Andrea Sassenrath Photography

Creating a sustainable development in a dense urban area can be a challenge, one that Seattle-based architecture firm Tiscareno Associates and the developers of The Cove embraced head-on to pack a host of energy-saving features into a 9,000-square-foot block in downtown Seattle.

The Cove, a 60-unit, 50,000-square-foot mixed-used residential building in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, is designed to a LEED Platinum standard and incorporates features that translate to a 45% decrease in energy use, 71% reduction in the project’s CO2 emissions, and energy cost savings of 30%, says Tiscareno.

The project includes a wide variety of solar panels hanging from the south side of the building that also serve as sun shades and generate more than 14.3 kilowatts of electricity—enough to power the common areas. If there’s still additional electricity the common areas don’t use, it goes back into the grid and the building owners get a credit against the power bill, translating to more savings for the tenants.

“Residents also have access to a 3,000-square-foot green roof, complete with seating and lush vegetation. The plants allow natural filtration of stormwater, prolonging the roof’s lifetime and flushing cleaner water into the city’s waterways,” says Michelle Kinsch, associate principal of Tiscareno Associates.

The units incorporate triple-glazed, floor-to-ceiling tilt-turn windows (which reduce sound so residents don’t hear traffic noise from the busy neighborhood); high-efficiency mini-split heat pumps; efficient plumbing fixtures; and Energy Star–rated appliances. The upper level uses sustainable materials for its finishes, such as bamboo and prefinished cement boards.

The project sits on a 9,000-square-foot infill site with a challenging typography. To squeeze both living and retail space into the sloping plot of land, the team designed the residential floor plans as interlocking units, like a jigsaw puzzle, to maximize floor-plate efficiency. On the ground floor, the combination of three micro-retail shops, a 3,000-square-foot corner retail space, and a mezzanine makes for one large efficient space.

Photos courtesy Tiscareno Associates

The Cove is now fully occupied, having leased up quickly upon opening. The property was popular among millennial renters who pride themselves on being environmentally conscious.

“With so many of Cove’s sustainable elements visible from the exterior—green awnings, bamboo ground-floor cladding, south-hanging solar panels—prospective renters can immediately identify Cove as in sync with their green values,” says the architecture firm. “To tenants [the building’s LEED status] translates not only to living out their values, but also to significant energy savings. They appreciate seeing lower energy bills than they’ve seen elsewhere, just as they appreciate being able to walk to work, the store, or the cultural attractions in the neighborhood.”