At the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, students gain opportunities for collaboration, teamwork, and association with their surroundings simply by entering the buildings. Some of the spaces promote interaction to help students forge relationships, a skill critical for survival in a competitive global marketplace. Others offer students and faculty a welcome exchange with the natural environment and the larger campus.

Located in an active central area of the university, the school occupies a complex of interconnected buildings, two of which are LEED Gold certified. The new 133,000-square-foot, $95 million Paccar Hall adjoins Business Hall, a 63,000-square-foot, $46.8 million replacement of a 1960s-era building that also features the renovation of the business school’s subterranean library. Seattle’s LMN Architects took advantage of the sloping site topography to position three building entrances on the different floor levels. These entrances align with the campus’s existing walking paths to draw pedestrians through the space to mix the students’ daily life with that of the business school.

Inside, visual and functional connections are enhanced through open spaces, extensive glazing, and expansive daylight. “We wove sustainability into the building and included daylight as a prominent interior element to support the user experience,” notes Mark Reddington, FAIA, partner at LMN Architects. “The public spaces of the campus, landscape, trees, and daylight come into almost every space in the buildings, so the occupants sense that they are truly integrated with the natural environment.”

Paccar Hall’s building envelope is 47 percent glazing, but strategically placed windows and skylights offer the impression of much greater transparency. For example, while the ceiling in Paccar Hall’s four-story central atrium is completely closed, skylights lining its edges give the impression that it’s open to the sky. Each end is formed from glass and the windows seem enlarged thanks to a custom-designed steel frame window system. Stronger than aluminum frames, the steel system allows the mullions to be smaller, creating a transparent exterior wall with a view onto a garden. In other spaces, floor-to-ceiling aluminum-framed interior and exterior window walls bring generous daylight into rooms and adjacent hallways.

Glass also helped the modern project relate to its historic surroundings. The Foster School of Business sits adjacent to the campus’s first building, Denny Hall, which was constructed in 1895 in a French Renaissance style. LMN divided the much larger Foster School of Business into smaller parts with glazing in between these areas. At the corner where Paccar Hall and Denny Hall meet, the architects lowered the scale of Paccar Hall and employed glass to allow the building to visually recede and direct the focus toward Denny Hall.

Building orientation, high-performance insulated glass, vertical and horizontal sunshades, and integrated mechanical systems maintain an extremely energy-efficient building. “Most of the energy in our climate is spent on heating, so we designed shades to allow heat gain in winter months through low-angle sunlight,” says Dave Schneider, AIA, LMN Architects principal. “By tailoring the shades to specific solar conditions, we captured the daylight for open, pleasant spaces with minimal direct sunlight in the building when heat gain is a concern.”

In addition to providing welcome heat gain in the winter, the daylighting lowers the need for electric lighting. Additional energy reductions stem from multiple mechanical systems that address different program requirements. A displacement ventilation system serves the classrooms, public spaces, and auditorium with air that moves at a low velocity for a quieter, less-disruptive atmosphere. Cooling for the large-volume public spaces of the atrium, café, and gallery comes from an indirect evaporative cooling system. The system passes outside air through a water spray inside a heat exchanger and drops the air temperature through the energy transfer that occurs when the water evaporates. The ambient air temperature provided by the system may be a bit higher than in conventionally cooled spaces but the difference is acceptable as people spend less time in these areas than in the classrooms and offices. Although the university pays for the water lost during evaporation, it realizes significant reductions in energy consumption and operating costs compared to mechanical refrigeration.

All water is managed on site and low-flow fixtures contribute to a 34 percent reduction in potable water use compared to EPA 1992 guidelines. The project diverted 96 percent of on-site-generated construction waste from the landfill, and 99 percent of the total wood-based building materials were harvested from FSC-certified forests. Careful planning saved 68 trees on and near the project site, which provide shade and enhance views. Trees that had to be taken down were salvaged for lumber and milled for fencing and furniture including the Paccar Hall boardroom conference table and auditorium lobby seating.

Constructed with private funding for Paccar Hall and public funding for Business Hall, the project was built in phases over a 10-year process that included program development, research, design, and construction. “We started programming in 2001 and the process evolved at a time when sustainability was really taking hold,” Reddington says. “The university is ambitious about its sustainable initiatives, but the current student generation had a strong voice in the process. It was heartening to see how active the students were in that dialogue.”

ECO-STRUCTURE contributing editor KJ Fields writes about sustainability and architecture from Portland, Ore.