Sustainable Building Initiatives

Housing affordability and availability is a critical issue in our region. As such, many social and financial challenges can often disincentive organizations from going beyond code to exemplary green building. HDC and our partners work to emphasize the lifecycle implications of reduced energy and water bills, and reduced exposure to toxins. Our members are on the cutting edge, directly confronting the tension between balancing upfront costs and creating durable homes as permanent, affordable assets to our communities.

Leading the work, is our Exemplary Building Task Force who works to transform the affordable housing market making it possible to standardize the construction of “ultra-efficient buildings.”

In this way, our developers, residents, and communities realize long-term economic and health benefits while reducing our environmental impacts.

Living Building Challenge Framework for Affordable Housing
The intent of the Framework is to inspire more affordable housing projects that are socially just, culturally rich, and ecologically restorative, as well as to offer the information, tools, and support to ensure that current and future affordable housing projects pursuing the Living Building Challenge succeed.

HDC and our members are actively engaging in the following regional efforts, and we invite interested parties to reach out for more information:

Representatives from Seattle City Light, Capitol Hill Housing, Emerald Cities Seattle, and Spark Northwest at the Elizabeth James House. A 78 KW solar energy system will be installed to lower the energy costs of affordable housing Photo Credit: Spark Northwest

Access Solar
Access Solar is a joint initiative of Spark Northwest and Emerald Cities Seattle to expand solar energy access to organizations and communities that have been left out of the transition to clean energy due to barriers related to policy, capacity, and/or financing. Onsite solar energy will help to stabilize operating costs for organizations that support those most vulnerable to climate impacts. In coordination with Emerald Cities Seattle’s RENEW program for energy efficiency, Access Solar designs and develops solar projects that help affordable housing providers, mission-driven organizations, and businesses thrive.





HomeFree: Healthy Materials Workshop, presented by HDC at 12th Ave Arts in 2016.

HDC has partnered with Healthy Building Network (HBN) to bring the HomeFree program to the Emerald Corridor. HomeFree is a national initiative developed by HBN to enable affordable housing developers, operators, designers and contractors to improve human health by using less toxic building materials. According to the US EPA, we spend up to 90 percent of our time indoors. Virtually all materials we use in our buildings, even “natural” materials such as wood, brick and stone, are chemically processed. As a result, today’s buildings contain many different chemicals of concern. We hope to reduce toxic chemical exposures from building materials to the people who build, maintain, or live in their homes through HomeFree’s material and chemical index.



In June 2017, twenty green building organizations came together to form Shift Zero, with the mission is to fight climate change by rapidly scaling the adoption of Zero Net Carbon buildings

Shift Zero
Shift Zero is a new Zero Net Carbon building alliance made up of green building, climate action, and equity-focused organizations (including HDC), which has coalesced around common ground (concern about the climate crisis) to work for common cause (zero net carbon building for all communities) with the power of collective voice. The Alliance focuses on initiatives that are ambitious, scalable, equitable, and quantifiable, helping to shape policymaking at local cities, counties, the Washington State Housing Finance Commission, and State of Washington.




The first pledged project is Pax Futura, a 35-unit multifamily Passive House under construction in Seattle’s Columbia City, designed by NK Architects and built by Cascade Built.

20 by 2020 Building Challenge
The 20 by 2020 Building Challenge aims to catalyze the construction of 20 Passive House projects of 20,000 square feet or large, within King County by the year 2020. A campaign of Passive House Northwest, in collaboration with community partners Housing Development Consortium, King County Green Tools Program, and The Bullitt Foundation, the Challenge’s goals are to provide “proof of concept” that healthy, super-efficient buildings make economic sense and can provide equitable access to high quality, high performance buildings for people of all income levels.