Good for earth. Good for you.

Our mission is to create a community that demonstrates both sensible and social sustainability.
If you live or work here, that means enjoying a balance of green construction and cost-efficient comforts.


To us, sensible sustainability means using natural resources–air, sun, earth and water–to live well while living lightly with the land. Where others may see green practices as a checkbook challenge, we take the challenge to heart, finding a reasonable path between expense and green practicality.

At the Greenfire Campus, sensible sustainability can be seen in both big moves and small details. For example, the combined building footprints occupy only 50% of the total site area. We were zoned for 175 units. We chose to give the space to 18 units.

A smaller-scale example of sensible sustainability is a simple light switch system that allows all your lights to be turned off as you exit an apartment. This provides a highly convenient feature for residents that both makes a daily routine a little easier and helps reduce our energy footprint.

In short, we take the long view–investing in the future of Seattle, its environment and its people.

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability at the Greenfire Campus begins with Ballard, a thriving urban district in Seattle. The Greenfire Campus hopes to further enhance the already vibrant community as a new Ballard neighbor. Through its design location and mix of uses, the Greenfire Campus contributes to the walkable neighborhood.

The Greenfire Campus was inspired by the village way of life 100 years ago. A key social goal of the Greenfire Campus is to provide everything people want in their home and work lives in a small neighborhood. Within the Greenfire Campus itself, ground floor studios are used as shops, P-Patches for growing food, and a community kitchen for canning and preserving vegetables.


Dating from ancient times, people used the elements as a way to describe the world around them: Air, fire, earth, and water. This grouping is a simple yet effective way to categorize the green features at Greenfire Campus and aligns with our approach to finding the most sensible solutions wherever possible. This all may be more insight into our sustainability efforts than you need, but the more know, the more you see how Greenfire Campus is designed differently.

Natural ventilation / passive cooling

People working in the office and the choices they make play an integral part in heating and cooling at the Greenfire Campus. The Greenfire Campus takes advantage of the Pacific Northwest climate with a hybrid natural ventilation/passive cooling system. It’s simple, really: Open the windows when it’s warm and close them when it’s cold. Since the local climate is between 50-75 degrees for over half of the occupied hours each year, fresh air does the trick. A system of red/green indicator lights notifies people when to close or open windows to adjust and maintain a comfortable building temperature. Fresh air is used at night for passive cooling.

Low VOC materials

Greenfire Campus is a stink-free atmosphere. Wherever possible, plywood, paint and carpet selected don’t contain volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Low-VOC materials improve indoor air quality to provide a healthy environment for living and working.


The office building at Greenfire Campus features indoor gardens that help to filter and refresh the air and enhance the beauty of the environment. The outdoor gardens include edible plants such as raspberries and blueberries that are accessible to residents and office tenants (for a healthy snack) and also provide habitat for local wildlife. 

Green roofs

Raspberries with a view. The green roofs have deeper soil than a typical green roof planting, allowing the roof top gardens to include edible plants such as blueberries and raspberries. Green roof plantings are next to living spaces, so both berries and people can enjoy the view. Green roofs provide a number of benefits as they can last twice as long as conventional roofs by protecting roofing membrane from the elements, while enhancing the rooftop appearance, and absorbing the sun’s solar gain thereby reducing the “heat island effect” (the heat island effect occurs when buildings with dark roofs and non-reflective surfaces release absorbed heat from sunlight into the atmosphere).

Heat Recovery Ventilators (HRVs)

While a significant degree of ventilation for the Greenfire Campus is provided by people opening and closing windows, additional ventilation comes from a simple heat recovery ventilator system. A metal plate recovers heat exhausted through the building and tempers incoming air to provide a comfortable space for living and working. The system recovers up to 75% of the exhaust air heat energy that would otherwise be lost to the outdoors.

Hydronic based HVAC system

In the elements, water and fire are separate. At Grenfire Campus we’ve mixed it all up. Water and fire merge together to form our Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning (HVAC) system. Greenfire Campus uses a hydronic (water-based) system that heats or cools water at a central location before distributing it throughout the buildings. Why? With its higher density water is better at conducting heat than air. Therefore it’s more efficient to heat water and distribute than it is to move warm air.


As Seattle residents know, daylight is like gold, especially during the winter. Greenfire Campus provides ample daylighting through thoughtful window placement reduces the need for electric lighting during the day.

Ground source heat pumps

Think of a campfire. You are holding a marshmallow on the end of a long metal roasting fork. As the marshmallow toasts and expands in the warmth of the fire, the metal roasting fork gains and retains heat–so much so that you could burn your fingers while making the perfect s’mores. In a ground source heat pump system, wells are drilled into the earth–approximately 300 feet deep. Loops are inserted into the wells. Much like the metal roasting fork, these loops gather the heat from the ground, which stays between 53 and 55 degrees year round. While the result isn’t burnt fingers or tasty marshmallows, the loops do gather enough heat to easily warm the building above by pre-heating the water used to heat and cool the buildings.

Radiant floor heating

Warm floors feel great on bare feet. In the apartment units, radiant floor heating circulates heated water through tubing embedded in the floor. Radiant floor heating provides a higher degree of thermal comfort to occupants at a lower temperature than systems that rely on heating air with air (for example, a furnace).

Solar shades

Fixed and operable solar shades help to reduce heat and light gained by the building while preserving views. On the south side of the building, fixed shades allow heat gain from the winter sun, yet provide cooling shade for the rest of the year. Operable shades on the west side of the building allow people in the building to adjust the shades to provide shade or sun, much like the louvers in a set of blinds.

Photovoltaic panels

A photovoltaic (solar energy panel) array on the office building generates approximately 10 kw of energy. For the Greenfire apartments, solar panels on the roof are used to generate up to 70% of the annual hot water needed for everything from showers to washing dishes.

Urban agriculture

Got Hops? Urban agriculture at the Greenfire Campus provides access to edible plants such as blueberries, raspberries and grapes for the Greenfire community. On the west edge of the office building, a vertical garden grows hops. Imagine, Greenfire Ale made from hops grown on the campus! Are you a local brewer? Let us know.


The Greenfire Campus is city farmer friendly! Every apartment has its own P-Patch in a garden area on the sunniest part of the site. A tool shed, composting bins and a commercial-grade kitchen appliances provides the tools and space for residents to grow food as well as process and preserve through canning.

Locally sourced and recyclable materials

Close examination of all products to make sure no red list materials were used while maximizing regional materials and recycled materials. Landscaping used salvaged juniper as retaining wall supports. The community room features a light feature from Graypants with recycled acrylic, and residential hallways feature recycled rubber carpet tiles.

Low toxin materials

There’s no need for Mr. Yuk stickers at the Greenfire Campus. The materials selected are free of toxins such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), formaldehyde, lead and mercury. For example, instead of a traditional floor surface, the floors are concrete with non-toxic sealants. Using toxin-free materials helps to create a healthier environment for living and working, as well as minimizing hazards to the environment associated with disposing of these materials following their useful life.

Renewable materials

What would it be like to work among trees? Birch bark, one example of rapidly renewable wood selected for Greenfire Campus, wraps many columns in the office building. Other renewable wood products can be found in flooring and decking, including bamboo and Ipe.

Urban habitat

While they won’t be coming 2×2, we do expect to see a variety of feathered, winged, fur-covered and buzzing critters joining us at the Greenfire Campus. At the center of the Greenfire Campus, an urban habitat of native plantings provide a refuge for insects, birds and animals by re-introducing plants for food and shelter to the urban environment.

Chilled beams

Greenfire Campus generates its own weather inside. Seriously. Active chilled beams in the office building run loops of hot or cold water (depending on the season and heating/cooling needs) and move air slowly through the office. Passive chilled beams in the hallways condensate water to create cool air.

Rain screens

Rain screen siding protects and ventilates the skin of the building by drawing off heat and moisture. Screening the building enhances its cooling capacity, promotes healthy air quality and reduces mold-generating trapped moisture.

Rainwater collection

There is a reason Seattle is the Emerald City. We figured, why not harness the rain for which we are so well known? The Greenfire Campus collects rainwater for landscape irrigation in two large cisterns. Our plants are indeed emerald in color.

Pervious hardscape

When you walk the sidewalks of Seattle you often see a bright stencil of a salmon, reminding all of us that our rainwater, stormwater and even the water from our irrigation systems ultimately ends up back in the Puget Sound with our finned friends. To help filter the Ballard rainwater running into this pristine marine habitat, surfaces that allow water to pass through, such as crushed stone pathways, are used on non-landscaped surfaces.


While the Greenfire Campus has two large cisterns to capture rainwater, some of it inevitably falls on the landscape. Bioswales and an ecology stream running across the campus serve the dual purpose of filtering rainwater and providing habitat for urban wildlife. Bioswales also create a green vista for people on the campus and the community.

Native plants

Palm trees, cacti and agave plants need not apply. Throughout the urban habitat and site landscaping, drought-resistant, native plant materials are used. Rainwater is collected and reused to provide irrigation for all landscaping.