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Theater Commons Selected as Sustainable Tester

The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) announced the selection of Theater Commons at Seattle Center as one of the initial landscapes to participate in a new program testing the nation’s first rating system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance.

Seattle, WA, May 25, 2010 — The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) announced the selection of Theater Commons at Seattle Center as one of the initial landscapes to participate in a new program testing the nation’s first rating system for green landscape design, construction and maintenance.

Intended as a prototype for future Seattle Center projects, Theater Commons achieves advanced sustainable design incorporating a number of highly innovative methods and materials. The 1.6 acre site, which offers a multi-functional, newly landscaped space between the Seattle Repertory Theatre and the Intiman Theatre, fulfills a long-term vision of creating a legible, pedestrian oriented north entry to the campus that welcomes visitors and theater goers into the unique urban environment of Seattle Center.

The site, an early phase project of the Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan, features an integrated design approach to landscaping and engineering that considers environmental sustainability from the substructure up. It takes rain gardens to the extreme, producing a comprehensive bio-retention system for stormwater management throughout the site. Similar to the other pilot projects, the Theater Commons site will test the point system for achieving different levels of environmental sustainability on a 250-point scale. It also will assess the performance benchmarks associated with specific credits within the Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009.

The largest portion of the site is made up of bio-retention gardens created with adapted native Cascadia plantings that collect and filter onsite stormwater. The gardens will also be large enough to hold and filter most of the run-off from the existing Seattle Repertory Theatre roof adjacent to the site. Seattle Center hopes to use this new sustainable infrastructure as a highly visible demonstration project that showcases several sustainable goals of the Century 21 Master Plan. Interpretive signage and self-guided tours of the Theater Commons will promote the message about onsite stormwater management so that the public will have an opportunity to learn about the ecological and hydrological functions of the gardens, as well as the plants appropriate to such an environment.

A close collaboration between project architects and engineers laid the groundwork for many of the site”s environmental innovations. Theater Commons was designed by Gustafson Guthrie Nichol Ltd (lead designer and landscape architects), Weinstein A|U (architects), Magnusson Klemencic Associates (civil and sustainability engineers) and Pivotal/AEI (lighting and electrical engineers). Seattle Center landscape staff designed and installed the Cascadia native plantings. McClure and Sons Inc. served as general contractor.   

SITES, a partnership of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden, selected Theater Commons based on its extensive environmentally friendly elements. These sustainable practices include: on-site rain gardens that will retain roof and site water run-off, permeable pavers, the incorporation of a mix of native plants and regionally adapted vegetation, and energy efficient streetlights.

Theater Commons will join more than 150 other projects in 34 states as well as Canada, Iceland and Spain as part of an international pilot project program to evaluate the new SITES rating system for sustainable landscapes, with and without buildings. Sustainable landscapes can clean water, reduce pollution and restore habitats, while providing significant economic and social benefits to land owners and municipalities.

Other Washington State sites selected for the SITES pilot project include: Hillside Terrace, Madrona Street High Performance Home, Olympic College Student Parking Lot, Pendleton Avenue Improvements, East Bay Public Plaza, Peninsula College Campus New Entry and Parking Lot Renovation, South Kitsap Regional Park, Bradner Gardens Park Development, 9th Ave NW Park, and KCTS9 Building Renovation. 

SITES will use feedback from this and the other selected projects during the pilot phase, which runs through June 2012, to revise the final rating system and reference guide by early 2013. The U.S. Green Building Council, a stakeholder in the Sustainable Sites Initiative, anticipates incorporating the guidelines and performance benchmarks into future iterations of its LEED® Green Building Rating SystemT. More information is available at: For general media queries about SITES, go to:        

Theater Commons joins the Smithsonian Institution”s African American History & Culture Museum, a New Orleans” project to absorb storm water on the streets of the Lower Ninth Ward flooded during Hurricane Katrina, and other pilot projects that include academic and corporate campuses, public parks with hundreds of acres, transportation corridors and private residences of less than one acre.