The site for Seattle’s newly opened Federal Center South Building 1202 has taken a drubbing over the years, positioned as it is on the banks of the Duwamish Waterway—a highly industrialized urban estuary that earned an unenviable place on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund list. Occupied originally by a string of organizations with, at best, spotty environmental records (Ford Motor Co., the U.S. Department of Defense, and Boeing), the existing WWII-era building represented the organizational and environmental miscues of past generations. So, when the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) set out to replace it with a new federal office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), it targeted ambitious green standards as a way to create a model for reclaiming this toxic ecology.

With the new structure, the design/build collaboration between ZGF Architects and Sellen Construction sought not only a sustainable approach to construction, but also to the experience of the user. Since moving into the old building more than 30 years ago, the USACE had been confined to a space with 100,000-square-foot floor plates and no operable windows. What this expansive footprint made difficult, 6-foot-high cubicle partitions squelched altogether: Natural air and daylight stood no chance of penetrating this space.

Setting out to reverse this effect, the design team under­took extensive massing studies, and determined that an oxbow-shape plan would allow sunlight to reach the majority of the interior spaces, while limiting the western exposure that would drive up solar heat gains. “We considered a lot of variations, but this particular shape really helped to keep peak loads down,” ZGF partner Allyn Stellmacher, AIA, says.

Individual offices and open-plan workspaces line the perimeter of the new building, giving everyone plenty of exposure to daylight. To boost light levels, offices and conference rooms are located around a skylit, garden-filled atrium.

The atrium “provides an amenity for the employees, but it also does multiple things for the building’s energy systems,” says ZGF’s high-performance green building specialist Chris Flint Chatto, Assoc. AIA, citing its role in venting the natural convection exhaust generated in the perimeter offices. The atrium provides measurable energy-performance benefits, but it also renders the workspace qualitatively more pleasant. Now used as a shared communal space, the atrium has become an important connective tissue between departments that were previously segregated. “I’ve worked here for a few years now, and I’ve been meeting people that I’ve never known or interacted with,” says Robert Paulson, a USACE project manager. “There’s a lot of kinetic energy throughout the building,” he adds. “The elevators don’t get used that often, since people now use the building’s many stairs.”

The foundations themselves also integrate different systems. Because the building sits on sedimentatious soil, its piles reach 150 feet deep. Not content to devote that material and energy to a single purpose, the team coupled the piles with hydronic loops for geothermal systems. But the systems are not all below-grade: Chilled sails provide radiant cooling to the interior and a phase-change material tank keeps loads low. And with 100 percent outside air intake, the working environment is noticeably fresher. As part of the contract with the USACE, the GSA will monitor energy performance each month during the first year. Though the first month’s numbers have not yet been compiled, GSA project manager Rick Thomas has heard unofficial reports from the independent group that monitors the numbers, saying, “They look good.”

Even with impressive quantitative objectives, the team was determined to push beyond the metrics that have come to define sustainable design. “We had an ambitious model for energy efficiency,” Stellmacher says. But with every decision, “we were always focused on the workplace environment.”

Project Credits
Project  Federal Center South Building 1202, Seattle
Client  U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)
Tenant  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Architect  ZGF Architects, Seattle—Allyn Stellmacher, AIA, Robert Zimmerman, AIA (partners-in-charge); John Chau, AIA, Dan Simpson (design principals); Todd Stine, AIA (project manager); Daniel Brindisi, AIA, Elizabeth Grace, Justin Rabe (project architects); Michael Steinberg (project designer); Kimberly Scott, Lisa Schettler (space planning); John Breshears, AIA, Christopher Flint Chatto, Assoc. AIA (high-performance green building specialists); Randal Bennett, Ellen Campbell, AIA, Marc Chavez, AIA, Melissa Eby, Brian Geller, Assoc. AIA, Gabriel Hanson, Assoc. AIA, Stephanie Hsie, Glen Justice, AIA, Kirsten Justice, Heather Karch, AIA, Bertha Martinez, AIA, Camila Obniski, Frances Orona, Chris Peterson, Timothy Pfeiffer, Franco Rosete, AIA, Jonah Ross, Molly Simmons, AIA, Elizabeth Stroshane, Jessica Swann, Asmund Tweto, Assoc. AIA (design team); David Fedyk, Curtis Ma, Maria Angela Mills, Leslie Morison, Chloe Mitchell, Heidi Schindler, Jill Sandnes, Tomoko Uno, James Wise, Mary Ann Shepherd, Erin Zangari (team)
Interior Designer  ZGF Architects
Mechanical Engineer  WSP Flack & Kurtz; University Mechanical
Structural and Civil Engineer  KPFF Consulting Engineers
Electrical Engineer  Lane Coburn & Associates; Sequoyah Electric
Geotechnical Engineer  Hart Crowser & Associates
Construction Manager  Heery
General Contractor  Sellen Construction
Landscape Architect  Site Workshop
Lighting Designer  WSP Flack & Kurtz
High Performance Design  Built Ecology
Signage, Wayfinding, and Graphics  Studio SC
Acoustics  Greenbusch Group
Elevator  Lerch Bates
Life Safety  Rolf Jensen & Associates; Tuazon Engineering
Size  209,000 square feet
Cost  $65 million (construction); $72 million (project cost) Materials and Sources
Access Flooring  Tate Access Floors
Acoustical Panel Ceilings  Armstrong Ceiling Systems; F-Sorb; Decoustics Limited
Acoustical Wall Panels  Snap-Tex Northwest Inc.
Acoustical Wall Panels, Fabrics  Carnegie; Knoll
Building Management Systems and Services  Siemens
Carpet Tiling  Shaw Contract Group; Mannington Commercial
Concrete: Polished  Sellen Construction
Cornerguards  JL Industries
Decorative Formed Metal  Forms + Surfaces
Entrance Floor Grilles  Nystrom
Exterior Stainless Steel Shingles  Millenium Tiles
Fiber Reinforced Plastics and Laminates  Panolam Industries Intl.
Glass  Northwestern Industries (typical exterior); DeaMor (atrium skylight and entrance canopy);  Walters and Wolf (ribbon windows and curatinwall)
Glass Coatings  Guardian Industries
Horizontal Louver Blinds  Levolor
HVAC  Innovent (air handling units); HydroTherm (condensing boilers); Phase Change Material Products (phase change materials); Carrier (heat recovery chiller); Runtal Radiators (wall radiators); Barcol-Air USA (chilled beams); Nailor Industires (fan coil units)
Insulation  Knauf Insulation
Insulated Cold Formed Steel Headers  Envirobeam
Interior Painting  Glidden; Parker Paint Color Life; Sherwin Williams
Lighting Control Systems  Lutron
Lighting  ALKCO; Bega U.S.; DesignPlan; Focal Point Lights; Gotham Architectural Down Lighting; Illuminating Resource; Insight; Integrated Illumination Systems; Lighting Group Northwest; RW/Harvco; Santa Cole; Sylvania
Masonry and Stone  Mutual Materials (ground face CMU); Quarry S/E (crushed black pebble); Stone Sculptures (atrium)
Metal  USS POSCO Industries (exterior cold-formed); ASC Steel Deck (metal decking)
Millwork  Custom
Overhead Coiling Grilles  Cornell
Paints and Finishes  Benjamin Moore & Co.; Comex Group;  Formica; Glidden; Miller; Nevamar; Parker Paint Color Life; Rodda; Sherwin Williams; Wilsonart International
Plaster  Niehaus Construction Services (decorative cast plaster); USG; National Gypsum
Plastic Laminates  Formica; Nevamar; Wilsonart International

Plumbing Fixtures  American Standard; Bemis Manufacturing Co. (plastic toilet seats); Dearborn Brass; Elkay; Haws; Kohler; McGuire Manufacturing Co.; Truebro; Zurn Industries
Plumbing and Water System  American; Englehart; FNW; Harris; NIBCO; ProFlo; Romac; Tyler; Uponor; Victaulic; Viega; Watts
Resilient Base and Accessories  Johnsonite
Roller Window Shades  Mecho Shade Systems
Roofing  Johns Manville; Soprema; Xero Flor (green roof system)
Rubber Tile Flooring  Capri Cork

Seating  By owner
Slatwall  Marlite
Skylights  Sunoptics Skylights
Solid Surfacing Material  Caesarstone; Pental Granite and Marble
Sound Masking System  Logison Acoustic Network
Supergraphics  GlassPro
Tiling  American Olean Tile (locker room shower floor); Arizona Tile (executive washroom); Casa Dolce Casa (floor at locker rooms); Crossville (locker room shower walls); United Tile (backsplashes); Viva (toilet room walls and base, locker room walls and base)
Upholstery  Spinneybeck Leather
Water Reclamation System  AMIAD Filtration Systems
Woodwork  G.R. Plume (structural); Northwest Millwork (architectural); Sellen (architectural)
Wood  Storefronts Washington Hardwoods (interior)