Miller Hull

Pierce County Environmental Services Building

University Place, WA
A brownfield site becomes a benchmark for future buildings as the design team applies non-traditional day lighting strategies to create interior spaces that are very humane and sophisticated. 2004 AIA COTE Top Ten Award, jury comment
Client Pierce County
Completion 2002


Pierce County recently completed a 50-year Master Plan for the Chambers Creek Properties, a 900+ acre site stretching 2-1/2 miles along one of the largest uninterrupted stretches of Puget Sound waterfront under single ownership in the Pacific Northwest. Much of the site has been actively and extensively mined for gravel for over the past 100 years, resulting in a barren landscape abutting once of our region’s most pristine waterways. The Master Plan focused on “Reclaiming Our Resources,” an effort that will gradually heal and rejuvenate the entire site by reintroducing native species and incorporating public uses.

The Environmental Services Building is the first significant project to be built following the adoption of the Master Plan. Setting the tone for future development, the building sits high on the edge of the 200+ foot bluff, and was designed to connect people with their immediate and regional context. The “Rainier Axis” organizes the entry sequence, public trails and the parking areas and aligns with the iconic Mt. Rainier at one end and Puget Sound on the other. The north/south orientation of the building, coupled with a thin floor plate and staggered office pods, allows all of the work spaces to visually connect to both Mt. Rainier (to the east) and Puget Sound (to the west).

The facility has been as well-received by the local community–as exemplified by its popularity as the location for weddings and receptions–as it has been with the Pierce County’s Public Works & Utilities (PCPWU) Water, Wastewater, Stormwater and Solid Waste employees. Because of the non-traditional, naturally ventilated, daylit work spaces, some employees have even turned down promotions within the County because it would have meant relocation to another facility–a testament to the power of architecture to create positive workplace environments.