Using a Design-Build delivery model to get ARRA funds committed as quickly as possible and to get people back to work, the Design-Build team developed a highly productive and sustainable district headquarters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project exemplifies an integrated approach to architecture, natural systems, and technology to deliver a design solution that protects and enhances the environment. The project was planned and designed in under 18 weeks in order to guarantee the performance-based contract that met GSA’s construction budget, energy performance goals and an aggressive design and construction schedule starting with a design competition at the beginning of 2010 and resulting in an occupied building before the end of 2012.
Organized around the work of the USACE, the open “oxbow” building form is part of an integrated strategy providing measureable energy-performance benefits, as well as a completely unified, flexible footprint and collective identity for all departments and the 700 employees who occupy the building. Atrium bridges and stairs clad in reclaimed timber decking connect people throughout the building and are adjacent to informal seating and “touch down” work surfaces to encourage impromptu collaboration. The shared communal space has become an important connective tissue between departments that were previously segregated.
Every major aspect of the building is designed in direct response to creating a high performance building that establishes a new workplace standard. The project demonstrates how buildings should be built to conserve energy and respond to climate change. The narrow 60 foot floor plate optimizes daylight penetration, reducing the need for artificial light and associated energy costs. Anticipated to be the region’s most energy-efficient air conditioned building – using one fifth of the estimated energy of a standard office building in the Northwest – it is also one of the first projects in the region to use structural piles for geothermal heating and cooling. A Phase Change Material storage tank on the rooftop stores and releases cold-energy to reduce the building’s cooling needs. The building is currently operating with an Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of 25.7 kBtu/SF/year, performing 40 percent better than ASHRAE 2007.
Sustainable features include:
- 90% of the building is naturally daylit through optimization of floor depth and facade
- 100% outside air is filtered and distributed via underfloor ventilation
- 300,000 board feet of reclaimed timber reused from an existing warehouse on site
- 50% reduction of impervious surfaces, creating 4.6 acres of pervious landscape
- 25,000 gallon cistern stores rainwater from the rooftop for use in toilet flushing, irrigation, etc.
- 100% of storm water managed on site, eliminating the need to connect to the over-taxed City storm water system
The building is operating in the top 1% of similar-sized office buildings across the nation with an ENERGY STAR® score of 98. The project has established energy performance nearly 40% better than ASHRAE 90.1, with an EUI of 25.7 kBTU/SF/year.
Environmental Graphics for USACE Federal Center South Building 1202
To most residents of the Pacific Northwest, rivers and waterways are simply part of the fabric of the region—so omnipresent that their value and contributions to the region’s economic framework are often overlooked.
For the United States Army Corps of Engineers, however, water is the lifeblood of its existence and estuaries are at the heart of its studies. This is reflected in the Corps’ new Seattle District headquarters, where Studio SC’s graphics program underscores the focus of the Corps’ work through a series of river-centric environmental graphics and wayfinding signage components.
The strength of the organization—and representation of its mantra, “Building Strong”—is embodied in a 30-foot cantilevered I-beam that serves as an identity sign and references the building’s exposed steel diagrid. In the lobby, a USACE-brand red topographic relief of the Duwamish River—on whose banks the Corps’ new headquarters sits—serves as a focal point. The wall includes readerboards with real-time water management data, highlighting the USACE’s work at the intersection of technical data and natural resources.
Studio SC’s wayfinding program organizes the building into four quadrants, named after the four parent rivers of the Duwamish. Integral glass graphics spanning three stories showcase technical details about each river, such as coordinates, origin, and length. Seating areas on the first floor of each quadrant feature stories of the namesake rivers’ geologic history and significance sandblasted into stone pavers. Office wayfinding is integrated and flexible, with grid and floor numbers stenciled on the exposed steel columns of the oxbow-shaped building and magnetically attached department signs allowing for easy changeability.
In the cafés overlooking the Duwamish, graphics routed on reclaimed wood chart the river’s historic and current paths, and quotes from historical figures associated with the river provide cultural perspectives. These graphics enhance the gathering spaces and encourage people to engage with the organization’s history and the natural environment just outside the windows. At the heart of the building, a three-story continuous typographic expression of the Corps’ mission and services on the central spine honors the USACE’s unique function at the intersections of the technical and the environmental, of economics and nature, and of history and progress.
GR Plume is a small business, woman-owned concern. We were brought in with team to determine viability of using timbers in the existing building in the new construction. We had the possibility of utilizing around 193,000 BDFT of timbers: 8x 12, 8x14, 8x16, 12x12, and 10x14. Along with 150,000 BDFT of 2x6 decking, this could provide a unique opportunity to both repurpose the original building materials while linking the new to the old.
An important factor was the team effort to use the existing sizes in the new building. Both ZGF Architects and KPFF Engineering worked diligently to incorporate the timbers in their actual size into the new building. This would allow for the best recovery. In fact, typical recovery of reclaimed timbers is around 40% and in the case of Fed south, our recovery was closer to 75%. We will end up using at least 140,000 Bdft in the building with close to 18,000 Bdft available to another project. Decking recovery was closer to 50% recovery which is also extremely good recovery for a decking product.
The demolition, by RW Rhine, was done in a thoughtful and careful manner which protected the integrity of the timbers. Sellen then sorted the timbers and removed the larger metals. Approximately 8-10 loads of timbers and 7-8 loads of decking were delivered to our shop in Ferndale, WA. GRPC sorted, cleaned and removed the paint from timbers and decking. There was concern that the timbers/decking had been painted with lead paint so we worked with the authorities to set up a Hot Zone for lead paint removal and contamination reduction zones and provided proper training to our crew. Fortunately, only a small amount of lead paint was found, so mostly we dealt with lime based white wash, which was a gooey mess but not hazardous.
All timbers were graded by the WCLB (West Coast Inspection Bureau). This involved laying out of each timber, grading each one, labeling and sorting into groups. Turned out that most of the reclaimed timbers did grade out as No. 1 which is rather amazing, considering they had been in service for at least 60 years. Really speaks to the longevity of wood as a sustainable building product.
In addition, each timber was sorted for crook, twist and bow. Then the timbers were sorted for location: length and size along with crook, twist and bow helped determine the location where the timber would be installed. Each timber was labeled for its final location in the building.
Gordon Plume, Chief of Operations, developed specialty tools just for the remanufacturing of the timbers. A custom rabbetting machine was created that would cut straight, level, parallel rabbets in the joist timbers that were crooked, bowed and twisted. The rabbet machine utilized 4 each skill saws running simultaneously, being pulled manually along the 2 outside, top edges of the timber. The steel in the building was straight and the interface of wood and metal had to be perfect. In order to get straight and square slots in the end of each timber, a custom kerfing machine was also created. This machine utilized a stationary chainsaw with housing that held the timber rigid and cut a slot in the same plane in each timber, regardless of the perimeter outline of the crooked timber. Finally, hand powered planers were modified to clean the uneven surfaces of both the timbers and the decking, which gave the final product a “cleaned” surface without losing the character of the reclaimed wood.
As a small business, this project has been a bridge over troubled waters for us. We typically work on architecturally designed custom projects, so we were still under contract in 2008 and most of 2009 when the economy first crashed. During the early 2010 pre-construction design phase of Fed South , we were able to us the Shared Work Program which allowed us to keep our team in place, yet they were able to only work part time and collect unemployment benefits for the time off. They kept their benefits and we had a skilled workforce for when the work began in earnest. ARRA definitely was a blessing for our company and we have since hired three additional full time employees. Further, we are beginning to see the economy start to rebound and we now have additional work in Napa and Hawaii which will keep the full crew going.