacked the moral hygiene and good sense to avoid becoming such reprehensible spaces and are nowadays barely fit for humans to inhabit. We know this, in general, but the solutions seemed too abstract. The most succinct, forceful, and foul-mouthed primer I have yet seen on this topic comes from James Howard Kunstler and his dissertation presented for TED.com.

Vancouver seems to have figured it out early. Part of this might be due to the fact that, after all, it is a Canadian city and not merely another slab of turf allowed to be ravaged by America’s version of capitalism-at-all-costs. Another part of Vancouver’s success may be that it had no choice; the city is severely constrained by the physical limitations of angry mountains, a frigid sea and a massive river. The city’s residents, therefore, had to make smart and aggressive decisions to ensure its live-ability. The examples offered above are certainly part of this and are duly noted whenever Vancouver pegs another “Top Ten Cities” list. But I want to close this section by quickly noting a few other features I spied as I scurried about town.

This Community Garden, in downtown Vancouver, is a temporary reprieve from what otherwise would be an ugly vacant lot. Until the developer is ready to sell the property, it will serve as a public space giving room for 100 downtown residents to show off their skills, or inadequacies, as gardeners. In 2006, as the city realized it won the bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, a decision was made to commit to several green “legacies” that will last beyond the brief excitement of that event. One of these legacies was a goal to add 2,010 new community gardening plots — including installing them on any available rooftops — to the roster of the 950 already registered. The deadline of 2011 hasn’t yet arrived, as of this posting, but the City of Vancouver’s social planning website reports that 2,979 plots are now registered.

This Hunk of Public Art was not a lonely sentinel of human creativity whimpering amongst oppressive glass towers. I’m not entirely bored with this lengthy post — not just yet — but I am going to leave it to you to discover Vancouver’s policy on mandating public art. I’m satisfied, just from wandering around for a few hours, to proclaim either that a policy certainly exists or, under the threat of civic shame for shirking the duty, such a policy is not even necessary in this city.

Open Spaces seemed to be acceptable within Vancouver. Again, I don’t know if there is a policy mandating this. Perhaps the developer who built the gleaming monolith behind this courtyard was satisfied with merely making millions of dollars off of the project, rather than potential billions if it was rammed right to the curb. Perhaps he or she, being thick-skinned enough not to be offended by Kunstler’s take on it, had studied the concepts of New Urbanism. I’m not sure why it happened here. What I do know, from recently visiting Seattle’s Westlake Center, is that plopping a profoundly ugly mall in the middle of a supposed “park” is no way to treat innocent citizens.

Design Like You Give a Damn. Perhaps Vancouver was not quite as exciting as this photo implies. The overcast December days conspired with my winsome little camera to create some very tapioca images of what was otherwise spicy and stimulating architecture. (If I’m going to try to lie to you with Photoshop, this example of my pedestrian skills should inform that you’ll be well aware of  the flummox!)

Vancouver has seen a growth explosion over the last decade and, as a result, many buildings seem deliciously fresh in their design. And, well, it is a wealthy set of clients that can afford waterfront views. Vancouver has a lot of water to front.

Still, as stated elsewhere, the open spaces and general layout of the city seemed guided by some thought more urgent than just a desire to “build up, and not out.” I had never consciously been in Vancouver in the daytime before this visit (yes, go ahead and fabricate your own slanderous theories on how a fellow might unknowingly explore a city) and yet I found I could easily navigate my way around the place. Part of this was because I could actually see where I was without trying to cipher a mental map through relentless canyons of impenetrable glass and steel — the streets, and not just the buildings, have views that function. Another part was the abundance of sky-trains that squirted me to my destinations. And the rest, I suppose, was just good design. You only really notice it if it doesn’t work, if it is flat-out bad.

No. Vancouver is good.

Hinge Park –  photo courtesy of : City of Vancouver

Olympic Village/ Millennium Water — photo courtesy of: City of Vancouver

Bellevue, on the other hand …

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Bellevue, Washington

If your house or building doesn’t look like a randy field or oddly shaped lawn, I’ll blot it from my consciousness. Sorry to offend you, but your home or work structure is lame and depressing to me and I can’t be bothered to care about your choice in selecting an exciting architect (really svelte “eye-wear” and a $600 “messenger” bag looked great on her!) or your daring — but sophisticated — use of color.

Sometimes, however, I’ll happen upon something that catches my eye…

As near as I can tell, the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center, or MSEEC, is the only part of Bellevue, Washington, that should not be plowed under and re-built. Having grown up in and around this culturally sterilized, consumer-idolized, and auto-eroticized  city, I can agree with only one comment that I overheard from a young woman who was blithely praising its supposed virtues. “I like Bellevue,” she said, “because you never have to look for parking!”

MSEEC is certified LEED Gold — a very high standard — but the City of Bellevue website only mentions the “Built Green” 5-Star rating the project earned through the Master Builders Association, a.k.a. the Building Industry Association. I respect the LEED ratings more when these sorts of projects bother (or are required?) to get both flavors of certification. I hold this bias for the same reason I would entrust third-party verification of organic foods over a zealous peach farmer who scrawls “organic!!” on his peaches with a felt-tip pen — a pen that just happened to be given to him by the Peach Farmers Industry Association.

Still, with all that said, I will accept the grain of salt offered by a comrade who noted that it is not possible, for the 4 or 5-star ratings, to get a nod of approval and certification from somebody driving past the site and glancing in its general direction. The ratings do mean that the BIA is at least acknowledging the existence of “green building” practices even while every penny of their political lobbying power is devoted to dismantling environmental regulations or otherwise thwarting the policy changes that hope to improve unsustainable building construction and thus the industry’s tired status quo.

G-dog is wildly excited by MSEEC’s three green roofs and she seems to be completely ignoring the facility’s ambitious drainage plan (note the phantom downspout) in her quest to spot still more of them.

Perhaps, however, she is just be-dazzled and confused from trying to guess the cost of 8″ stainless steel flashing?

Or, just maybe, this episode of doggy delirium was sparked when her keen eyes spied an irrigation system on the roof?

Irrigation? On a roof!? Woof!!

Sometimes a fixation with water-hungry native species, such as the ferns chosen here, can force such drastic measures. The quickly draining nature of sloped roofs was likely the deciding factor, no matter the species of plants, but new designs in engineered soil and soil retention systems might someday solvSQUIRREL!! SQUIRREL!! SQUIRREL!!blem.

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