Aegis Living_Sky Lounge + Partial Solar Panel View
View of Aegis Living Lake Union’s sky lounge and solar panels. (Image courtesy of Aegis Living)

The “world’s greenest” senior living community opened in Seattle on Monday, according to Bellevue, WA-based Aegis Living.

Aegis Living Lake Union is the first assisted living community built following the global green building standards for the Living Building Challenge Petal Certification through the International Living Future Institute. The community is designed to be emission-free and energy-efficient, using solar power and rainwater.

Living Buildings, as defined by the ILFI, are self-sufficient, regenerative buildings that connect occupants to light, air, food, nature and community and create a positive effect on the human and natural systems that interact with them.

The Living Building Challenge is organized into seven performance “petals”: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty. Aegis Lake Union is registered for 3.1 Petal Certification for Energy, Place and Beauty.

According to Green America, 390 projects around the world are pursuing Living Building certification. Only 15 are fully certified living buildings, but 70 more projects have been Petal or Zero Energy certified.

Sustainable senior living

Aegis Living Lake Union entrance
Aegis Living Lake Union (Image courtesy of Aegis Living)

Aegis Living founder and CEO Dwayne Clark said in a statement that the company is looking toward the future and the importance of sustainable senior living.

“Being the first to reach such an important milestone, Aegis Lake Union will no doubt raise the bar for the industry, setting new standards for us and others to lessen our environmental footprint while continuing to deliver an exceptional resident experience,” he said. 

As the first senior living community built to pursue those green standards, Aegis Living said it had to create its own baseline metrics for improving energy use. The community is emission-free, using no fossil fuels. Standard electricity supports the entire 70,000-square-foot building and offsets 105% of the building’s total energy demand through various energy reduction measures, including an onsite solar array and offsite solar energy farm that generate 1.7-million kilowatt hours, according to the company.

Aegis said that the building also reduced its overall energy draw by 25% compared with similar buildings, through enhanced thermal envelope features, including triple pane window glazing, exterior wall thermal insulation and heat recovery through forced-air ventilation. 

Other energy reduction features, according to the company, include a recirculating heat pump system, LED lighting and sensors to monitor use and high-efficiency appliances. All water not for drinking, Aegis said, is supplied through captured rainwater and treated “greywater” (wastewater that comes from showers, laundry water, bath water, lavatory basin water, etc.), saving more than 140,000 gallons of water annually for the life of the building.

Those efforts are reported to save approximately 320,000 kilowatt hours annually, the equivalent of planning more than 12,000 trees.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment that took a team effort and great collaboration across our development team, architecture design and construction partner, as well as the International Living Future Institute, city of Seattle, among others,” Aegis Living Senior Vice President of Development Brian Palmore said. 

The community also is participating in the Seattle’s Living Building pilot program. The program, part of the city’s climate strategy, provides additional height and floor area ratios. The goal of the program is to reduce building emissions to achieve carbon neutral community status by the year 2050.

Petal Certification is based on actual performance, so Aegis Lake Union will begin an audit process and performance period once it reaches full occupancy. The official grand opening is set for Aug. 13.

An Aegis living spokeswoman said for other operators considering a move toward green building, start by putting residents at the center of the green strategy to help set priorities and ensure support. She also said Aegis learned to be “flexible and open-minded” in exploring brand new ways of developing and operating communities.

The company is exploring the feasibility of applying many of these same green building standards in future developments.

WELL Certification

At the same time, more than 600 senior living communities around the world have committed to or have achieved the WELL Health-Safety Rating or WELL Certification from the International WELL Building Institute. The rating focuses on operational policies and maintenance protocols to address health and safety challenges during the pandemic and beyond. 

Enlivant was the first senior living provider to earn the WELL Health-Safety Rating for facility operations and management for the Chicago-based company’s entire portfolio of 215 senior living communities, announcing the achievement in January.

Other senior living sector achievements and commitments, according to the institute:

  • Sunrise Senior Living had the first senior living community to achieve WELL certification at the Silver level and a WELL Health-Safety rating, as well as LEED Silver certification, in 2021.
  • Inspir Carnegie Hill, a Maplewood Senior Living community in Manhattan, became the first assisted living community in New York City to achieve the WELL Health-Safety rating.
  • The Jewish Home of Rochester in New York achieved the WELL Health-Safety rating.
  • The Views Senior Living of Marion in Iowa achieved WELL certification at the Gold level.
  • Anthem Memory Care achieved the WELL Health-Safety rating for its portfolio of 22 communities.
  • Sabra Health Care REIT is encouraging all of its operators to pursue the rating as part of its environmental, social and governance initiatives.
  • The Views Senior Living of Marion in Iowa achieved WELL certification at the Gold level.
  • Lendlease’s Ardor Gardens senior living facilities achieved the WELL Health-Safety rating across its portfolio in Shanghai.

Sabra also is a collaborator in the WISE initiative (Wellness Innovation in Senior Environments) and its Well Living Lab. One of Sabra’s skilled nursing facilities is being used by researchers at the Well Living Lab to provide researchers with a better understanding of how airborne transmissions move around within and between rooms, and how that movement affects residents and staff.