In ‘walking the talk’, we can share from our own experience designing an environmentally-minded contemporary work environment
After 13 years in the same place, we decided to rethink our Seattle studio work space. Overarching goals of renovation included a flexible, open environment reflective of who we are as design professionals:
To stay in the Pioneer Square location we love and accommodate growth without adding square footage, it was necessary to reduce individual work space, balanced by a range of meeting and pin-up spaces. Outstanding features are enhanced and benefit from the open plan; unobstructed perimeters preserve views and natural light contributing to well being and productivity for all, skylights illuminate center spaces, existing heavy timber structure and salvaged wood floors ground the space in nature and provide a neutral backdrop that does not compete for attention. A new kitchen relocated to the perimeter maximizes views in an energizing space to dine and mingle. Healthy habits are reinforced by providing alternative places to work that encourage people to move around. The design is simple, steering clear of ‘on trend’ large-scale gestures, playful lounge zones, or ad hoc décor.
This renovation of a single floor in the historic Polson Building has achieved Petal certification under the Living Building Challenge for Place, Materials, Beauty, Equity, and Health & Happiness petals. We are the first architecture firm to have achieved this for its own work space, as well as the only firm to have designed both a Petal certified project and an entire LBC certified building. This design effort informs and exemplifies the strength of our commitment to restorative design principles at any scale.
THE LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE V3.1 – PETAL CERTIFICATION
For more information regarding the Challenge:
Imperative: Habitat Exchange
When selecting a piece of land for the Habitat Exchange, we had three chief requirements: work with an approved Land Trust Miller Hull supports, on local land–ideally public property–that our staff can visit. Through Forterra, an organization we support through our financial constructions and volunteer work, we found a piece of undeveloped shoreline on Anderson Island in Puget Sound. Our exchange enabled Forterra to secure 18-acres of land supporting a delicate ecosystem of publically accessible marine forest with trails that is home to wildlife and fish including salmon, marine mammals and shellfish.
Imperative: Red List
The Materials Petal is always challenging and although our team has experience with these Imperatives from previous Living Building Challenge certified projects, each project requires new energy and ingenuity. Materials used are Red List free where possible. Two key design requirements helped with these requirements. First, we had reused building products and furnitureincluding wood flooring, ductwork, some furniture and equipment. Second, our design aesthetic reduced finish materials.
In recent years there has been significant transformation from where it was during our first Living Building Challenge work. When Red List ingredients were discovered on our project, several manufacturers were willing to work with us to find safer alternatives. We also went to great lengths to avoid Red List ingredients in furniture including the commitment to custom design and fabricate all furniture, eliminating the need for any laminates. Through this process, we educated many craftspeople and suppliers that had never heard of the Red List or considered its ingredients in their products. We consider this a great success
Imperative: Embodied Carbon Footprint
The renovation was designed to reuse major existing components including the salvaged wood flooring, existing structure and most of the ductwork and even window shades. In addition to reuse, superfluous materials such as ceilings, partitions and more were eliminated. Materials used were kept to a minimum with more than 66%, originating within 310 miles of our office. Apart from a few unavoidable metal studs, the majority of our structural members are extremely low-carbon glue-laminated beams or columns. Minimal use of gypsum board and other finishes ensured an overall low carbon footprint. Our calculation in the Athena Impact Estimator concluded less than 10 tons of CO2, offset through a partnership with 3Degrees.
Imperative: Responsible Industry
As an interior renovation project, primary interaction with this Imperative was through the FSC-certified lumber. All wood used in the project from structure to furniture is FSC-certified.
Imperative: Living Sourcing Economy
More than 66% of the materials used on our project came from within 310 miles of our site. Some of the most notable are glulam beams and columns, skylights, gypsum board, lighting and custom-fabricated furniture. Additionally, several reused items included wood flooring and some wall panels.
Imperative: Equitable Investment
Miller Hull supports our community and issues through charitable and volunteer contributions. See our CONNECT page for more information.
Imperative: JUST Organization
The Miller Hull Partnership is a JUST organization. More information about how are firm meets program criteria can be found here:
Imperative: Beauty & Spirit
The goal of the renovation was to create a flexible open workplace that fosters collaboration and innovation, reflects the highest environmental design standards, highlights the sites’ unique attributes, is timeless, and provides a place where our diverse clientele can be inspired to create with us unique solutions that are specific to their needs and a reflection of who they are. The design enhances outstanding features of the space. Open perimeter workstations preserve spectacular, unobstructed views of Elliott Bay, Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains while welcoming abundant natural light.
Also included is artwork made by founding partner, Bob Hull. Bob was so creative–always drawing and making things. He had an amazing way of balancing serious architecture without being too serious. Many of the things he made were fun and are included to remind us of the easy-going spirit he brought to office culture.