AIA Convention Highlights

Weber Thompson’s Director of Sustainability, Myer Harrell, recently attended the AIA National Conference, where he presented as part of the panel “Living From Seattle’s Living Building Pilot Program.” The conference was filled with inspirational speakers and educational programs. Below, he captures some of the highlights.

At the first keynote of A’17 (the 2017 AIA Conference on Architecture), titled Anticipating the Need: Design that Cares, Pritzker Prize-winner Alejandro Aravena engaged the architect-filled audience by drawing diagrams on a white board to reinforce ideas as he spoke. Continue reading “AIA Convention Highlights”

Recapturing Wasted Office Space

The board room at TalkingRain’s National Headquarters near Seattle, WA. Rachael Bauer helped design the company’s office space which includes flexible work stations that accommodate small meetings as well as larger meeting rooms.


What an intriguing, innovative concept for all – taking advantage of the existing office space and using it to its maximum potential. As we work with our clients to plan new offices, or renovate their existing spaces, this information is a powerful design tool.

We recently heard about a leading-edge service to help in this work. Rifiniti is a company that offers a software analytics service to help companies better understand how their spaces are being used, and then makes suggestions for spatial efficiencies.

Clearly, space utilization has changed – and the design of the workplace must follow suit. The traditional offices generally run 80/20* – 80% individual stations; 20% meeting spaces. As Allsteel, a commercial office furniture manufacturer, points out, “For many organizations…the percentage of individual workspaces being used at any given time – is 40%”. Technology is a key factor in this underutilization due to remote work options, break out spaces and flexible hours. Continue reading “Recapturing Wasted Office Space”

The Difficulty of Quantifying Green Design


What is the value of green design? How do we quantify it? How do we sell it to project owners, operators, investors and tenants? 

In today’s Green Building special section of the Daily Journal of Commerce, Weber Thompson Senior Associate Myer Harrell AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Homes, raises some questions in search of making a business case for green. We know green buildings are better buildings, but can we prove they make good financial sense as well? Continue reading “The Difficulty of Quantifying Green Design”

Increasing Seattle’s share of families

Seattle has been called “a childless city.”* Of major cities in the United States, Seattle has nearly the lowest rate of households with children (19%) – only San Francisco is lower. If, as Carlos Pena, the former mayor of Bogotá said, “Children are the indicator species of the health of a community,” could it be that our low rate indicates something is wrong?

In late 2011, the Seattle Planning Commission, on which I serve, produced an in-depth report on the status of affordable housing in Seattle. One of the biggest findings was the lack of housing available for low and middle-income families with children; only 2% of rentals had three or more bedrooms. In addition, 70% of single-family homes for sale are unaffordable to those making a working wage, considered up to 120% of area median income.

Following up on this finding, in January 2014 the Seattle Planning Commission released “Family Sized Housing – an Essential Ingredient to Attract and Retain Families with Children.” This white paper is an action agenda with 11 key recommendations. It proposes a variety of land use changes, tools and incentives geared toward creating more variety in housing types to serve a broad mix of incomes, citywide.

Why does this matter?  Continue reading “Increasing Seattle’s share of families”

Affordable housing best practices

Allegro townhomes in the affordable neighborhood of Rainier Vista in Columbia City, Seattle.
Allegro at Columbia City, designed by Weber Thompson.

On Wednesday, October 9th, Weber Thompson Principal Jeff Reibman will participate in a panel discussion of best practices and lessons learned for affordable housing construction during ‘Biggest Bang for your Buck: Round 3’ at the Housing Washington 2013 conference in Spokane. For the last 18 years he’s worked in the Seattle area on residential design of all kinds, with an emphasis on larger scale condominiums, apartments, and senior housing projects. The focus of his session will be on cost effective solutions for horizontal waterproofing including roofing, decks and plaza construction.  It will include product information, design tips, installation best practices, and long-term maintenance considerations. Recommendations will be provided to help guide decision making from the perspective of cost, long-term durability, ease of maintenance and sustainability.

Housing Washington is a nationally recognized annual conference on affordable housing—a dynamic forum for learning, discussion, networking and collaboration. This two-day event features a lively sponsor showcase, top-notch speakers, special events, and an awards ceremony. To learn more and register for the conference, visit about the Housing Washington 2013 website.

Tall wood buildings have a promising future with CLT

Viktoria on 2nd Ave in downtown Seattle is under construction.

Viktoria on 2nd Ave in downtown Seattle was designed by Weber Thompson and is currently under construction.

In downtown Seattle, you’ll notice a significant number of high-rise residential tower projects under construction. Many of these projects are designed by Weber Thompson, for example: Viktoria [+240′]; 815 Pine [+440′]; and 2030 8th Avenue [+440′]. For a host of reasons, residential towers like these are typically constructed of concrete-framed, sheer-core structures enclosed with glassy curtain walls, whereas commercial office towers are typically constructed of steel-framed structures with concrete cores.

Building Codes classify structures as “high-rises” for the purpose of life-safety and fire-protection requirements the moment a structure contains an occupied floor located more than 75 feet above the lowest level of fire department access at street level. For smaller projects, this classification will increase construction costs by at least 5%, which is problematic for structures that are less than 12-stories tall.  This is generally considered to be the point at which this extra cost for high-rise construction requirements starts to pencil out due to a higher unit count and yield.

But does this mean that middle range of eight to twelve stories should be completely ignored? There are a number of areas in Seattle with a 120’ – 125’ height limit that allow buildings of this size, but for developers looking to reach the limit on these properties, there aren’t currently many cost-effective construction options. Often, despite the goal of “highest and best use” for a site, and a goal of increased density for the downtown core from public and private sectors alike, height maximums are forfeited in favor of lower-cost construction methods, and buildings in these zones top out at seven levels. But what if there were an alternative?

Continue reading “Tall wood buildings have a promising future with CLT”