Sequim eyes solar-powered City Hall

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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SEQUIM –– As they prepared plans for a new City Hall, City Council members reviewed with their construction consultant how much focus to put on designing an environmentally friendly City Hall — and at what cost.

“What is a payback period? And what is a reasonable payback period?” City Manager Steve Burkett asked the council Monday night.

Court Olson, a consultant with the Bellevue-based Optimum Building Consultants firm, led the council through a discussion about “green” building measures.

“What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?” Olson asked the council.

“Whatever we build today is probably going to outlive us.”

The city plans to begin construction early next year on what is now estimated to be a
$15 million building.

Olson said Olympia spent an additional $175,000 to install green technologies in its $34 million City Hall, which his firm helped build, but those improvements saved $465,000 in utility costs.

“Sequim is supposed to be the sunshine capital of the Pacific Northwest,” Councilman Ted Miller said.

“For us to build a building without active and passive solar would be a travesty, in my opinion.”

Because of Sequim’s sunny climate and the proposed location of the new City Hall at Spruce Street and Sequim Avenue, the new building could have a “net zero impact,” Olson said, which means it would produce enough energy to power itself.

“You’ve got a clear shot to use the sun in the right ways for energy efficiency,” he said.

That could be solar panels but also shades that allow sun to come in windows in the winter but block it out when it is higher in the sky in the summer.

Solar energy also could be used to help light the building, Olson said, lowering the use of electric lighting.

Sequim also could catch sun to heat the building’s water and even use that water to heat the building.

Olson suggested the city build its City Hall to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

Those are a set of energy-efficiency benchmarks laid out by the U.S. Green Building Council, a green construction industry nonprofit formed in 1999.

That means the city could receive credits for installing efficient appliances, making the building a pedestrian-friendly part of the community, using recycled building materials and powering the building through alternative sources.

Councilwoman Laura Dubois asked how much the certification would cost, both in staff time and to acquire LEED status.

Olson said obtaining the certificate likely would cost less than $5,000, and the city would only have to spend a “few hours” on paperwork.

Dubois asked about installing bathroom fixtures that conserve water, but Councilman Ted Miller worried that some newer appliances can be detrimental to public health, since the appliances’ hand-washing time is limited.

Burkett noted the urinals in Seattle’s City Hall are waterless but require hyper-vigilant maintenance.

“I think our plan is to use well-proven kinds of things,” Burkett said.

Dubois also stressed using the city’s reclaimed water whenever possible, potentially even for toilets.

The city has set aside nearly $3 million for construction and will issue special obligation bonds for an estimated $12.5 million.

Once the council and staff finalize the design, the city will call for proposals from firms to design and build the new City Hall.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Last modified: June 04. 2013 5:57PM
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