Last week, I toured the University of Washington's Paccar Hall at the Foster School of Business. I'm not an architectural critic so I won't pass judgement on the space itself (Lawrence Cheek was on the tour, so you might look forward to his take sometime). I will say the space itself almost tempted me to go back to school.
I wrote about the building in the DJC here. But what I didn't write about was the way it made me feel.
Often, I tour a space and listen to the words of the architect. They speak about aesthetics, connections and a building's grand goals. In Paccar Hall, I didn't so much need to hear Mark Reddington of LMN speak about what the building was meant to do --- as I needed to look around and see everything he was talking about playing out in person.
Creating space that fostered random conversations between people? Check. Creating space with lots of nooks and comfortable areas for people to rest and do their own thing both indoors and out? Check. Creating space that felt like a broader piece of the UW's campus, rather than a segmented section of learning? Check. This is a building that was crawling with students interacting at all different levels, I'm guessing not all from the business school.
The sustainability features were also interesting, the most obvious one being daylit space. I've been in a lot of buildings that are "daylit" and sure, you see the outside and notice that you're getting natural light. But in Paccar Hall, the daylighting wasn't just a feature. It was the building and screamed for your attention. Having said that, I do wonder about the efficiency of a building that is over 45 percent glass. Architects on the tour assured me that numerous strategies had been put in place to take care of the solar load - very visible interior sunshades, exterior sunshades and glazing. I'd like to see the concrete operational numbers for the first few years to see how much energy it saves (it is LEED gold, after all).
The building has a number of other green features - it saved trees on the property, has automatic lighting controls and displacement ventilation. A planned green roof was value engineered out, though a decorative green space lines the outdoor terrace.
I've been thinking about the building and it raises a question for me: is it more sustainable to create a building that people love and will use thoroughly, or should teams concentrate on the green credentials?
In a perfect world, all green/sustainable/LEED certified buildings would also make you want to stay inside them. But the thing is, they don't. Often, a LEED building feels just like any other building with the addition of that familiar plaque by the door. Personally, I wanted to spend more time in Paccar Hall. The more I digest this space, the more impressed I am. People end up loving buildings like this. And in 30 years, they won't let it get torn down - a stark contrast to the original 1960s business school building just visible in the right corner of the first picture below that people can't wait to demolish.
Can we say that for all the "green" buildings out there?
Here are a number of pictures I took from the tour. For more check out my Facebook fan page.