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Madison’s Cascadia Center drops solar array from design as it charts new permitting path

When you propose a 75-foot building covered in solar panels that intends to handle all its energy, water and waste needs on-site, your city may not have a permitting and design review process spelled out and ready to fit your project. As planning for the Cascadia Center moves forward, the project has at times needed to create its own path through the city process.

One example: The building’s proposed solar arrays. Even after removing a large south-facing solar panel from the building’s design, the remaining panel on the roof is so large that it hangs over the sidewalk right-of-way. But the city does not have a mechanism for permitting such a use of public space.

“They don’t have a photovoltaic review committee in the city yet,” said Chris Rogers, CEO of the real estate firm Point 32. His firm and the Bullitt Foundation are behind the Cascadia Center project.

Any project that overlaps with the public right-of-way requires some kind of review process, so the city is using the process typically applied to sky bridges. The Cascadia Center project will have to receive that permit on top of gaining the standard design review approval.

However, the project will have one fewer panel to worry about as it moves through the review phase. Earlier plans for the building included a large south-facing solar panel, but designers believe the building will not need the extra energy it would have generated after all, and it has been removed from the design.

“We’ve been able to eliminate that, which is really good news,” said Rogers. It’s good news because the building will require fewer materials than originally anticipated. The original design included the panel to give the building a safety net to make sure it generated enough energy, but planners decided it was not needed after recalculating how much energy the building and its tenants would require.

The changes were not prompted by a recent appeal heard by the Seattle Hearing Examiner in mid-April, said Rogers. Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner ruled against most of the arguments made by owners of the nearby Madison Court apartment complex, upholding the Department of Planning and Development’s decision to issue permits for increased building height. The Hearing Examiner also rejected claims that the building’s large solar panels do not meet necessary requirements of the city’s Living Building Challenge pilot program because they hang over public right-of-way.

The Cascadia Center project is an attempt to create a “living building” that will be among the most energy-efficient office buildings in the world (though some have argued it could be better). Aside from using as many local and non-toxic building materials as possible, the building will also give tenants tools to track their energy usage. If a tenant would like to use more energy than they are allotted, there will be a marketplace of sorts where they can trade with other tenants in the building, according to Crosscut. This means the building tenants will have to work together to achieve the goal of energy neutrality.


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JohnAKA
JohnAKA
9 years ago

It is too bad they could not use the panels to shield Madison Court, with its peeling faux brick, ripped vinyl siding, and plastic owl.

icarus
icarus
9 years ago

I’m so glad that Cascadia Center is trying to be a leader in green and LEED building standards, but green design has to be functional design. An overhang of that size would be oppressive and out-of-scale for pedestrian traffic, not to mention creating a large shadow in front of the building.

ProstSeattle
ProstSeattle
9 years ago

Is the city putting in any sort of design review for solar panel arrays that may encroach the public right of way in the future? If this takes off in the future, there could be negative consequences for densely populated neighborhoods. I am overall supportive of this type of project, but if in 15years time a lot of buildings have large solar panels haging over the sidewalks, t mighs seem gloomy. Again, it migh be a nonissue.

huh?
huh?
9 years ago

If we allow (encourage?) buiding owners to put awnings over right-of-way (like Nordstrom/Bon Marche/etc), why not allow solar panels? I beleive that there’s even a few grocery stores out there (Fremont PCC, Ballard QFC) that have solar panels built into their awnings.

Tom
Tom
9 years ago

I agree to a point. when I was a kid, the local bank built a flashy new building and on the roof put several banks of solar panels. None of them shaded anything and they provided enough power for the building. That was 30 years ago. I can’t believe they need to encroach over public rights of way now just because somebody is abusing the power they think they have because their family brought channel 5 to town.

Paul
Paul
9 years ago

Man, if the rendering is this ugly, the structure is going to be hideous. This is seriously the best design creative minds could come up with?