Weber Thompson Offices at Watershed
How do you design a workplace for a bunch of architects? Very carefully.
9,000 SF Commercial Office Tenant Improvement
Meets Living Building Challenge Materials Petal and contributes to Living Building Pilot energy & water reduction requirements
All products and materials are LBC Red List-free or Red List-compliant.
Pursuing Fitwel Certification
PHOTOGRAPHY: CINDY APPLE / WEBER THOMPSON
Learning Laboratory 2.0
As designers, WT learns from the spaces we inhabit. In our former home, the LEED Gold Certified Terry Thomas building we got first-hand knowledge of the positive benefits of natural ventilation and daylighting and were able to use that knowledge to benefit our clients. Our new home, the award-winning Living Building Pilot Program building, Watershed takes a huge step forward. This office represents an elevated level of high performance and was approached with a different way of thinking about how people work and how we can help our clients create healthy, productive space for their employees. There is always more to learn.
Designing a process
Designing one’s own office is an excellent chance to look inward and engage everyone. For WT’s new office, the design team began with an internal design charette to generate ideas for how employees would live in and use the space.
- Connect with the outdoors and new neighborhood
- Maintain access to daylight
- Foster opportunities for connection
- Designate an area for hands-on projects
- Showcase the WT design aesthetic
These were the starting point for the design team who developed concepts through 3D modeling tools and sharing with the firm at various intervals. A second charette yielded finer-grain details, and a conference room naming contest encouraged everyone to flex their creative muscles.
Collaboration at all scales
Opportunities for creativity, collaboration and mentorship were baked into every design move. Break out spaces accommodate a wide range of working styles from internal focus rooms to sitting areas for collabs. Dramatic, sculptural views of the overhead Aurora Bridge bracketed by forested hills, water, downtown Seattle and Mt. Rainer give the eye a place to rest and creativity to burgeon.
Natural materials palette
PNW minimalism is the interior design thesis, with a celebration of natural materials and neutral tones. Concrete columns are left unfinished and exposed. Wood has been added for warmth. Plywood cabinetry has intentionally exposed edges as an expression of assembly and craft.
The office is organized around a central circulation core that runs from the lobby back to the breakroom. Throughout, a calming palette with white, wood, blues and charcoals underscores the drama of the views while pops of turquoise echo the building’s water theme.
Supporting the health and wellness of employees was an overarching vision for the project as well as a tenet of the Living Building Challenge. Red-list free and red-list compliant materials were first priority in the specifications.
Biophilia drove the design as much as possible, as did human heath and comfort. Operable windows provide a connection to the outdoors and natural ventilation, spaces are equipped with zone-specific thermal controls, and the firm’s energy use will be displayed on a real-time dashboard in the lobby. The toilets use reclaimed rainwater for flushing, and a central stair and direct access to the sidewalk on L2 will minimize the need for elevator trips. Learn more about Watershed’s many sustainability features.
Further promoting health and wellness was WT’s decision to pursue Fitwel, a certification program that addresses how spaces, features, and policies effect a person and their health. A lot of the requirements were already built into the space – its 96 Walk Score reflects its proximity to a rich variety of services and walking paths (Burke Gilman is a block away). Views from within the space are built in through its elevation and proximity to Lake Union. Access to opportunities that promote physical and mental fitness were achieved through a wellness room within the office, which offered nursing moms a private place, and others a place for quiet time or meditation. Air quality is also important – a post-occupancy air quality test is rewarded by Fitwel and installed MERV13 filters in the HVAC provide the cleanest air to occupants. Posters in the kitchen promote healthy seasonal eating, and a map showing amenities within walking distance was developed to highlight services within walking distance. WT is anticipating achieving the highest level of Fitwel Certification, 3 stars, with plans to use the certification as a test case for talking with clients and as a recruitment benefit for new employees.
With strict guidelines about materials and energy usage, the Living Building Challenge guided nearly every decision made for the project, from floor to ceiling. All materials used on the project meet strict red-list free guidelines. Many reclaimed materials and items were repurposed from the firm’s previous office.