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December 29, 2009

Weber says lessons learned on its green HQ pay off for future clients

Journal Staff Reporter

Image courtesy of Weber Thompson [enlarge]
Madrona Office at Mile Hill in Port Orchard is taking design cues from Weber Thompson’s headquarters.

Weber Thompson got a lot of publicity for its 2008 Terry Thomas headquarters building. Now, it is taking that basic design and making it better for a LEED platinum project in Port Orchard.

The company is designing a building called Madrona Office at Mile Hill for developer Bob Roberts. The building will be 14,000 square feet, 2.5 stories and have one level of sub-grade parking. The team will shoot for LEED platinum for core and shell.

The idea is to take the Terry Thomas building and improve upon it. Scott Thompson, principal in charge of design, said his company connected with Roberts on a tour of its headquarters. Roberts owned a 2,300-square-foot site in Port Orchard and liked what he saw in South Lake Union.

This is the second building Roberts has developed. The first was a small office park in Tumwater. Roberts owns Roberts Building Co., which will build the project.

Today, the team is doing design and pricing. The goal is to make it a model of sustainability in Kitsap County.

“Port Orchard is a great community that has grown tremendously,” Roberts said. “I am inspired to develop an office building that preserves and contributes to Port Orchard's environmental quality and economic vitality.”

Photo courtesy of Weber Thompson [enlarge]
Weber Thompson’s Terry Thomas building headquarters attracted developer Bob Roberts’ attention.

Originally Madrona Office was planned as a spec project, but it won't be built without a tenant. Roberts is hoping the tenant will be a single user that values sustainability, such as an agency or a nonprofit, but in the current economy he said he does not expect to find that.

“If he gets someone that's very interested in it, then it will proceed,” Thompson said. “It could be two weeks, two months or a year.”

Thompson said there hasn't been much development in Port Orchard in recent years and there are not many sustainable projects there. The team is hoping Madrona Office's green features will act as a draw, even in tough times.

Terry Thomas won numerous awards. It was named one of the top 10 greenest projects of 2009 nationally by the American Institute of Architects, and was a regional winner of the What Makes it Green Award from the AIA Seattle Chapter. It also won honors from the Washington State Chapter of NAIOP and from Eco-Structure magazine.

But Thompson said there were a number of features the team wanted to pursue on Terry Thomas that got cut.

“To get to this building, we had to compromise on a few things — like we didn't get the green roof,” he said. “We're hoping with (Madrona), we can take it even a step further than we did here.”

At Madrona there will be three green roofs: One on the lid of a parking area, one on the building and one on an outside terrace. The team is trying to figure out if the top roof area could include an outdoor socialization space.

It won't be a replica of Terry Thomas. The design will reflect its rustic setting, with an exposed structure and wood trusses. The neighborhood has a mix of residential and commercial properties.

A big focus is stormwater. Currently, stormwater flows into a 6-inch pipe that leads to a ditch on the side of the road. Water from the ditch flows into Puget Sound. The goal is to treat all stormwater on site. Strategies include using drought-resistant plants, a site infiltration system, pervious concrete, rain gardens and green roofs. The team is also looking at a subgrade rainwater and storage system. Some of the water may be used to flush toilets. In Port Orchard, Weber Thompson can go further with stormwater than it could with its headquarters in Seattle because urban sites have so little extra space.

The Terry Thomas building has fixed sunshades on the east and west sides, and exterior blinds on the courtyard and part of the south facade. In Port Orchard, the team will orient the building to take advantage of natural light, and for heat gain and heat loss purposes. The long portion of the building runs from east to west. The team will use blinds on the south facade similar to blinds on Terry Thomas.

Terry Thomas uses hydronic baseboard heaters. At Port Orchard, the team is looking at using similar radiant ceiling panels. The team is also considering geothermal for heating and cooling, and rammed earth on the east and west side.

Natural ventilation is another focus. Terry Thomas received much of its acclaim for being a naturally ventilated office building. The goal for Port Orchard is to have no forced air, but Port Orchard has insects so the team will have to cover open windows with screens or other options.

Thompson said his company learned some lessons with Terry Thomas. Dampers that surround the perimeter of the building are not insulated due to cost, but the missing insulation creates a small heat loss issue. Next time, he said the team will make sure insulation stays on the dampers.

“We cut our energy reduction in half compared to other Class A office in the country,” he said. “We've exceeded our expectations but certainly, going forward, we would think about insulating the dampers.”

Other team members include Stantec Consulting as mechanical and energy engineer; Warner Engineering as civil engineer; Yu & Trochalakis as structural engineer; and Puget Sound Landscaping as landscape architect.


Katie Zemtseff can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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