Green architecture pops up around Chinatown — LEED, ESDS, what’s it mean?

By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly

A rendering of the future Hirabayashi Place, which will be ESDS certified. (Photo from Mithun)

As development in the International District increases, Seattle and the state of Washington’s push towards green architecture is starting to show up around the neighborhood. Union Station is LEED certified, the Goodwill Building is expected to earn LEED Silver, and Hirabayashi Place will be ESDS certified. What do these letters mean? The Northwest Asian Weekly breaks down the definitions and what you can expect from the buildings below.


The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program is the most widely known rating system for green buildings and has been popping up around Seattle — and the International District — in recent years. Created in 1993, the LEED criteria is considered the most open and transparent rating system. Any changes to the program are reviewed by the over 10,000 members of the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council.

LEED ratings are available for building design, interior design, renovations, healthcare, commercial buildings, neighborhood design, and homes. Existing buildings can qualify for the LEED program through efficient operations and maintenance.

Buildings qualify for four levels of certification based on a 100-point system. The levels are “Certified,” “Silver,” “Gold,” and “Platinum.”

Notable and recent LEED-certified buildings include the MulvannyG2-designed Bellevue Towers and the CBRE-managed Seattle Union Station. The newly opened Seattle Goodwill Job Training and Education Center and Administrative Services building designed by Mithun is currently awaiting final certification.

“[The Goodwill building] has a very highly efficient exterior envelope,” said Mithun Associate Partner Casey Huang, who worked on the building. “The outer layers perform very well. When it’s hot, no cold air leaks out. When it’s cold, no cold air leaks in.”

The building, which is expected to meet LEED Silver standards, also features ample use of natural day lighting, low emission materials to improve indoor air quality, a native fauna rain garden, and a system that recycles rain water to flush toilets.

The new Goodwill building is expected to achieve LEED Silver certification. It features a rain water toilet flushing system and low emitting materials.

In addition to environmental benefits, owners and operators of LEED-certified and other green-designed buildings can expect to see lower operation costs and increased asset values.

But while LEED is the most well known green architecture standard, other standards are also in use.

Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard

The Evergreen Sustainable Development Standard (ESDS) is a green building performance standard that all affordable housing projects receiving capital funds from the Washington State Housing Trust Fund must abide by. Projects seeking low-income housing tax credits or funded by the Seattle Office of Housing must also abide by ESDS standards.

Put together by the Washington State Department of Commerce with input from over 70 organizations, the ESDS includes standards for operations and design as well as guidelines for compact development, maximizing density, proximity to transit and other services, and access to fresh foods, according to the Department of Commerce.

While rehabilitation projects must achieve 40 out of an over 200 possible points, new buildings such as Hirabayashi Place must achieve 50. In addition to the optional, point-giving criteria the ESDS also includes over 30 mandatory requirements such as the use of water efficient fixtures and Energy Star-approved appliances.

Hirabayashi Place, to be built at the corner of South Main Street and Fourth Avenue South, will be following the ESDS standard.

The InterIm project, which is also designed by Mithun, will use low emitting paints, an advanced ventilation system, and a green water-heating infrastructure. The $29 million project is partly funded by the Seattle Housing Levy, which is providing up to $5.6 million in long-term, low-interest loans to the project. Projects which take on levy funds have their affordability regulated for 50 years.

In addition to health benefits from cleaner air and lowered toxins, residents of ESDS projects can expect lower utility costs from more efficient water use, better insulation, and more efficient appliances. (end)

Charles Lam can be reached at

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