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Sustainable Living Innovations Plans Second Project, A 440-Foot Residential Tower In South Lake Union

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47+7 (Photo Courtesy of Matt Grunert)
47+7 (Photo Courtesy of Matt Grunert)

By Kristin Bentley

Seattle-based Sustainable Living Innovations LLC (SLI), a subsidiary of CollinsWoerman Seattle Architects, is planning its second project, a 440-foot residential high-rise in the South Lake Union area. Architect Matt Grunert shared the firm’s new technology with NAIOP Washington Chapter members during the organization’s July Breakfast.

“Part of our design, and developed the kit of parts that we did, was that this whole thing is scalable and replicable,” said Grunert. “What we wanted to do is create a kit of parts that we could deploy on smaller sites that are tight or scale it up and do high-rise buildings.”

The energy savings are just insane, we have reduced our energy footprint by about 85 percent

According to SLI’s Web site, conventional construction is costly, time-consuming and is not very sustainable. The firm claims to have developed a patented technology that optimizes prefabrication of parts off-site, versus onsite field construction. Due to this technology, the claim is that buildings go up faster with virtually zero construction waste and incorporate more sustainable materials and systems. SLI developed a patented system that delivers custom buildings from a kit of prefabricated component parts. Structural steel and other building components, such as walls, stairs, doors and windows, are prefabricated off site and trucked to the job site for installation and connection. SLI believes this integrated approach results in superior quality and a high-performance building.

“The whole process has been kind of this journey of securing original equipment manufacturer relationships with manufacturers and working directly with manufacturing companies to have them build custom parts that then we can use in a panelized building system,” said Grunert. “We now use this panelized system where we have floor, wall and utility wall panels that are all shipped out to the site in mass, that are all prefabricated in a warehouse. And so we’ve drastically reduced the rate of construction that way.”

The first project using this technology was 47+7, a six-story 24-unit apartment project in Seattle’s University District developed by Bellevue-based Wallace Properties, Inc. Through the installation of pre-constructed panels, the project was completed by a construction crew of 10, handling 90 percent fewer parts, and delivered a sustainable and aesthetically appealing building in 50 percent of the typical construction timeline. 47+7 broke ground in August 2014 and the grand opening was in April 2015.

“47+7 was the pilot project for our technology,” said Grunert. “It was our first look at doing a proof of concept in the field. We ended up completing that building in less than seven months from total scratch start to finish, and that included only five months of construction time onsite. It ended up completely leasing out within eight weeks after receiving a certificate of occupancy. It was a really fascinating process.”

Not only was the construction of the project cost-effective, the building has also proved to be self-sustaining. “We found that for ten months out of the year, the building was actually generating all of the hot water that it needed for completely free. Then beyond that, we actually coupled that solar array with tubes in our floor system, and what that means is that for ten months out of the year we are heating our building for free as well. The energy savings are just insane, we have reduced our energy footprint by about 85 percent.”

SLI formed in 2008 during the recession, when leadership realized that architecture had an opportunity to evolve, says Grunert. “We thought that we could build 50 percent faster with 50 percent less labor, and we ended up identifying goals with what we wanted to do with expediting the construction process,” added Grunert. “And so, basically, we went on this journey of trying to figure out how we could economically provide some high caliber living to average people for a typical price.”