Amount Awarded:
Funding Received:
Project Status:
 Active: Planning phase

Executive Summary

Getting to Zero: Sustainable Stormwater Feasibility at the The Historic ASUW Shell House

Currently at the site of the ASUW Historic Shell House, stormwater from the building and adjacent parking areas mixes with toxins and flows directly into Lake Washington. The objective of this feasibility study is to investigate the viability of using bio-filtration and retention systems to treat all stormwater onsite at the Shell House location, and to create designs and accompanying documentation for implementing this strategy. The goal is to utilize naturally filtered grey water for toilet flushing and irrigation, while ensuring that all stormwater runoff is prevented from entering the lake, and providing onsite interpretation of these systems.

It is well documented that the leading cause of degradation in the Puget Sound and Lake Washington comes from stormwater pollution.  The University of Washington, as a waterfront campus and continued growth, has a growing coverage of impervious surfaces supported by antiquated stormwater infrastructure that increases stormwater pollution and poses significant ecological and human health risks. However, new sustainable and innovative landscape solutions are available that can remediate pollutants and not only naturally clean the water, but also recycle it for other purposes rather than draining it into the lake, which causes significant negative environmental effects.  

This site, at this time, is a unique opportunity to demonstrate ecological stormwater systems to the campus and larger community. The Shell House, the UW’s first Seattle Historic Landmark, is about to embark on an extensive renovation of the building  and site into space for the campus and visitors, including student spaces, event venues, historic and cultural exhibits, and a restored waterfront. The site already gets abundant traffic, including on foot for waterfront access and during stadium events and by boat during the spring and summer months, yet with the new light rail,  the upcoming UW Continuous Waterfront Trail Concept that runs directly through the site, and the popular book and upcoming movie “Boys in the Boat,” it will only increase. By creating a visible, beautiful and sustainable onsite water treatment along with interpretive educational displays, it has the unique potential to be a transformative landscape. It will provide the opportunity to showcase how responsible development of existing sites can be designed to respect the environment, encourage biodiversity, connect with historic narratives of people and place through design and interpretation, and create beautiful gathering places all while visibility demonstrating the highest level of sustainability at the University of Washington.

This project is unique; it will be the first to demonstrate a net-zero stormwater treatment of a building on campus and the first to incorporate these systems on campus in an existing building (the renovation of the building being a sustainable act in itself). Together with UW Recreation, The College of Built Environments Center for Preservation and Adaptive Reuse, The Green Futures Lab and students across campus, this feasibility project will research appropriate site-specific ecological stormwater systems, present design schematics, and investigate educational alternatives for the UW Project Team to implement as the design phase begins for the shell house renovation next year.

Primary Contact:
Kathryn Rogers Merlino