Seattle tech co. breaks ground on world’s first ‘net zero energy’ high-rise apartment building

An artist’s rendering of 303 Battery, billed as the world’s first net zero energy apartment building, which is being erected in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood by Sustainable Living Innovations. (SLI Image)

Sustainable Living Innovations, a Seattle tech company that’s created a new way to build commercial structures, broke ground Thursday on a 15-story development that’s pegged as the world’s first “net zero energy” high-rise apartment building.

The 112-unit building will run off of solar power and batteries, and includes 27 affordable apartments. It’s being constructed with a patented design that uses panels manufactured at a plant in Tacoma, Wash. that come preloaded with electrical wiring, plumbing and mechanical equipment.

The design features radiant heat floors and floor-to-ceiling glass walls. It saves water by capturing rainfall and recycling gray water from sinks and showers. The approach eschews environmentally wasteful, mold-prone materials including paint, carpeting and drywall.

Even the site’s address in the Belltown neighborhood fits the green theme: 303 Battery.

Arlan Collins, CEO of Sustainable Living Innovations. (SLI Photo)

While the building should be erected and ready to move into by next summer, the effort to get here was more than 12 years in the making, said Arlan Collins, CEO of Sustainable Living Innovations.

In short, it required Collins and his partner, Mark Woerman, to innovate a whole new way to build.

“The pathway to get to this kind of environmental performance was to start from scratch in how it works, how it goes together, and what it is designed to accomplish,” Collins said.

The energy-smart high-rises cost less than a traditionally built structure in Seattle, Collins said. Much of the savings comes from using the modular panels that allow for quicker construction. The 303 Battery building will use 900 panels of 10 primary panel types. Collins didn’t provide exact numbers on cost.

Sustainable Living Solutions also builds five-to-seven story mid-rise buildings, which do cost more than comparable, conventionally built structures. But some of those costs can be recouped in energy savings.

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County Executive Dow Constantine were onsite Thursday to celebrate the new development.

“As a city we must do all we can to invest in innovative solutions that reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. The 303 Battery building is on the leading edge of green design and construction, helping us to meet Seattle’s climate goals and create a healthier city, while also addressing our affordable housing crisis,” Durkan said in a statement.

Solar panels on 303 Battery’s roof, exterior walls and balconies will generate power for residents of the Sustainable Living Innovations’ building. (SLI Image)

The building is being certified by the International Living Futures Institute, which awarded Seattle’s Bullitt Center — a global leader in sustainable buildings — its eco-bona fides.

In order to generate as much energy as it uses, 303 Battery will include solar panels on its roof, exterior walls and balconies. Its basement will house a bank of lithium batteries to store power that can be used at night and when solar isn’t available. The building includes various smart technologies such as sensors to adjust thermostats and lights to conserve energy.

One of the construction panels built at Sustainable Living Innovations’ Tacoma manufacturing plant. (SLI Image)

In 2014, Sustainable Living Innovations formed a partnership with Intellectual Ventures, the patent holding and technology development firm founded by Nathan Myrvold, to get patent protection for its construction approach.

Sustainable Living Innovations has four additional projects teed up for Seattle. Two are being built in partnership with the City of Seattle’s Office of Housing and will provide “permanent supportive housing,” which combines affordable housing with support services for people who struggle with homelessness. Two other projects will include significant numbers of affordable units.

The company previously completed a six story, 24-unit apartment building in Seattle’s University District called the 47+7 Apartments. It uses 70% less energy than a similar space.

In addition to its efforts to benefit the environment and housing affordability, the company also hires workers at its manufacturing site who might struggle to gain employment, including military veterans, people who have been homeless, and formerly incarcerated people.

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Tech Energy efficiency Homelessness Solar Sustainable living innovations