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Seattle’s First Carbon Positive Building Inspired by Seattle Innovator and Entrepreneur

Seattle, Inspire, Shilshole Development, Russell Young, Seattle Times, Public47 Architects, Russell’s Fifth Avenue Inc.
Clarity NW Photography

By Meghan Hall

A newly-constructed Seattle apartment building is making a splash in a number of ways. Called “Inspire” the project made its debut earlier this year as not just the city’s first carbon positive project, but Seattle’s first apartment building to pursue the Living Building Pilot Program and the International Future Institute’s Living Building Challenge Energy Petal Certification. Since its opening in March, the complex has become an example for future modern and environmentally-friendly development throughout the region—and is a project that was initially inspired by one of Seattle’s most well-known innovators. 

Built by Shilshole Development and Russell’s Fifth Avenue Inc., the project is located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood at 3825 Bridge Way North. The six-story building includes 42 residences with a mix of studios and one-bedroom units. The building has proved popular with potential tenants, and achieved 97 percent occupancy within months of opening, despite the uncertainty caused by the pandemic.

“Inspire exemplifies our vision to create a sustainable, living future for people, businesses, and the planet that can be replicated by our peers. Inspire is proof that sustainable, zero-carbon multifamily development can be profitable, and our hope is that many more will follow its example,” said Mike Yukevich, principal at Shilshole Development.

Much of Inspires’ design honors local innovator Russell W. Young, also known as “Buz.” Upon arriving in Seattle, Young quickly rose to prominence as the Executive Vice President for “The Seattle Times,” and later started Russell’s Fifth Avenue, which originally operated as a fine china store and later turned into a real estate investment company. Russell’s Fifth Avenue acquired Inspire’s development site in the 1950s, and the property was originally developed into a one-story office building. The project team—which also included Public47 Architects, Unico Sustainability and many others—sought to honor Young when the property was developed.

On the sustainability front, the building produces more than 100 percent of its own its own power on-site. Solar energy is provided to the building via 244 rooftop solar panels, which powers all of the buildings electrical systems. The abundance of solar energy means that Inspire residents do not need to pay for electricity. High-efficiency water systems reduce water demand by 43 percent, while triple-pane windows, additional insulation, LED lighting, a regenerative elevator and Energy Star appliances help to make the building 54 percent more efficient than other new residential buildings on the market.

Food is also produced onsite, with multiple outdoor gardens that are complete with Fuyu trees, blueberries, strawberries, herbs and vegetables. Bike storage is also supplied for all units.

 “Our commitment to integrated design allowed for creativity and problem-solving to begin from inception which enabled advanced sustainable design ideation to occur.” Brett Phillips, a board member with Russell’s Fifth Avenue Inc. explained. “…We had a thesis that we could create a replicable formula that would allow for restorative, net-positive energy development to not only be profitable, but that would be more valuable than built-to-code projects. We have done that with Inspire and hope our example will encourage our for-profit peers to follow suit.”        

The building’s design is also elegant but modern, featuring curvilinear corners and floating entries. Brick columns work to anchor the building and give the exterior a timeless aesthetic, while a roof top solar energy array is clearly visible and meant to act as a physical nod to the possibilities that net-positive energy buildings can provide. 

The building’s quick lease-up is a testament to the viability of sustainable product in the Seattle market, noted Phillips. Additionally, Seattle’s combination of strong institutions, diversified economy, educated workforce and proximity to the outdoors will continue to propel the local residential industry in a number of meaningful ways long-term. The project team hopes that Inspire will serve as a touchpoint for future residential development throughout Seattle, and prove that sustainable is possible.

“Inspire’s leasing success, achieving stabilized occupancy in six months during a pandemic, is testimony to the fact that the building’s features are disproportionately more attractive than its competitive set,” Phillips emphasized. “The sustainable, zero-carbon features are a major part of Inspire’s leasing success and provide an important data point for the market — that high performing green buildings are technically buildable, financially feasible, and marketabley leasable.”