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March 24, 2016
There is nothing ordinary about the origins of 200 Occidental.
Urban Visions, a developer with deep roots in Pioneer Square, conceived the project with an equal focus on sustainability and the bottom line. With a fantastic location flanking Seattle’s historic Occidental Park, the structure would be the missing piece completing the park’s ring of graceful buildings.
It was envisioned to last a hundred years, to fit within its historic context yet to be true to its times, and to lead by example in the renewal of the Pioneer Square neighborhood.
With these aspirations, 200 Occidental came to fruition when Weyerhaeuser chose to lease this building for its new world headquarters.
The 213,000-square-foot structure is quickly taking shape now that its frame is completed. It’s being clad in glass and brick, and large parts of the frame will remain visible through an expansive curtain wall facing the park.
Instead of the nine floors that could fit within the allowed building height, Urban Visions chose to build eight floors with higher ceilings. As a result, the building will be filled with daylight that will shine deep into the space, energizing the people inside and reducing the need for artificial lighting.
A healthy environment
Mithun’s design for 200 Occidental includes operable windows. Its team of architects and interior designers were especially enthusiastic about this strategy, as the firm is located in a building that relies on natural ventilation for cooling.
Independent studies show people are perfectly willing to accept a wider indoor temperature range to wear short sleeves or to put on a sweater if they feel in control of their environment.
Weyerhaeuser embraced the proposal for operable windows, and the design team worked collaboratively to find a holistic solution. Realizing that operable windows needed to function hand-in-hand with the mechanical system, the design team proposed an email notification system that will alert the building occupants about the need to open or close the windows before the perimeter zone of the HVAC system shuts down or turns on.
“Communicating stairs,” located in the bay window area projecting over the main building entry, are a prominent feature in Weyerhaeuser’s new headquarters. This active design strategy entices people to take the stairs and enjoy the best view in the house. Additionally, movement of people through the stairs creates visual connection between the building and the park.
Other important features that contribute to a healthy work environment include no- or low-VOC interior finish materials, as well as ample bike parking and showers.
It is not unusual for project teams to set ambitious goals in the beginning only to see them fade as the reality of budgets and other constraints sets in.
Thanks to the entire team’s commitment to sustainability, 200 Occidental became a case study in deep green design thinking, as it traded the initial goal of LEED gold certification for pursuing LEED platinum, the highest available level of LEED certification that the U.S. Green Building Council offers. In addition, Weyerhaeuser’s new headquarters is targeting Green Globes certification.
Many of the sustainable design features are the same qualities that will make this project attractive to its occupants.
The enclosed rooftop recreational space will offer meeting and informal gathering rooms with panoramic views of the city and Elliott Bay. Open areas of the main roof will include terraces and gardens for people to recharge or walk a few loops around the roof perimeter. The rooftop gardens, with a mix of meadow plants and sedums, will slow down the flow of stormwater, and the penthouse roof will support a sizable solar array.
The design team took a holistic approach and emphasized collaboration to optimize building performance within budget.
To a large degree, many of the rooftop features became possible thanks to reliance on a highly efficient, dedicated outside-air, variable refrigerant flow HVAC system that required little rooftop space in comparison with other alternatives.
High-performance glazing, effective insulation, and all-LED lighting contributed to the reduction of the HVAC system size by lowering peak cooling loads.
Showcase for wood
The sustainable benefits of wood will be evident throughout the tenant space. Wood will not only contribute natural beauty and warmth of the interiors, but also will tell the story of Weyerhaeuser’s business and commitment to sustainable forestry.
Mithun embraced the client’s desire to showcase its products and incorporated the company’s lumber materials, oriented strand board and Parallam beams as flooring, wall and ceiling finish in key areas. Regionally sourced and renewable lumber will be featured in the core interior spaces and used in a number of furniture pieces throughout the design.
Relying on transit
Weyerhaeuser’s new headquarters is centrally located in Seattle’s oldest neighborhood and a short walk away from a multi-modal public transportation hub. With its reliance on transit, the project will include only one parking level and is anticipated to have minimal impact on road congestion, despite bringing more than 600 employees into the area. Weyerhaeuser is actively encouraging employees to find ways to commute that don’t require driving alone.
There is a unique relationship between 200 Occidental and its surroundings. It is a study in contrasts between the old and the new, between the complex history of the neighborhood and the strong sense of optimism prompted by recent improvements, and reinforced by Weyerhaeuser’s decision to relocate here.
The success of the project is grounded in shared vision and collaboration to produce a sustainable building that will be enjoyed by its inhabitants and passersby alike for many years to come.
Bill LaPatra is a partner and Lana Lisitsa is an associate principal at Seattle- and San Francisco-based Mithun, whose multidisciplinary approach seeks to unite human and natural systems within the built environment through planning, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture and interior design services.