LEED-ing the Way

[Photo: Puyallup Long House]
Puyallup Long House

TACOMA - Tacoma, it seems, is fast becoming a national LEED-er. Last year, for example, the U.S. Green Building Council reported that the Tacoma Housing Authority's 91-unit, LEED Platinum Salishan 7 affordable housing development - the seventh and final phase of its HUD-funded HOPE VI Salishan revitalization project - was home to the 10,000th LEED-certified residential building in the United States and the first HOPE VI-funded project to be designated LEED Platinum.

And now it's got an equally-impressive neighbor, just a few miles northeast, just up a hill from the tidal flats and ancestral fishing grounds of Commencement Bay. It's called the NE Longhouse, a new, 20-unit housing complex being developed in two phases by the Puyallup Tribal Housing Authority that built it with $5 million funds from HUD provided under the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act as well as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Like Salishan 7, the U.S. Green Building Council has certified the first phase of the NE Longhouse as LEED-Platinum, something "unheard of in tribal housing projects nationwide.," said Authority executive director Annette Bryant. But the Council went a step further, selecting it as the Council's 2012 LEED for Homes Project of the Year. "The fact that our project of the year is an affordable housing development that achieved LEED Platinum certification," commented the Council's Nate Kredich, "is a shining example of how diversified the LEED for Homes portfolio has become."

The Puyallup are one of the Salish-speaking peoples of the Puget Sound region. In designing the NE Longhouse the Puyallup Tribal Housing Authority hearkened back to its past to "emulate," said the Council, the "rectangular, shed-roofed form of a traditional Coast Salish longhouse," an "elegant" melding "of the principles of sustainability with cultural relevance, while providing a contemporary aesthetic."

Like any LEED building, it's no surprise that Longhouse units have triple-pane windows, north-to-south exposures that promote natural cross-ventilation, structurally-insulated panels, Energy Star lighting and appliances, compact floor plans, low flow plumbing and siting that maximizes the potential for solar panels which are an integral element of phase 2 currently under construction.

But maybe the most innovative feature is suggested in the name officially conferred at the Tribe's blessing ceremony marking the completion of the project's first 10 units in early 2012 - Cayalqwu. In English it means "place of hidden waters." And such waters - in particular, thermal waters beneath the complex that allow for ground-source heat pumps for both domestic hot water and hydronic heating systems - are critical element in its sustainability. Thanks to the thermal heat and the solar panels, the Authority fully expects NE Longhouse to be a net-zero complex when completed.

The Puyallup Tribe's "relationship to the environment," observed the U.S. Green Building Council, "has a long history of cultural importance with inherent respect for people, the land, and natural systems." Which is why, it added, "the project sought, and often exceeded, the sustainable development goals."

"For many centuries," added HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Mary McBride, "Native people have sustained themselves by living off, but not exploiting or depleting, the land. As the Puyallup Tribe is demonstrating, that tradition remains alive and well in the 21st century. It is one from which all of us can learn and benefit."


Content Archived: April 29, 2014