By Meghan Hall
The Living Building Challenge is one of the world’s most rigorous environmental performance standards for buildings that evaluates not only the materials used in a project’s design and construction, but the building’s environmental impact over time. It is a challenge that developer SRM Fremont and Seattle-based architect Weber Thompson have embraced with their proposed 100,000 square foot office development at 3524 Stone Way N. While at its previous design review meeting in July 2018, the Northeast Design Review Board gave little deference to the development team’s environmental objectives, it recognized their importance in the project’s overall design at the latest review meeting Monday night.
“We think the project will build upon the evolution of commercial office space in the neighborhood,” said Cody Lodi, design principal at Weber Thompson. “We really wanted to reference industrial and ecological history of the context of the site. The team has created a contemporary response to that history, with a modern building that supports a healthy and sustainable environment.”
One of the goals of the Living Building Challenge is to encourage the development of highly sustainable, environmentally-friendly buildings by allowing for departures from code requirements that might otherwise impede buildings from meeting such high standards. Certification of a building is achieved through reducing total energy usage by 20 percent and by fulfilling at least three of the seven standards regarding water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty.
The project’s design, as well as its environmental certification, will be pursued upon three Living Building Challenge standards: Place, Materials and Beauty. The standards — also called “petals” — articulate where it is acceptable to build and require the inclusion of non-toxic materials, meaningful public art and design features and require the inclusion of a one percent are for food production, according to design documents. Originally, the development team has planned to pursue the “Energy” petal, but upon revising the design decided to pursue the Materials petal instead.
“This gives us a really great opportunity to highlight mass timber in the project,” said Lodi. “We’re using a very innovative structural system that will enhance the architecture as well.”
However, in the development’s design, SRM Fremont and Weber Thompson are also hoping to pay homage to the site’s location in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. The corridor has long been home to an array of businesses that support industry and manufacturing, and recent development along the street has mixed-use family development with retail and restaurants. Like many other projects in the neighborhood, the 3524 Stone Way N. project will include around 6,000 square feet of retail in an effort to further activate Stone Way and the ground plane.
To acknowledge the neighborhood’s history, the design team chose to incorporate an array of materials, forms and day lighting strategies. High bay glazing is included in the development’s sloped roof structure, while corrugated metal panel cladding will sit as a feature on the building’s facades.
In response to previous design feedback, Weber Thompson and SRM Fremont also updated the massing of the building. In order to break down the size and massing of the building, the project’s balconies were relocated from the southeast to the center of the project, while an artistic mass timber pergola has been incorporated at the entrance of the development. The pergola will also help to break down the massing’s building while also referring to the historic ecology of the greater Puget Sound. While at the previous review meeting the Board commented on the bulk of the roof, the design team retained its slope to provide additional clerestory windows. Notched massing, pulled from a previous design concept, will replace a connected roof element that was intended to hang over the courtyard, further reducing the project’s bulk.
The Board unanimously supported the project’s approval and had generally good things to say about the second iteration of the project’s design. They acknowledged that the design team faced several challenges with the building’s mass, roof and upper level setback but liked the project’s updated sculptural roof expression. The Board also appreciated the project’s street environment and commended the team on its use of landscaping and associated materials. In its remarks, the Board did encourage continued study on how to bring the upper massing of the building down; they also suggested a simplified materials palette. However, the Board moderated these remarks by saying the suggestions were not necessary changes.
When completed, and if it is able to earn the Living Building Challenge certification, 3524 Stone Way N. will be one of the most sustainable projects in Washington State. The development also joins a wave of high-performance sustainable developments throughout the Fremont and Wallingford neighborhoods. The Northedge Office Building, the Watershed Building and the Data 1 Building all embrace both environmentalism and modernism in their designs, and include features such as high-performance glazing, shading devices and roof overhangs to maintain energy efficient standards.