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District Energy / Thermal Energy Network (TEN)

Alexandria Center for Life Science

Public+private partnership accelerating net zero

King County and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (ARE) are pioneering a ground-breaking project that captures heat from a large, underground sewer pipe to warm a 1.6 million-square-foot life science mega campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

A first in the realm of large commercial projects, this initiative showcases how public-private collaborations can contribute significantly to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


  • 99% carbon reduction (as compared to traditional lab)
  • 70% of campus building heat provided from city sewer wastewater
  • leverages King County’s groundbreaking public-private legislation

Project Overview

The Alexandria Center for Life Science, a landmark 1.6 million-square-foot life science mega campus in Seattle’s South Lake Union, represents a cutting-edge example of sustainable urban development. This project is a collaboration between King County and Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (ARE), demonstrating a significant leap in employing sewer heat recovery technology for large-scale commercial use.

At the core of this project is the innovative use of advanced heating and cooling wastewater energy technology. This system extracts heat from a county sewer pipe, processes it through a heat pump system, and then distributes it across the campus. A notable aspect is the consistent temperature of the wastewater, averaging 70 degrees, making it a reliable source for heat transfer.

This technology is not only a first in the nation for its scale but also a game-changer in terms of environmental impact. It is projected to reduce carbon emissions by a staggering 99% compared to conventional energy sources used in similar buildings in Seattle. The system’s implementation is slated for 2025, marking a significant step towards sustainable urban living.

Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., the developer, is renowned for its focus on life science industries, providing the necessary infrastructure for mission-critical operations. With over 29 years of experience, ARE has become a leader in creating collaborative campuses for life science, agtech, and advanced technology companies. Their approach balances critical elements like location, innovation, talent, and capital, essential for thriving life science clusters.

King County’s involvement highlights its commitment to innovative energy-saving solutions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The county’s initiative to develop commercial interest in sewer heat recovery is part of a broader strategy to encourage sustainable practices in commercial and multi-family buildings, which account for a significant portion of countywide emissions. King County’s pilot program for wastewater energy underlines its proactive stance in promoting renewable energy sources and partnering with the private sector for environmental stewardship.

McKinstry, a key contractor for the project, brings expertise in designing and building high-performance facilities, contributing to the project’s success in an urban landscape. This collaboration illustrates the feasibility and benefits of integrating modern technology into existing infrastructure, even in densely populated areas.

The Alexandria Center for LifeScience project stands as a prime example of how public-private partnerships can drive innovation in sustainable energy use in urban developments. It serves as a model for municipalities and governments seeking to integrate renewable energy solutions into commercial real estate, highlighting the potential for significant environmental and economic benefits.

Project Specs

Product Installed Project Type Project Size Commissioned Developer Engineer Architect
SHARC 880 District Energy 1.6M sq ft Est 2025 Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. McKinstry -

Stakeholders & Roles

Alexandria Real estate (ARE)

Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (ARE) demonstrates its commitment to sustainable development through the Alexandria Center for Life Science project. 

Their focus on eco-friendly innovation enhances ARE’s reputation as a leader in sustainable real estate, particularly in the life science sector. 

This approach not only aligns with their ethos of environmental responsibility but also offers increased property values and attracts investors and tenants interested in green technology and sustainable practices.

King County

King County‘s groundbreaking initiative in the sewer heat recovery project highlights its commitment to innovative environmental solutions and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

This involvement is a testament to their forward-thinking approach in fostering public-private partnerships for environmental stewardship. 

The project not only helps King County achieve its climate action goals but also bolsters its reputation as a leader in sustainable innovation, making it an attractive location for environmentally conscious businesses and residents.


McKinstry‘s engagement in this sustainable energy project showcases their expertise in green building practices and ability to navigate complex urban environments. 

This involvement strengthens their position as a key player in sustainable construction, aligning with their commitment to advancing the green economy. 

The success of this project serves as a significant showcase for McKinstry, potentially attracting more clients interested in environmentally responsible building solutions.

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