Urban Zen – National Park(ing) Day – 11am

Welcome to Urban Zen. (Deep breath…ahhhh.)








Today is a special day. Today is National Park(ing) Day! Park(ing) Day is a one-day, global event where artists, activists, and citizens collaborate to temporarily transform metered parking spots into “Park(ing)” spaces: temporary public parks.

For our space we had the great pleasure to collaborate with Berger Partnership.. After some discussion we settled on the very fitting and necessary concept of “Urban Zen”. What exactly defines “Urban Zen”? Our vision incorporates traditional Asian designs and materials paired with more “fast paced” necessities used in an entirely different way.

Rather than drinking the coffee, why not rake coffee beans into cool designs?

Rather than sitting at your desk all day to the point of dry eyes, why not take your lap top and sit in the park? Continue reading “Urban Zen – National Park(ing) Day – 11am”

Trophy time for The Terry Thomas

We are proud to report that the Terry Thomas building has won a national award, and has been nominated for three state awards.

The Terry Thomas won third place in Eco-structure Magazine’s inaugural Evergreen Awards in the Ecommercial (environmentally responsible commercial) category.

Weber Thompson and the Terry Thomas will be recognized at Eco-structure’s cocktail reception during the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Boston on Nov. 19-21.

The magazine is also featuring the Terry Thomas in the October issue. It will be the second time this year that the magazine has featured the project. In June, the magazine reported that the Terry Thomas “provides a window into the soul of [Weber Thompson, which] practices what it preaches and whose approach to sustainability is as much rooted in common sense as it is in the eco-enthusiasm of its employees.”

The Terry Thomas is a finalist in three categories in the Washington State Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties’ (NAIOP) annual competition. The categories are Sustainable Development of the Year, Office Development of the Year under 250,000 square feet, and the Innovation Project of the Year.

Winners will be announced at NAIOP’s Night of the Stars gala at the Seattle Sheraton on Nov. 7.

NAIOP is the nation’s leading trade association for developers, owners and professionals of commercial, industrial and mixed-use real estate. The state chapter has more than 500 members representing most of the leading firms in commercial real estate development.

Hosting Seattle Greendrinks

On August 12th Weber Thompson hosted Seattle Greendrinks at The Terry Thomas. Rafn Construction, which built The Terry Thomas, joined us to co-host the event.  

It was a perfect time for us to host as this month’s theme was green building.  Throughout the event we conducted tours of The Terry Thomas – which helped fulfill Seattle Greendrinks founder Gabriel Scheer’s goal to add an educational component to event.

The tours were a definite hit and having such a dedicated and green-savvy crowd made them that much more interesting.  There were lots of good, and sometime very in-depth, questions  about how the building’s systems all work together.

In keeping with the green building theme, Environmental Works was the featured non-profit for the night.  Normally, all the donations at the bar would go to them, but they chose to turn around and donate that money to a non-profit located right here in South Lake Union: The Cascade People’s Center. Thanks to all of our guests, we raised $522.

Overall, the event was a huge success with more than 400 people showing up.  The courtyard was packed as was the exterior stairs – a great vantage point that people naturally gravitate to.

The lounge on the third floor and reception and conference room area on the second floor really drew people in and provided enough room to hang out comfortably.

On the first floor, we threw open the big sliding glass doors to the courtyard.  Doing this allows the office area to function as edge space, where people can retreat from the packed courtyard but still feel connected. This also provides an audible connection that makes every space feel like it’s still part of the party.

The best part of the event was meeting so many young people who are so enthusiastic and committed to aspects of sustainable business and living. It’s inspiring to learn about all the areas where people are making a difference.

During the event I spoke with at least four people whose companies were in the start-up phase. We talked about how great it was to work in an office space that is both comfortable and beautiful.

That’s really the biggest point of this sort of broad community outreach. Somewhere, sometime, some of these folks are going to be involved in finding or building office space. When that time comes, I hope they remember how much they liked this building and demand good light and fresh air, along with good energy performance, for their space.

Big thanks to Sierra Nevada for providing the beer, Portage Bay Café for the food and Benjamin Doerr for the great live music. I had a great time and heard nothing but good things about the event and the building.

-Jeff Reibman AIA, LEED AP, Senior Associate

Using the space

Who knew a new office building, especially one as cool as this, comes with so many social engagements? We are booked solid for the summer, hosting wonderful organizations such as Great City Initiative, Interior Design Coalition of Washington, Allied Arts and Green Drinks, not to mention our own internal events.

The big question is how well can one have a large event – in the realms of 300-400 people – successfully in this space? And, really, with so many people and no air-conditioning, won’t we overheat?

Well, we attempted the experiment with our open house on June 24th and found it to be a rousing success. Our fantastic, energetic staff created a self-guided tour – with different stops that talk about Energy, Recycling, Materials, Carbon Neutral, Ventilation and Daylighting – to lead guests throughout the office. We had a drawing for a Herman Miller Mirra Chair, and rocking tunes to shake those sexy blinds.

Herman Miller donated the Mirra Chair for us to give away and Cascade A+E donated some of the signage. The food was by Portage Bay, we featured Washington wine, specially-labeled Jones sodas and beer from SLU brewery Two Beers Brewing Company.

Best of all, the weather was perfect and the office stayed nice and cool which gave everyone a chance to experience what we have been saying all along.

Next up, our “Seems to be Green” indoor golf tournament. Nine holes, each designed by a group of staff members, throughout the office, with the ninth hole starting on the third floor, going down the outside stairs, and ending up in the courtyard. We will have lots of nerf golf balls, bobble-head awards for the winners, and pizza for our employee’s families.

It is supposed to be a hot day, but we aren’t worried. It is cool in here – despite the high population.

-Elizabeth Holland, LEED AP, Principal

A [bath]room with a view

At The Terry Thomas, even the bathrooms have a view, as well as fully operable windows.

In an effort to maximize the building’s usable space, we tucked the building’s core by a blank south wall that overlooks the alley. Doing this provided us the opportunity to locate the bathrooms along exterior walls with expansive windows.

This quirky characteristic means that the second- through fourth-floor bathrooms have lovely views from some of the stalls.  With a little head craning, we can see Denny Park, the bustling construction activity in the Denny Triangle, Belltown and beyond. We can even see the site of one of our future projects!  The first-floor bathroom windows were sacrificed due to the exhaust from the transformer vault.

There’s one, relatively obvious, concern we had with our decision to include windows in our bathrooms  – privacy, as the window glass is clear. Currently, the building across the alley is not occupied and its windows are obscured.  However, that property may one day be developed. When that happens, we’ll have to find ways to obscure the glass in our bathroom windows. It‘ll be a challenge – balancing our dedication to connecting the Terry Thomas to the outdoors while providing needed privacy.

We’ve developed several schemes and mocked it up on the windows. After much deliberation we’ve decided that when the time comes, we’ll add horizontal stripes of frosted film, leaving some clear space between them. This will increase privacy while still preserving our connection to the outside world.  Even with the frosted stripes, we’ll still have a full view if we want – after all, we can always just open the windows.

-Elzbieta Zielinska, LEED AP; Project Manager for The Terry Thomas

The lights go on…the lights go off

The lighting system in our office is complex and has been a challenge. Our goal was to employ a highly efficient lighting system for our office space that would reduce energy usage. The spaces in our office are 95% daylit because of the amount of glazing, so it is important that we take advantage of this asset.

The lights are controlled by several different technologies:
•    Photoelectric eyes measure the amount of sun coming into the space and increase or decrease the fluorescent lighting to balance the light levels in the office.
•    Occupancy/motion sensors turn lights on and off in spaces, depending on occupancy.
•    Managed lighting, by lighting controls company LC&D, sets the lighting levels on a schedule based on the time of day or night. LC&D is continuing to tweak the system, so patience is in order for all of us.

The availability of adjustments in time, light level and schedule will take time to work out and have proven to be a challenge to our team. When the photoelectric eyes measure enough natural light in a space, they signal the lights to turn off. Yet this sometimes still feels dark. A few people have reported coming into work on the weekend or at night to a building that is fully lit. Our amazing exterior sunshades automatically close to block the sun in the afternoon, and these sometimes cover the light sensors, which will then turn on the lights on a sunny day.

These are all kinks that will be worked out over time, but as it is our first time with this technology, there is a learning curve figuring out the glitches. In our old office, people customized the lighting above their desks by hooking or unhooking the fluorescent lights in the drop ceiling. In Terry Thomas, employees have flexibility with task lights at their desks if they need more light, but most choose not to use them.

It is, however, a real treat to work in a space fully lit by natural light. It feels like you are outside. The natural daylighting continues the connection we have with the outdoors, an experience we did not have in the old office.

-Mina Ghanaie, LEED AP


So how do we track our building performance?

If you haven’t read it yet, blogger Katie Zemtseff, the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce’s environment reporter, reviewed our blog. It was a great review, and in it, she challenged us to report on how the building is performing.

We’ve been here two months, and we are still adjusting the systems to make sure they perform accurately and efficiently.

According to the modeling and calculations done by Stantec Consulting, the building will record a 56 percent water savings and a 30 percent energy savings compared to a traditionally designed building designed to the current codes.

To reach those goals, we need to make sure the building and all its systems are working the way they were designed to. Hence, we have commissioning – a quality-control check performed by an independent third party (Keithly Barber Associates, in our case) to ensure that the systems have been installed and are performing according to the specifications.

We just conducted the first tour of the commissioning, and it explained a lot. At times we have felt that the systems haven’t worked properly. The heating, for instance, has been especially erratic; sometimes it seemed too cold, sometimes too hot. Through the commissioning, we discovered that one of the thermostats was located above a light dimmer that emits a lot of heat.

We caught other things as well, including digital controls that were not programmed properly. Also, a CO2 sensor wouldn’t open a certain louver. Through this in-depth review of the building, we hope to detect and fix all problems within a couple of weeks.

Once we know that the systems work properly, Weber Thompson’s Energy and Resources Group (from our internal Green Team) will start analyzing the utility bills for the whole building and power bills for WT office space. (We occupy 25,000 of the building’s 40,000 square feet.)  The building’s management company (Stephen C. Grey Associates) will send us bills for the entire building. Fortunately that company also managed our previous location, so we will be able to compare our current bills with the models as well as with our former, traditional office building. Continue reading “Performance”