Miller Hull

Health Sciences Education Building

University of Washington, Seattle, WA
The Health Sciences Education Building creates flexible learning spaces, leverages modern technologies, and generates a broad array of environments that can adapt to changing pedagogical needs, as well as provide interprofessional education and collaboration for all six Health Sciences schools.
Client University of Washington
Size 100,000 SF
Completion 2022
EMission Zero Offset 895 tCO2e


The University of Washington’s new Health Sciences Education Building will inspire generations of future healthcare professionals, opening their traditionally siloed practices to other health disciplines, and inviting a multidisciplinary depth to their approach.

The medical field is nominally inter-professional. In a perfect world, pharmacists, nurses, and doctors work together effectively, delivering comprehensive care to their patients. However, frequent breakdowns in communication between these departments indicate that improvement is needed, and it is the University of Washington’s hope that an early exposure to this kind of integration will yield better collaboration in actual practice.

Centered on a “Culture of Care,” the building’s concept is embedded in all aspects of the building design — dappled and lush outdoor moment connect patients to nature, a textural and reflective building skin gives human scale, wood and cross-laminated timber (CLT) ceilings provide feelings of warm, and legible and generous vertical circulation create wayfinding and guidance to patients.

A daylit library, student study and collaboration space line the north “active edge” of the building, while larger-span classrooms, skills and anatomy labs are positioned to the south. An inter-professional commons or “heart” perches over a pocket park and future water view corridor.

Inside, natural materials and soothing colors can be found in order to promote feelings of wellbeing and contentedness while learning. This is in contrast to the immersive hospital-like environments that are typical in university medical educational environments which are intended to simulate the actual clinical spaces. While these spaces have traditionally been cold and clinical with low ceilings, and white surfaces, in recent years, healthcare spaces have been focusing more on humanizing their interior designs with attention to daylight, connection to nature, muted colors and natural materials…

With an investment in student success as a whole, the building wants to do more than solely provide classroom space but rather give students other types of learning spaces, like study areas and kitchenettes, thereby encouraging students from different health sciences schools to get to know one another outside of the classroom. After all, the more doctors, pharmacists, and nurses know one another on a personal basis, the easier it will be to relate and collaborate in the field. Learning is not confined to the classroom, and HSEB epitomizes this conviction.

Along with giving students and staff members variety, these spaces also provide versatility, as they need to accommodate the kind of flexibility that comes with a multi-disciplinary curriculum. For years, buildings would be constructed around a specialty or department, each sector taking ownership of its respective space. But this approach lends itself to the optimization of real estate, allowing for six or seven disciplines to exist in the same building, thereby enabling future flexibility and the expansion or contraction of a program. The adaptability of these spaces also meant a huge investment in technology; each classroom has its own zoom chat, video screens, and touch screen camera lights that allow for remote connection. This makes studying more accessible, particularly in cadaveric anatomy, where it remains possible for students with cultural and religious oppositions to still take part, in addition to larger groups that may be too big to gather around a single body. The virtual option also demonstrates the possibilities of telehealth, and how geographic distance does not necessarily have to hinder proper healthcare or the meaningful connection that grows between doctor and patient.

WWAMI, an acronym that denotes the states served by the UW School of Medicine – Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho – contains 25% of UW’s tribal population. With the connectivity upgrades with which the health sciences building is now equipped, safe and effective healthcare can reach the indigenous populations in this region, in addition to other under-served communities, providing a step in the right direction for social justice and equitable healthcare.

Landscape was also a big consideration in this project. We asked ourselves: how can we design a building in this location and make it feel integrated with the land? How can we create a flow that enables students to move in and out of outdoor spaces? Even if small, we knew each outdoor encounter had to be engaging and lush. Currently, south campus offers an entirely interior path for people to get from one building to another without going outside. One of the goals of this project was to invite people to come outside into these pocket parks, interact with each other, and enjoy the outdoors.

The design-build team implemented strategies to maximize the building’s sustainability and environmental impact, prioritizing long-term infrastructure investments and setting an example for campuses across the country. The building features emerging and impactful technologies including regional stormwater infrastructure, electrochromic glazing, and Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT) structure.

Partially funded by two grants obtained by the design-build team—including a U.S. Forest Service Wood Innovations Grant—the inclusion of CLT in floor and roof assemblies enhances the student experience. The design brings the warmth and beauty of wood to the formal and informal learning environments while supporting regional economic growth. Partnering with engineering firm KPFF as well as University staff and students, the design-build team were able to develop and test the composite beam system resulting in a hybrid testing system that helped permit the project and advance the City of Seattle’s building code related to the use of CLT structures.
Using the forthcoming U.S. Mass Timber Floor Vibration Design Guide, the design-build team analyzed the vibration performance of the building’s floor system. This study adds to the growing body of research used to reduce cost and improve the reliability of CLT systems in the region, country, and world. With the inclusion of CLT, the University was able to reduce the embodied carbon impact of the structural decking system by 50% and support the ecology of the region and the state by helping to responsibly manage and protect natural resources and mitigate wildfire risks.

A regional stormwater solution that utilizes existing elements of an abandoned hydraulic system offers a way to connect water from an entire basin as opposed to just one building, providing stormwater capacity for future projects in this part of campus. There is also a collective use of one roof for PV requirements, and a bike hut that protects many people’s bikes. This approach offers ways to strategically group investments that can help simultaneously with sustainability and campus needs.

From start to finish, our process welcomed many different voices. First, the working teams and executive committee identified key locations in the design – at entries and gathering spots – for investments in public art and placemaking. With a targeted budget, material palette, and selected locations, we then cast a wide net to ensure that we were hearing from a variety of voices from the University, the health sciences schools, students in the program, as well as Black, Indigenous, and people of color groups.

Through our process of testing words, phrases, and methods of storytelling, we quickly learned that the majority of medical language is white-centric, and wouldn’t resonate with the diverse group of students and faculty across the six schools. We wondered: what if we could embed more accessible words into the art and graphics that would guide the students as they work with the Somali community, with residents of South King County, and with underrepresented groups in the Central Districts? What would welcome students from all backgrounds, and help people understand the importance of knowing and supporting all cultures? Sometimes we can’t do direct engagement but we used engagement to try to come up with ways to have a meaningful set of words.

We now have several locations with huge walls of colorful art filled with carefully composed words that speak to the students who will work in the spaces, and the communities who will be served by them.

Teaching the next generation of medical professionals, this building focuses on all aspects of health science and care, preparing students for the kind of integrated and comprehensive career that will one day be theirs.

Project Team

Architect & Interior Design: The Miller Hull Partnership, LLP
Medical Education Architect: S/L/A/M Collaborative
Design-Build Contractor: Lease Crutcher Lewis
Landscape Architect: GGN
Civil & Structural Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers
Mechanical & Plumbing Engineer: PAE
Mechanical & Plumbing Subcontractor: Hermanson Company, LLP
Electrical Engineer: Hargis
Electrical Subcontractor: Cochran
Lighting Design: Hargis
Acoustical Consultant: Tenor
Environmental Graphics: Mayer/Reed
Interior Design: Miller Hull and Catalyst Furniture
Geotechnical: Shannon Wilson
Accessibility: Studio Pacifica
Theatrical/AV: Dimensional and Cochran
Commissioning: EEI and 4EA
Public Art: Acrylicize
Fire Protection: Coffman Engineers
Wind Analysis: CPP
Vertical Transportation: Greenbusch Group

EMission Zero Offset

In 2022, Miller Hull offset 24,264 tCO2e (tons of carbon) of twelve projects as part of our recently launched EMission Zero initiative — a program announced in 2021 targeting the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment. A major component of EMission Zero is Miller Hull’s commitment to voluntarily purchase Green-E certified carbon offsets to cover the embodied emissions of each built project upon completion.