Those intimate with downtown Seattle but who haven’t visited over the past couple years might be in for a shock: Pier 57 is now home to a giant, London Eye-style Ferris wheel, the Central Library is now housed in a hulking, space-age edifice (courtesy Rem Koolhaas), a fabulous light rail system now connects the airport to Westlake Center and once unabashedly seedy Belltown is now Condoville, U.S.A.

However, the first thing that those who haven’t set foot in the Emerald City in a good while will most likely notice are the construction cranes. So. Many. Cranes. It appears that all of downtown — with a heavy concentration of cranes just north of the central business district in Denny Triangle, Belltown and South Lake Union — is one massive construction site.

The record-breaking number of construction projects in and around downtown Seattle is largely a result of many of the region’s tech powerhouses opening additional/larger downtown campuses or completely relocating from their longtime Eastside digs on the opposite shore of Lake Washington. And in this dramatic migration that somewhat mirrors what’s going on in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, comes the need for additional housing for downtown Seattle’s rapidly multiplying tech workforce.

Although it happened some years ago, the largest tech company to have fled the ‘burbs and set up shop in and around downtown Seattle is Amazon. Founded in Bellevue and currently headquartered in South Lake Union, the online retail giant is erecting a 3.3 million-square-foot high-rise campus in the nearby Denny Triangle neighborhood. And as reported by Puget Sound Business Journal, Amazon’s new neighborhood-transforming corporate headquarters, complete with a trio of biodomes, will be kept nice and toasty by a most apropos source: the Internet.

Spearheaded by Eco District LLC, a new company formed by construction and energy services firm McKinstry and real estate developer Clise Properties, the first-of-its-kind project will involve transferring waste heat generated by the cooling system at a data center located in the Clise-owned Westin Building to Amazon’s new three-block complex, located directly across Sixth Avenue. The act of capturing the huge amounts of waste heat generated by data farm cooling systems is nothing new — but transferring that waste heat to a neighboring building, in this case a neighboring building complex that's positively elephantine in size, is.

Puget Sound Business Journal elaborates on the unique closed-loop system:

Water used to cool the data center will run from the Westin in a 14-inch pipe under Sixth Avenue to the basement of one of Amazon's high-rises, where a 400,000-gallon reservoir is going in, along with a heat recovery chiller plant. This plant will extract the heat that will be used to heat Amazon's buildings. The cooled down water will then run back under Sixth in a parallel pipe to the data center where it will be used again to extract more heat.

The so-called "energy district" heating scheme — Clise president Richard Stevenson refers to it as a “recycling system” — is expected to save Amazon a significant amount in energy costs once the campus is up and running. Clise anticipates that with the new, yet-to-be-approved-by-the-city system in place, the e-commerce titan will enjoy an energy reduction of 80 million kilowatt-hours over the span of 25 years compared to an electric heating system.

The system will also help Clise save a bundle in water and electricity given that the the NBBJ-designed Amazon complex, one of the largest if not the largest developments in Seattle history, will act as one big cooling tower for the Westin Building. (Although the corporate headquarters of former anchor tenant, Westin Hotels, were once located in the 34-story office tower, the building has primarily served as a major telecommunications hub and colocation center or "carrier hotel" for over 20 years.)

“We were just always bothered that we took so much low-grade heat (from the data center) and pushed it into the atmosphere,” Stevenson tells the Daily Journal of Commerce. "We asked is there something we can do with the waste heat and they [McKinstry] said, yeah, there is."

It's nice how cozily this could all work out if approved by the City Council, eh? The Internet heating the headquarters of an Internet behemoth with everybody enjoying slashed energy bills — can't get more symbiotic (and Seattle-y) than that.

Also worth noting: Amazon acquired the land to build its LEED Gold-aiming Denny Triangle campus from, you guessed it, Clise.

Via [Puget Sound Business Journal], [DJC]

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Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

The heat source for Amazon's massive new campus? The Internet, naturally
In construction crane-heavy downtown Seattle, the city's largest, flashiest new development may be heated by a data center located just across the street.