Seattle Downtown Businesses Join to Share Ideas, Pursue Common Goals

4/27/2012 By Glenn Hasek

How ready is your community for something like the Seattle 2030 District? For those of you not familiar with the District, it encompasses a large chunk of downtown Seattle buildings—all with owners determined to reduce building energy use, water consumption and CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030. Three hotels are currently participating in the public/private partnership that is managed by the nonprofit Seattle 2030 District—the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle, and the Westin Seattle. There are 73 total properties involved, comprising 23.6 million square feet of real estate.

Discussions surrounding the District began in 2010. Startup funding was provided last year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local businesses. The District was formally launched last September. Owners of existing buildings have a short term goal to have a minimum 10 percent reduction below the national average for building energy performance by 2015. For owners of new buildings, major renovations and new infrastructure, there is a goal of an immediate 60 percent energy use reduction below the national average.

In addition to reducing the environmental impacts of building construction and operations, the aim of the District is to increase Seattle’s competitiveness in the business environment and each owner’s return on investment. The program is voluntary and has the aim of making high-performance buildings the most profitable building type in Seattle.

Building Dashboard Created

One of the first steps for District participants is to share building performance data. The 73 properties previously mentioned are doing that through an online Building Dashboard. The Dashboard asks for energy and water performance data. By centrally tracking and communicating performance data, members will be able to benchmark their buildings against other participating buildings, as well as typical buildings, and use this information to evaluate progress toward reduction targets.

Eventually, through networking, the hope is that property owners will figure out a way to share resources—waste heat, for example—with other building owners.

“I think it is a great idea,” says David Gault, director of engineering of The Fairmont Olympic Hotel. “It is already a Fairmont philosophy to reduce our carbon impact.”

Gault says his hotel has reduced its electricity consumed annually from 8.7 million kWh in 2004 to 7 million kWh in 2011. A new elevator system contributed greatly to that drop in power demand. The owners of the Fairmont are currently considering $3.5 million in upgrades that would further reduce energy consumption.

Convention Center Participates

Jeff Blosser, president & CEO, Washington State Convention Center, which is also part of the District, defined the nonprofit as a “green co-op” of sorts.

“They monitor our usage so they get a benchmark for downtown utility consumption,” Blosser says. “They are looking for opportunities for large users to share investment. It allows us to get some benchmarking data and have access to ideas.”

The District has the support and partnership from the City of Seattle and King County, but is being led largely by the private sector: property owners, managers, developers, engineers and design professionals.

Representatives of Cleveland, my hometown, are also working to create a 2030 District.

In what ways can businesses in your community, whether inside or outside of the hospitality industry, work better together to share ideas about sustainability? I would love to know your ideas. I can be reached by phone at (440) 243-2055, or by e-mail at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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Who is Your Company’s Green Champion?

Every two or three weeks Green Lodging News features a sustainability/green champion in its Personnel Profile section. I am currently seeking suggestions for individuals to profile. Got someone to nominate? Contact me at (440) 243-2055, or by e-mail at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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