Meet the Staff: Brock Williams

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Meet Brock Williams, a Project Manager in Weber Thompson’s High Rise and Hospitality Design Studios. He has a wealth of experience in hotels, restaurants, commercial office buildings and tenant improvements. Learn more about him in this Q & A, or visit our website to read his bio.

Name title/role:

Brock Williams, Project Manager

How long have you worked at Weber Thompson and what is your favorite thing about working here?

I’ve worked at Weber Thompson for almost a year now and one of the things I like most about working here is the support I get from the office and individuals to pursue my professional goals and balance work and life outside of work. Continue reading “Meet the Staff: Brock Williams”

Healthy Materials for a Better World

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It’s amazing what humans can achieve when we are faced with a dilemma. Our current environmental predicament has sparked a surge of creativity from designers leading the way to a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow. I’ve been tremendously inspired by the groundbreaking standards put forth by the Living Future Institute, and was excited to attend the Living Product Healthy Materials Summit at the 2016 ILFI unConference.

When I attended the Living Future Conference a few years back, there was a lot of discussion about how difficult it would be to actually meet the Living Building Challenge (LBC). Some felt that it was something they may never be able to achieve. Incredibly, what seemed so difficult to achieve a few years ago has become a new standard in sustainability.

A wide variety of industry professionals presented on how they are implementing the LBC, and using the Declare label to show transparency. With manufacturers and specifiers working together, real change is happening. A presentation on the Healthy Materials Collaborative shed light on the local group of architects and designers working to advocate for healthy building products.

Weber Thompson has been part of the Healthy Materials Collaborative (HMC) since its recent founding. Through the HMC, Weber Thompson has been able to further our sustainability goals and break down barriers to healthy, sustainable buildings. Our tremendous experience with LEED, Built Green, as well as current LBC and Passive House projects is helpful to other HMC members trying to achieve these rigorous building standards.

This year, we are combing through our entire materials library, to make it easier for our designers and architects to specify healthy materials. We are asking manufacturers to show transparency with their products so that we can make informed design decisions. We are also asking manufacturers to label their products with sustainability information so we can easily see which products meet green building standards. Continue reading “Healthy Materials for a Better World”

Growth in Seattle: Is a downturn coming?

Photo by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives.
Photo by Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives.

When you walk into a hotel conference lobby filled with 500 plus people at 8:00 in the morning, it’s hard not to get caught up in the buzz and excitement. Everyone is here for the same thing, to gain insight on “Seattle’s State of the Market”. Is Seattle overbuilding? How much room do we have to grow? Is there a downturn coming?

Here’s what I learned at the Bisnow Seattle State of the Market Event on September 30th:

Seattle is making its mark. Seattle is taking its place as a global city and is being recognized as a start-up economy. One major driver for growth is the hot topic of EB5. The PNW is a hot bed of EB5 money and Seattle is one of the leaders in EB5 funding.

Workplace culture matters. Current Seattleites and first time employees entering Seattle’s workforce want to feel connected to the mission and values of the company where they work. Going to a “grand” office everyday is losing its appeal. People care more about the company’s culture and the people creating that culture. Collaboration, activity, and environments that promote creativity are the driving factors to attract talent. Employees want to be in an activated area (anyone noticing the revival of Seattle’s business district and downtown?) and they have options, driving office trends and locations with employers. Smaller workplaces are a common development, related to factors such as cost of retaining employees and real estate prices, but many feel the pendulum has swung too far with the “open” office. Employees still need privacy and workplace options to accommodate the varied tasks they complete throughout the day. The headphone culture may not cut it anymore. Flexible office spaces and designing for public and private working options are important design trends moving forward. Continue reading “Growth in Seattle: Is a downturn coming?”

Sharing lessons and successes from SKTOD

Parking Garage at SKTOD designed by Weber Thompson.

Planners, Architects, and Developers came together yesterday in Bellevue to hear WT Senior Associate, Mindy Black, present at the Washington APA conference. The session was a panel presentation about the South Kirkland Transit Oriented Development and included three other speakers: Gary Prince, King County Metro TOD Manager; Janice Coogan, Senior Planner with the City of Kirkland; and Paul Inghram, Comprehensive Planning Manager for the City of Bellevue. Continue reading “Sharing lessons and successes from SKTOD”

Development impacts of South Lake Union Rezone

On May 6th, 2013 the Seattle City Council unanimously passed the South Lake Union Rezone, a package of land use changes that increase the development capacity of the neighborhood to accommodate projected future housing demands and job growth.

Many parcels in South Lake Union will see their zoning designations change, generally favoring greater density and mixed use development as compared to the previous zoning. The legislation also creates new development requirements specific to the South Lake Union Urban Center which modify the new underlying zones in some important ways.

Arguably the most significant change provided by the rezone is the introduction of an incentives program that allows increases in floor area ratio (FAR) and height in return for investment in affordable housing, green building certification, and development of both energy & transportation programs. Continue reading “Development impacts of South Lake Union Rezone”

Making our cities livable requires landscape architects: Report from the 2011 ASLA Conference

US Cities will undergo major transformation in the coming years. In 2008, the world reached the tipping point where more people live in urban areas than rural. By 2050, it is expected that 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas while in developed countries like the United States, it will be closer to 90%. Will that growth improve our quality of life?

Yes, if landscape architects are at the table.

At the ASLA 2011 Conference in San Diego the theme was Landscape Architecture Rising. Based on the content of the presentations, landscape architects are playing a critical role in reimagining our cities, making them more sustainable, more socially connected, and more connected to nature, our food, and each other, improving our health and, well, our happiness. As Charles Montgomery, a Vancouver Journalist and the conference’s opening speaker said “the green city, the low carbon city, the social city and the happy city are all the same place”.

The death of sprawl was a common theme. The infrastructure for it can no longer be afforded. Higher density is our future; but density in itself is not enough. “We have to rebuild our cities; they are not done. We have to invest in infrastructure and the next generation has to correct our screw-ups…and invest in the public realm,” said speaker Martha Schwartz, FASLA. It is the spaces between the buildings – the public realm – that will sustain our lives and make living in cities, actually livable. Continue reading “Making our cities livable requires landscape architects: Report from the 2011 ASLA Conference”

SLU LEED ND Certified – It’s official!!!

South Lake Union Cascade P-Patch

After three years of research, studies, documentation and communications, the USGBC has confirmed the “South Lake Union Urban Center” is now a LEED certified plan for Neighborhood Development.

This is great news; the City of Seattle overcame a number of hurdles to achieve this certification. As the program isn’t structured well for municipalities and for multiple landowners, there are challenges inherent in applying the certification to an existing, evolving neighborhood, such as our beloved SLU. This certification represented, in effect, a snap shot of the neighborhood and does not take into account future plans, zoning changes or other policies that will greatly affect the neighborhood.

But, as those of us who have been following the EIS on the proposed rezoning and the Urban Design Framework (and those of us who have enjoyed one of those pretzels at Tom Douglas’s Brave Horse Tavern) know, this neighborhood is only going to get better as it evolves into a neighborhood with even higher levels of sustainability.

Weber Thompson was honored to work with the city pursuing this certification. We are thrilled certification was achieved and we look forward to the additional changes our beloved neighborhood has coming its way (especially if those involve a Thai Eatery, or maybe Teriyaki – Tom?).

$200 million for homes

WLIHA Logo In this holiday season it is prudent to raise our voices in support of housing for those who are not as fortunate. The Washington Low Income Housing Alliance has taken the initiative to advocate for the renewal of the state Housing Trust Fund signifying a $200 million investment in the state’s 2011-2013 biennium budget. In the spirit of the squeaky wheel gets the grease a petition has been circulated to document support for the funding. Key social and sustainable justification for the budget includes the following points.

  • Everyone should have the opportunity to live in a safe, decent, affordable home.
  • It should be possible for working people to afford housing and still have enough money for basics like groceries, gas and child care.
  • Children deserve a chance to succeed in school and in life, which all begins with their family being able to afford a decent place to live.
  • It’s better for society, the environment, and families if people can afford to live close to where they work.

Additionally the budget would result in a $1 Billion dollar Jobs Program for economic stimulus related to the Trust projects which will have a positive impact on our local economy. Continue reading “$200 million for homes”

Regionalizing LEED-ND

Building on her prodigious project experience with LEED for Neighborhood Development, WT principal and sustainability evangelist Catherine Benotto was asked by the Cascadia Green Building Council to assist the USGBC in the development of the LEED ND Regional Credits by managing this work for Washington State and coordinating it with the Pacific Regional Task Force, which included her counterparts in Alaska, Oregon, California and Hawaii.

Location may be the mantra of real estate, but it is also a fundamental ingredient of sustainable communities – in the LEED ND program where you build a neighborhood is as important as how you build. In an effort to tailor the ND program more to a project’s locale, regional priority credits were developed.  A Regional Priority credit awards an extra point to six credits in a LEED ND rating system that have been identified as having a significant benefit for a particular region. A project team may earn up to four Regional Priority credits. If a project earns one of those credits, often at a particular threshold, a Regional Priority credit, and therefore an additional point, is automatically earned within the system. –US Green Building Council

As the ND program addresses both the pattern of development as well as environmental criteria, Catherine’s handpicked working group began by assessing both Washington’s climatic zones as well as density and relating ND credit priorities to both criteria. In the end, six zones were developed: high/urban, medium/suburban and low/rural density areas were defined for each of the two primary climatic zones: eastern high desert and western temperate zones. The key issues being addressed were different for each zone. For example, in high density, temperate areas like Seattle, credits that supported the following issues were selected as highest priority:  Continue reading “Regionalizing LEED-ND”