Living Building Opens with Help from GeoEngineers

On February 11, the Bertschi School, an independent elementary school on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, celebrated the opening of its new Science Wing. The new structure is Washington State’s greenest new building and a project that is on track to be the first certified Living Building in the state.

The wing’s design was the result of a partnership between Bertschi School and the Restorative Design Collective, a multi-disciplinary team comprised of leading green building professionals from the Pacific Northwest, including GeoEngineers. Dave Cook, Tim Bailey, Thomas Bannister and Bo McFadden from GeoEngineers provided geotechnical engineering services, helped evaluate stormwater infiltration and conducted a ground source heat pump feasibility analysis for the project. GeoEngineers also provided construction observation services and consultation through the construction phase.

The Collective contributed their design services pro-bono to gain experience constructing a Living Building. Their donations amount to more than $500,000 in professional time and building materials.

The new science wing includes a number of features that integrate with and reinforce the school’s science curriculum. The building features an ethnobotanical garden to grow food; cisterns for rainwater harvesting; a green moss-mat roof; composting toilet; natural ventilation and radiant floor heating; a living wall of tropical plants to treat grey water; and solar panels, which will produce all of the building’s energy.

This state-of-the-art facility was designed and built to meet the requirements of version 2.0 of the Living Building Challenge, which is widely regarded as the world’s most rigorous green building performance standard. Version 2.0 broadens the focus of the Living Building Challenge, a standard launched by the Cascadia Green Building Council and managed by the International Living Building Institute, to include new imperatives based on additional societal and site requirements, including urban agriculture and equity. A building must perform as modeled for one full year of occupancy before receiving certification as “living.”

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