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Site Sustainability Certification

Photo: Benjamin Benschneider

The World’s First Salmon-Safe Accredited Developer

Booming Seattle Development Threatens Salmon

Rain sustains our region’s natural beauty and shapes our culture. It also presents a challenge in the form of “stormwater”. Stormwater is created when heavy rainfall rushes off hard surfaces that make up our urban environment.

Every year, millions of gallons of stormwater laden with toxic chemicals flow from streets, buildings, parking lots, and more. Much of the water drains untreated, directly into our lakes, streams and creeks. The contaminated water is lethal to migrating Coho salmon, other native species, and even human health.

As Seattle continues its epic building boom, the stormwater challenge grows as the number of buildings, cars and people increases. The Downtown Seattle Association reports that 34 development projects were completed in 2019 and 20 more projects are underway in 2020.

Vulcan Real Estate is working to shift the development trend toward salmon-friendly building sites and helping move the development industry toward safer environmental practices.

Reducing Harm through Sustainable Development

Sustainable development reduces the harm of unmanaged stormwater. While under construction, green building sites control sediment and other harmful runoff. Rain gardens are installed to help water soak into the ground where pollutants are naturally filtered. Green roofs absorb water and rainwater collection systems harvest rain for irrigation and other uses.

Already the largest private developer of new construction LEED-certified projects in Seattle, Vulcan Real Estate advanced their commitment to sustainable development by partnering with Salmon-Safe on their pilot program for developers. In 2017, they became the first Salmon-Safe accredited developer in the world, signaling excellence in water quality protection across their entire operation.

Founded over a decade ago, Salmon-Safe got its start in the Western US, certifying farms and food-makers whose practices protect water quality and restore salmon habitat. Since that time, they have expanded their project certifications to commercial real estate.

Creating a Greener Industry

Vulcan Real Estate is making the region safer for salmon and people by employing innovative building design and advocating for best practices that improve and protect the environment. Their industry-leading actions are contributing to Puget Sound water resilience in multiple ways:

  • Performance-based development. 13 projects are Salmon-Safe certified as of 2020 and more projects are underway. Annual verification ensures performance levels are maintained across 5 core standards including stormwater and water use management.
  • Influencing the supply chain. All general contractors working on their projects are required to be Salmon-Safe accredited. Today, Salmon-Safe has accredited 9 of the leading contractors in Washington—who further commit to ensuring that Salmon-Safe practices are followed by all subcontractors and employees.
  • Environmental leadership. Vulcan Real Estate responded to gaps in water quality protection by partnering with Salmon-Safe to pilot an accreditation program for developers. The program provides a new pathway for Pacific Northwest development companies pursuing environmental excellence.


Vulcan Real Estate
What makes a developer Salmon-Safe? They follow these 7 principles at their building sites.

Start with site ecology. Building sites must be designed to help protect wetlands, streams, and wildlife.

Integrate habitats. Building sites must be designed to support neighboring habitats.

Manage stormwater at the source. Potential runoff must be dispersed and filtered on site through bio-filtration and low-impact development.

Protect habitat and water quality. During construction, native soils and vegetation must be protected from site pollutants.

Prioritize water conservation. Sources of water for construction and landscaping should have the least possible impact on natural water flows.

Care for the land over time.  Landscaping must be maintained with fertilizers and insecticides that don’t contain deadly chemicals.

Create a learning landscape. Completed projects should include demonstrations and interpretative signs to build awareness for Salmon-Safe practices.