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July 14, 2020

Weber Thompson moving its offices in search of even greener pastures

Photo by Meghan Montgomery [enlarge]
The Watershed office building in Fremont is slated to open by the end of 2020. Its environmentally friendly features include self-tinting glass that reduces heat gain and glare. Take a virtual tour.

Architecture firm Weber Thompson at year's end plans to move to the super-green Watershed building, leaving behind the super-green but older Terry Thomas building — both Seattle projects it designed.

Watershed at 900 N. 34th St. in the Fremont neighborhood is slated to open by the end of 2020, said Weber Thompson managing partner Kristen Scott on Monday. The seven-story 72,000-square-foot office building is pursuing the 2014 version of Seattle's Living Building Pilot Program. That requires aggressive energy and water usage reductions as well as other sustainable strategies.

Weber Thompson has had its office for 12 years in the Terry Thomas at 225 Terry Ave. N. in South Lake Union. The building is LEED Gold for Core and Shell certified, passively cooled, and energy and water saving. Opened in 2008, it is owned by a Seattle group that includes Scott.

Scott said Weber Thompson is leasing 9,800 square feet on level two and a small part of level one of Watershed — about the same amount of space it has now.

“It is absolutely ... a core value of who we are as a firm to be in a building that represents really the cutting-edge of sustainable design,” she said.

The lease is for 12 years, said Scott, who declined to detail the terms. She said it was signed before the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard.

Weber Thompson has a 70-person staff. It provides architecture, interior design, landscape architecture and community/urban design and works on high-rise, high-density urban infill, residential, commercial office, hospitality and affordable housing projects.

The firm is designing its tenant improvement at Watershed. Schuchart is the general contractor on the build-out, which is expected to start in August. Weber Thompson said many of its employees are working remotely as a result of COVID-19 safety protocols.

Watershed is pursuing the Living Building Pilot Program's materials, place and beauty performance categories, or “petals,” from the International Living Future Institute's Living Building Challenge. Scott said Watershed uses only materials that are free of toxic chemicals on the “red list.”

The building has castellated beams and natural daylighting, educational signage, environmental art, a locker room for 100 bikes, plus showers, and about 5,000 square feet of retail space. An electrochromic glass facade self-tints on sunny days, reducing heat gain and glare, and contributing to a 25% reduction in energy use over a code baseline building, the design firm said in a press release.

The building is also projected to reduce water use by 75% over a baseline building. Extensive water capture on site is visible from the exterior via a cantilevered roof, cascading vertical gutter system and oversized sculptural steel scupper which flows into a water capture cistern. The building captures 200,000 gallons of water annually for use on-site for toilet flushing and irrigation.

Along Troll Avenue North, bioswales naturally clean over 300,000 gallons annually of toxic runoff from the Aurora Bridge while integrating a series of outdoor terraces. The project is also Salmon Safe certified.

The firm said it is excited to continue the tradition of working in a “learning laboratory.”

“Although the strategies employed at Watershed are different than those in The Terry Thomas, they are very much a continuation of what we learned from designing and working in it for over a decade,” said Scott in the release. “We kept the very best parts, like great daylighting and a courtyard entry, overlaid with new technologies to make it even better. This move allows us to showcase the intersection of sustainable design and technology to our clients and ideally inspire them to do the same.”

Watershed was developed by COU LLC. Weber Thompson was also the landscape architect and Turner Construction was the general contractor.

In 2019, Alexandria Real Estate Equities and Weber Thompson filed a plan to demolish a building at 219 Terry Ave. N. and redevelop with a new 13-story office/lab building. It would be directly south of the Terry Thomas building, which would be retained as part of the project.

Scott said on Monday that a construction date has not been set for that project.

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