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October 27, 2016

Survey: CollinsWoerman

Photo by Ezra Stoller, courtesy of SOM [enlarge]
CollinsWoerman is designing interior renovations of the former Weyerhaeuser headquarters in Federal Way.

Specialty: Commercial, mixed-use, health care, multifamily/residential, and science and technology projects; architecture, interior design, urban planning and sustainability

Management: Co-founders Arlan Collins and Mark Woerman; principals Phil Giuntoli and Steve Moddemeyer; assistant principal Tim Bissmeyer

Founded: 1988


2015 revenues: N/A

Projected 2016 revenues: 15 percent over 2015 revenue

Projects: Urban Union office building, South Lake Union; Swedish Hospital, Issaquah; 47+7 apartments, U District

CollinsWoerman principal and co-founder Mark Woerman discussed what’s new with the firm, what forces are shaping the local market, and why climate change will become a bigger issue for designers. He also talked about the role of manufactured building systems developed by his company, Sustainable Living Innovations, or SLI.

Q: What are the most challenging and intriguing projects you are working on?

A: The most challenging project would have to be Kirkland Urban. It’s the multi-phased, mixed-use redevelopment of the former Kirkland Parkplace center in downtown Kirkland. When completed, the project will have over 2 million square feet of offices, retail, grocery, residential and parking uses.

One of the most intriguing projects we’re working on is The Greenline. It’s the repositioning of the iconic former Weyerhaeuser headquarters in Federal Way. Bringing new life to this special building is a unique honor.

Q: How has the firm’s workload changed over the past year or two? How’s 2017 shaping up?

A: Like everyone is Seattle, we’ve been busy. Over the past several years we’ve seen growth in each of our marketplaces. We’ve been fortunate that our planning work and SLI-related projects have expanded our practice geographically, and we see 2017 being another strong year for our firm.

Q: What forces will shape the local market over the next few years?

A: Seattle is changing fast. We’re shifting from a major U.S. city to a global hub for business, research and technology. Competition and foreign investment will keep real estate prices high and drive densities and costs up.

Living and doing business in our area will continue to get more expensive, and that broadens the geographic definition of being close-in for both individuals and companies.

Businesses will continue to adapt to the needs of a changing workforce, and the space allocations for each worker will go down. More people in less space will impact our infrastructure and increase our transportation challenges.

Retailers will continue to find their footing as consumers weigh their options for selection, convenience and experience.

Culturally, it’s a great time for our area and growth in the arts and entertainment segments should parallel increasing disposable incomes as social media breaks down the barriers to building a customer base.

Q: How widespread will multifamily modular projects become locally?

A: We believe that manufactured building systems will play a major role in Seattle’s future. We stand behind this conviction by investing significant time and resources in the development of our proprietary manufactured building system known as SLI.

The 47+7 project in the U District is our proof of concept for not only the technology, but also of the market’s receptivity to innovative solutions. Our technology isn’t modular. Rather it’s a system of fully integrated parts that can be configured to respond directly to any site or project program.

Q: What are some pros and cons of such systems?

A: The advantages of modular, prefab or manufactured systems should be reduced construction time, increased quality and overall cost savings. This is hard to do as evidenced by the minimal number of successfully completed examples in this and other markets. The disadvantages of these systems tend to be a lack of flexibility and inability to satisfy mid- and high-rise building requirements.

While we think the SLI system will have its place in the market, we’re glad that others in the design and construction industry continue to pursue innovative ways to deliver buildings.

Q: What’s an industry trend that more people should know about?

A: Everyone who works in the built environment is going to find themselves facing questions about how well their projects will perform over time given that climate change creates extreme uncertainty about future conditions. Designing for current weather extremes is short-sighted at best. Government agencies and building owners will increasingly seek resilience-based solutions where performance is measured by how quickly built systems adapt and recover from chronic or sudden adverse events.

We are also seeing how virtual reality is no longer the domain of the gaming world and is rapidly becoming an essential design tool.

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