Seattle Substation Project to Merge Infrastructure and Architecture in a Unique Urban Setting

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Construction has commenced on Seattle City Light’s Denny Substation — a new electrical infrastructure project planned for the city’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Not only will the project help address the growing electricity demand for Seattle’s tech, biomedical, and non-profit sectors, but it also aims to meld functionality with industrial design and landscape architecture to form a distinctive public meeting space. As reported in Slate this week, the substation will include a public park, off-leash dog area, as well as art installations and a plaza for entertainment and food carts. There will also be an elevated walkway to allow onlookers to check out the facility and learn more about how the primarily clean electricity coming from the substation (89% hydro, and 3% wind-power) is distributed throughout the city.

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As acknowledged by the substation’s design company, NBBJ, electricity system infrastructure is not typically designed to be anything other than “glum, concrete facilities filled with wires and electrical equipment relegated to obscure desolate stretches of cityscapes.” Thus, the notion that such a project could not only be visually appealing but also an urban hot spot makes this a unique endeavor.

The substation, slated for completion in 2018, also comes at a pivotal time for the country’s electricity infrastructure. Much of the grid is aging and in need of repair and replacement–as starkly illustrated by the  “D+” grade that our energy infrastructure most recently earned from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Although many policymakers, regulators, and stakeholders, are looking at non-wires solutions to avoid shelling out the billions necessary to address this problem, the Denny Substation could help make such projects, when necessary to build, easier to promote…and a lot more fun to visit.

(These pictures, along with others, can be found on the design company’s website, linked-to above).

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