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December 5, 2019

Eastside's first mass timber office project breaks ground in Kirkland

Real Estate Editor

Renderings by LMN [enlarge]
The two-story 5501 Lakeview Building, designed by LMN Architects, will have 46,700 square feet of offices.

Opposite Carillon Point in Kirkland, at 5501 Lakeview Drive, a small one-story office building was recently demolished.

The redevelopment project made news last month when a mobile crane tipped over just before Thanksgiving; the crane operator didn't suffer any major injuries. The building's last tenant or tenants left in October.

Sierra Construction Co. is the general contractor, and LMN Architects is the designer, for a project that hasn't attracted much notice on this side of Lake Washington.

The two-story 5501 Lakeview Building will have 46,700 square feet of offices, which are being leased by CBRE, with two levels of underground parking with 157 stalls.

Significantly, the project will employ mass timber construction, a low-carbon-footprint alternative to traditional concrete and steel. Building with wood is a way of storing rather than emitting carbon.

Mass timber, a term that encompasses several varieties of lumber (in this case dowel-laminated timber, or DLT), is gaining favor in a handful of local projects.

Among them are a proposed 12-story apartment building on First Hill and a seven-story hotel in Ballard, both designed by Clark Barnes. Those are made possible by recent changes to the state building code that essentially allow taller all-timber buildings. (Mass timber is much bigger and beefier than stick-frame construction.)

The low-rise Kirkland project, to be made from with Douglas fir DLT sourced from StructureCraft of Abbotsford, B.C, will be the first mass timber office project in Kirkland and on the Eastside, and the second in the Puget Sound region (after the Bullitt Center in Seattle).

The biggest mass timber project in Washington is Katerra's nearly completed Catalyst, a 159,000-square-foot, five-story building in Spokane. It uses cross-laminated timber, or CLT.

Catalyst will open next year with offices, labs, classrooms and study areas for main tenant Eastern Washington University.

In the strictly office category of mass timer, “This is our first,” says Jeremy Schoenfeld of LMN, referring to himself and Pamela Trevithick, the project's two lead architects. It's also the first mass timber office project for Sierra, and for the property owner.

Because most of mass timber components are pre-cut offsite, assembly can be very quick. The wood should begin snapping into place next summer, and the project is expected to finish in late 2020.

LMN counts about a half-dozen mass timber projects in its portfolio. They include the completed Paccar Environmental Technology Building at Washington State University, the Mukilteo ferry terminal (now under construction), and Founders Hall at the University of Washington (an expansion of the Foster School of Business that's scheduled to break ground in January.)

Early plans didn't call for mass timber, but evolved that way during early environmentally focused discussions with the owner, says Schoenfeld. He doesn't recall who first suggested mass timber. But, “As soon as it came up, we really jumped on it.”

The building aims to be very green, but isn't pursuing LEED certification. Its environmentally friendly and sustainable features will also include operable windows, a green roof, rain garden, solar panels, bike parking for around 30 bikes, and showers for cycle commuters.

The building is very much a boutique project, “a legacy project” says Trevithick, that the owner intends to keep, not sell. Concrete and steel would've been cheaper, she says. (How much isn't clear.) “I know there was a little bit of a premium to go with DLT.”

Mass timber is probably a faster method of construction, compared with concrete and steel. And the permitting was speedy, with no city of Kirkland design review because of its small size.

“It was really nice,” says Trevithick of the blank-paper design process, with no one looking over their shoulders.

Thirty-foot zoning for the site also capped the height and scale of the project.

“That was the biggest challenge,” says Trevithick.

Says Schoenfeld, “A small project like this is a little unusual for LMN.” All the permits came quickly, in part because of the scale. “It's actually been very painless.”

Because mass timber projects have most of their components pre-cut offsite, assembly can be very quick — almost like modular construction. Schoenfeld isn't worried about the supply chain or product delivery from StructureCraft. “They are starting the fabrication very soon.”

That wood should begin snapping into place next summer. Sierra's project website targets the fourth quarter of next year for completion.

CBRE estimates that the tower crane will go up in the first quarter of 2020. Shoring and excavation are now underway. That's being done with concrete, of course; and the building core will be concrete, too.

Mass timber is also clean — both before and after construction. CBRE emphasizes no glue and no off-gassing, thus “creating a one-of-a-kind renewable and environmentally friendly building.”

Project ownership is somewhat opaque. Mt Baker Holdings LLC acquired the property under a different name in 2002 for $4 million. It's governed by a trust whose officers, based at Carillon Point, often represent family trusts and investments associated with Bill Gates.

The prominent triangular site, totaling a bit over an acre, is bounded by Lakeview and Lake Washington Boulevard Northeast — right at the entrance to Carillon Point.

The project is apparently proceeding on spec. CBRE's Tom Bohman and Tim Owen are marketing the space as one or two floors, with a maximum total capacity of around 400 workers. If one tenant takes the building, say the architects, open stairs and punch-throughs would be easy to add.

The team also includes Triad Associates, surveyor; GeoEngineers, geotechnical engineer; Coughlin Porter Lundeen, structural and civil engineer; Hewitt, landscape architect; Rushing, MEP engineer; Fisher Marantz Stone, lighting designer; Fortune Shepler Saling, vertical transportation consultant; Morrison Hershfield, building envelope consultant; and Ground Support, shoring.


Brian Miller can be reached by email at brian.miller@djc.com or by phone at (206) 219-6517.

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