The U.S. Army Corps Goes Green

Photo by Benjamin Benschneider.
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Photo by Benjamin Benschneider.
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Photo by Benjamin Benschneider.
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Photo by Benjamin Benschneider.
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For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Northwestern District headquarters, ZGF Architects have designed a high-performance, cost-effective structure on a former Seattle brownfield site.

While meaningful policies aimed at combatting climate change might take forever to enact, the American government – the country’s largest public real estate owner – is making bold moves with its own properties. Case in point: Federal Building 1202, a facility on the banks of Seattle’s Duwamish Waterway that is among the most energy-efficient buildings in the U.S.

Commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration, ZGF created a top-notch sustainable home for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a site previously occupied by a dingy warehouse, which served as a shipping facility for the military during World War II. The new office building was constructed with 300,000 board feet of salvaged timber and decking from the original warehouse and features active and passive systems, reclaimed materials and energy-efficient furnishings.

The architects configured the structure in the shape of an oxbow, in order to maximize the sunlight reaching the interior workspaces and limit the solar heat gains derived from western exposure. The building’s form reflects the natural oxbow lakes that wind through the surrounding area; and the west-facing facades look out to the Duwamish. This vantage point reflects the Army Corps’ emergency work in rehabilitating coastal areas ravaged by storms, including post-Katrina Louisiana and post-Sandy New York.

Inside, individual offices and collaborative workspaces line the outer perimeter of the building, and larger offices and conference rooms dot the atrium, which is flooded by sunlight and clad in wood, evoking a desert oasis. Cubicle heights reach no more than 127 centimetres, which allows employees an outdoor view and access to natural light. Glass walls and partitions are found throughout, while adjustable window coverings control heat gain and glare.

The building comes on the heels the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, meant to stimulate the economy by creating jobs in infrastructure, and the U.S. General Services Administration’s Design Excellence program, an initiative that mandates envelope-pushing design in government buildings. The project is expected to achieve a LEED Gold certification and is compliant with 2030 Challenge criteria. In April, it was recognized as a AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project. See all the winners at aiatopten.org.

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