How Aegis Lake Union Takes a Unique Approach to Sustainability
As public awareness of sustainability continues to rise, senior care communities are increasingly incorporating sustainable features in their designs. Incorporating sustainable resources, such as solar panels, and strategic landscaping using native plants are becoming more and more common. During the planning of the Aegis Lake Union community in Seattle, Aegis Living incorporated sustainability in nearly every aspect of the design process, leading to an innovative and award-winning approach.
The community was built to meet the green building standards of the Living Building Challenge Petal Certification through the International Living Future Institute (ILFI). Aegis Lake Union also participated in the City of Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program, becoming the first senior living community to adhere to these rigorous sustainability standards. In April 2023, Aegis Living Lake Union became an ULI Americas Awards for Excellence winner.
Brian Palmore and Jeanna Korbas from Aegis Living Home Office oversee development and design across the entire company and portfolio. They work alongside Adam Clark, president of Aegis Development. We spoke to them about the development of the community, and here you’ll discover some of their sustainability insights and advice.
The Decision to Embrace Sustainability
Aegis Living is well-known for its innovation and willingness to take on big challenges that push the senior care industry forward. With the support of Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program, Aegis Living had the opportunity to focus significantly on sustainability when planning the Seattle property. “Certain incentives were available that made this development possible,” says Palmore. “We thought it would be a really good challenge for us, taking that next step for not just ourselves but the industry as a whole.”
When planning the construction of Aegis Lake Union, Aegis Living first had to make sure it was possible to meet the Living Building Challenge Petal Certification standards. “We really wanted to make sure it was feasible,” says Palmore. “We had multiple ILFI conversations with consultants to review the project and really started looking at professionals that have experience in it. As something new, there’s a few people in the area who are well-known for sustainability, and even fewer known for having experience with ILFI. We really wanted to pick our partners well.”
Aegis Lake Union Design Highlights and Benefits
The building’s design takes a comprehensive approach to sustainability. It operates entirely on standard electricity, and no gas or fossil fuels are used in the building. Even the shuttle is an electric vehicle. The building has reduced its energy draw by 25% and offsets 105% of the remaining energy draw by using solar energy.
Captured rainwater and treated greywater supply the building’s non-drinking water. In doing so, these alternative water supplies save more than 140,000 gallons of water each year.
A green roof, plant walls, and waterfall add natural elements to the urban setting, and the building’s upper-level cladding is made of cedar, which is a naturally-weathering renewable material.
In addition to environmental benefits, the sustainable approach offers other perks, too. “It’s more than just sustainable design. It focuses on a sense of place and beauty,” explains Korbas. “The building supports health and happiness through access to natural light. Staff really enjoy working in a building that’s beautiful. Residents know Aegis Living for our reputation and standard of care. Once they learn about it, and having lived in Seattle, they have an appreciation for that.”
Korbas notes that staff and residents love the story of the community, and the local neighborhood has embraced Aegis Lake Union. “We used locality heavily in the design, so they relate to it,” she says. “It fits into this tight-knit neighborhood. The neighborhood has really received us well. We’ve had great feedback from them and they’ve accepted us with open arms.”
Advice for Senior Living Communities Incorporating Sustainable Elements
Palmore suggests that senior living communities looking to incorporate sustainable elements should work closely with their local city and neighbors. “Secondly, and just as important, is picking the right partners,” he says. “When we go into an endeavor like this, with the ILFI and the requirements, you have to be able to trust to the person to your left and right to make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
He notes that sustainability is an ongoing process, too. “With the requirements of the ILFI, this isn’t something that you just plan for, build, and are done with. As soon as we get filled up and reach complete census, ILFI will come in and do a year of review and study to make sure all of our assumptions are accurate and that we’re achieving the level of sustainability required under this program,” Palmore explains.
He encourages senior care communities to take the time to make sure that everyone is ready to put a sustainability project together: “Make sure you educate staff and residents around what it means for them to be part of this journey, for their future, and for the future of our industry as a whole.”
Looking to the Future
Palmore notes that wining the ULI Awards is particularly meaningful for the future of senior living. “It’s an incredible honor just to be recognized alongside so many developers and projects nationwide,” he says. “When we first considered creating the world’s greenest senior living community, it was an effort to prove it was possible in a market sector not often recognized for pushing the envelope. The ability to make it a reality and be recognized will hopefully help others do the same.”
Palmore feels that sustainability is the next step in the evolution of the senior care industry. “Development in general is going in this direction,” he says. “Sustainability is here and will continue to grow, and being at the forefront of that is super important for us.”
“We also want to be an inspiration to others in our market sector,” explains Korbas. “If we can be an inspiration to others in the industry, that’s a great place to be at the end of the day.”
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