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February 14, 2007

Enviro-Condos 4 Sale

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Now for something a little different -- a photo-essay about a building I spied while running an errand in downtown Seattle recently.

New condo - 5th Ave view copy - b.jpg
Approaching the crest of 5th Avenue. That's the (in)famous Rem Koolhaas Seattle Public Library occupying most of the right-center of the picture. The tall, pinkish building is the Bank of California building (well, that's the name I know it by) that occupies the site of the building where my father used to work. Behind it is the Bank of America building, originally the Columbia Center -- one of the tallest buildings on the West Coast. Immediately behind the library is a new tower under construction.

New condo - close-up - a.jpg
I'm nearing the intersection of 5th Avenue and Madison Street. Once upon a time cable cars ran along Madison. Hmm. There's a large sign at the base of the new building ... wonder what it says.

New condo - sign.JPG
Condominiums. With a conscience! And there's info on a Web site which (lucky you) can be accessed here. For what it's worth, the site proclaims that the structure complies with a bunch of standards that ensure absolutely wonderful results.

New condo - uphill view - a.jpg
This picture was shot from near the corner of 4th Avenue and Madison, looking up at the new eco-marvel. I see a lot of glass and concrete and not much nature. That tree, by the way, is across the street from the condos, next to the library.

Library grass - a.jpg
Actually, it's the library that provides the sensitive ecosystem to the neighborhood (though some foliage is planned for the tiny plaza between the condo building and the Bank of California). This picture shows the 4th Avenue side of the library about a hundred feet or so away from where the previous picture was taken. The grass to the left is a curious-looking long-leaf (6-8 inches, roughly) variety. Well, I'm calling it "grass" though I'm not sure what it really is.

So we have an apparent ecological guilt-trip being laid on prospective buyers. Fine with me, since this isn't the heavy hand of government. Lord knows, Seattle is crawling with affluent folks where this sort of sales appeal hits all the targeted buttons.

But as you can see from the tone of my comments, the marketing strategy brings out the cynic in me ... especially the use of the word "conscience."



posted by Donald at February 14, 2007


Donald, you're being very simplistic here, I don't know - intentionally or you really don't know what "sustainable design" or other relative terms mean.
When a building qualified as being "green", it doesn't imply actual factual foliage and green grass being part of it; it might, of course, but the definition means something else: sustainable design practice. You might want to check LEED definitions. Let me assure you, the rating is not given lightely, and it indeed promotes some very reasonable and energy-saving methods of construction and maintenance.
Of course, marketing will exploit it to full extent, adding the guilt-trip element to the selling spiel. Still, hysterical eco-nazis with their fictional Global Warming and such should not deter any reasonable people from trying to conserve energy and resourses.
After all, it's an inherently American tradition, isn't it? Thrifty Yankees and all that?

Posted by: Tat on February 14, 2007 5:26 PM

Tat, since you seem to know:

Do such design features provide a per person environmental benefit that's anywhere close to what's already saved by living in an apartment in the city where one is employed, relative to a house in the suburbs or a large rural property?

Posted by: J. Goard on February 14, 2007 7:44 PM

This is a question to urban planners, perhaps. Or statisticians?
Not for an interior designer, I'm afraid.

If I can speculate, out of my very limited understanding of such matters, the comparison of construction/maintenance costs here should be made between a regular apartment building (not LEED-rated) and a green one; both - in an urban environment. Apples to apples.

As far as I know, LEED standards are being developed for various envoronments, not only new urban construction.

Posted by: Tatyana on February 14, 2007 9:02 PM

"Condos with a conscience" is a little dopey. But think about how segmented the market could become! "Condos with no conscience" (the "Sociopath Condos") or "Condos with a sense of rhythm" or "Condos with a sex drive" or "Condos with perfect pitch" or "Condos with ticket connections to the Super Bowl!"

Posted by: annette on February 15, 2007 11:27 AM

Condos with Concupiscence

(those would be upmarket condos with a sex drive)

Posted by: ricpic on February 15, 2007 2:16 PM

Tat -- Yes, I'm aware of the distiction between foliage and the standards. But I find it fun to dump all that into an "enviroblob" for the purposes of riffing on the sanctimony environmentalism often wraps itself with.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on February 17, 2007 2:59 PM

I find it more odd that someone would want to live in a place where all they see is the ugly deformed Seattle Library. Then again the library is unlimited masturbation material for the "I'm so hip" avant-garde designers and thats most definately the target market for these condos.

Posted by: Rem on February 22, 2007 12:13 AM

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