Seattle residents upset over building code height exception in city’s Living Building Challenge pilot program

July 18, 2012 |
Lynne Simnick

Seattle officials want to green up their building stock, and one of their tools is implementing a Living Building Challenge pilot program that would allow construction of buildings taller than the present height limits in certain areas. To have a height exception approved, the building would have to be sustainable according to the Living Building Challenge standard.

Some residents are upset over the possibility of taller buildings going up in their neighborhood, though. They say these taller structures would obscure views and cast shadows on their property, which would deprive them of sunlight on winter days.

The argument in favor of the height exception under the pilot programis to “allow additional flexibility in the application of development standards in the Land Use Code (Title 23) through the design review process in order to accommodate innovative technologies or design approaches that might otherwise be discouraged or prohibited.”

The pilot program will accept up to 12 projects over a three-year period. Projects chosen for the program would be given fast-track priority in the city’s review process, and “an integrated, coordinated review that can identify and resolve issues for complex projects.”

Living Buildings are required to be self-sufficient for energy and water needs, and meet advanced standards for elements such as material use and quality of the indoor environment. Seattle’s pilot program would also allow other code exceptions including for parking, floor area ratios, and street, alley, and easement requirements.


Lynne Simnick | Codes and Standards

Lynne Simnick is the Director of Code Development for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and is responsible for the supervision and oversight of the creation and maintenance of all IAPMO codes and code supporting documents. Ms. Simnick has more than twenty-eight years experience in the plumbing industry including code development, education and training, plan review and evaluation services. Prior to joining IAPMO, Simnick worked as technical staff in engineering services, educator, inspector and plumber. She has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Education and Mechanical Engineering Technology. Simnick has authored many technical articles, participated in numerous standards committees with an expertise in code and standards development.

Ms. Simnick may be contacted at IAPMO, 909-472-4110 or email

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