WRNS Studio Seattle has been awarded the Materials, Beauty, and Health and Happiness Petals by the International Living Future Institute
This new interior fit out supports WRNS’ mission to participate as a steward for sustainable design in the built environment; to model social awareness, sustainability and community; and to support interaction and cross-disciplinary design.
The 6,390 square foot office includes open office seating, a small and large conference room, mother’s room, break room, print room, server room as well as a collaboration area and outdoor roof deck.
By creating an open office environment, all employees are granted access to daylight, views and increased ventilation. Natural sunlight is able penetrate deep into the space and limit the need for artificial light. Operable windows and direct access to the outdoor deck allow fresh air to full time employees in addition to visitors.
Designing for employee health was a priority. Exemplary indoor air quality was achieved through compliance with ASHRAE 62, dedicated entry approaches that reduce outdoor particulates from entering the space, and a cleaning protocol that abides with the EPA Safer Choice label.
The Living Building Challenge was used to establish project goals with special care given to creating a healthy work environment for employees. The Studio will achieve the Health & Happiness, Material, and Beauty Petal.
WHAT IS THE LIVING BUILDING CHALLENGE?
The Living Building Challenge™ is a certification program, advocacy tool, and philosophy defining the most advanced measure of sustainability in the build environment today. As a certification program, it addresses all buildings at all scales and is an inclusive tool for transformative design. The Living Building Challenge provides framework for design, construction and improvement of the symbiotic relationship between people and all aspects of the built and natural environment.
LIMITS TO GROWTH IMPERATIVE
INTENT: To curb sprawl, restore natural ecosystems, and protect productive agricultural lands and ecologically sensitive areas from the negative impacts of development.
The dense, urban location of the new office does not contribute to the unrestricted sprawl of urban areas. Furthermore, by locating the office within an existing building, the project has supported Seattle’s economy of current infrastructure. This further lessens the environmental impact of the office building and pushes back on the trend to constantly be seeking new construction buildings.
HEALTH & HAPPINESS PETAL
CIVILIZED ENVIRONMENT IMPERATIVE
INTENT: To improve occupant health by providing a direct connection to the outdoor environment.
The WRNS Office renovation added a brand new terrace to the office building. Observable from the moment you enter the office, the 767 square foot deck offers employees a direct and convenient connection with the outdoors year round. The space is complete with outdoor furniture so employees have the option to bring their work or lunch outside, into the fresh air and warm sun.
The building doesn’t have perimeter operable windows, but every desk is no farther than 20 feet from a window. Ability to move your work to a common areas or outdoor patio for a varied work environment is accepted and encouraged.
HEALTHY INTERIOR ENVIRONMENT IMPERATIVE
INTENT: To improve occupant health by reducing or eliminating indoor pollutants.
The WRNS Seattle Office has undertaken many initiatives to ensure the space continually delivers exemplary indoor air quality to all occupants.
The project underwent a comprehensive pre-occupancy indoor air quality inspection. Through the pre-occupancy testing, the team was notified of elevated PM-10 concentrations, which triggered proper remediation with the addition of MERV 8 filters. The post-occupancy IAQ inspection had been delayed to the unforeseen disruptions of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is critical now more than ever to ensure a safe and healthy environment for employees and visitors. The send IAQ test is scheduled for the end of March.
All interior building products that have the potential to emit VOCs meet the compliance of California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Standard method. By excluding harmful VOC levels from the entire building, occupants’ health is safe while they enjoy the space.
To minimize and control the cross contamination of air pollutants, the Seattle Office design generously exhausts each space where hazardous gases may be present or used, namely in the copy/printer room as well as the kitchenette. These additional exhaust fans protect occupants from exposure to harmful gases.
Occupant’s health is also protected through compliance with ASHRAE 63 ventilation rates, and an advanced sensor system that monitors CO2, temperature and humidity throughout the office.
Additional IAQ a no-smoking policy, and entryway systems that reduce outdoor contamination from entering the building. The janitorial services provided by the base building deliver high-quality regular cleanings of the space while exercising green cleaning practices.
BIOPHILIC ENVIRONMENT IMPERATIVE
INTENT: To promote designs that bridge the divide between natural and built environments.
Comfort and a connection to nature drove the buildout of our Seattle office. We oriented the design along the northern axis to take advantage of the daylight. Large expanses of windows overlook the Puget Sound with the Olympic Mountains serving as backdrop, creating a strong sense of place. Sunlight filters into the main areas with all work stations having direct access to natural light.
Designed to foster productivity and seamless communication, the concept relies on an open, adaptable floor plan. Exposed ceilings, a nod to nature’s impurities, unify the work spaces. Mobile workstations can quickly be reconfigured to host impromptu meetings, serving as a reminder of nature’s constant changing. Bright furniture systems, with wood veneer surfaces, create spatial harmony.
At its heart is a meeting room, and social hub that spills onto the deck. Waterfront views and lapping waves provide a connection to the area, offering a place of respite. The meeting room features an over-sized wooden conference table repurposed from Elm wood, a symbol of earth’s beauty. Sliding partition walls double as pin boards, and ebb and flow with occupant need.
Every element from the cork pin up board, the reclaimed wood table, or the light fixture tells a story of transparency, wellness and industry movement.
RED LIST IMPERATIVE
INTENT: To eliminate the use of worst-in-class materials/chemicals with the greatest impact to human and ecosystem health.
The project team significantly embraced the ambitions of the Living Building Challenge’s Material Petal to prioritize products that are non-toxic, ecologically restorative, socially equitable, and provide ingredient transparency. This presented some of the greatest challenges to the project team.
During the schematic design phase, the project began referencing a material list of WRNS Studio’s preceding project, the San Francisco Office Expansion, which had adopted the Living Building Challenge’s Material goals. This list of materials served as a baseline for many of the team’s product choices including Forbo Cork Wall Covering, BM 500 Ultraspec paint, and Purebond plywood. As Red List Imperative documentation began, the team faced many challenges that were unforeseen. For example, the majority of the lighting fixtures chosen were found to contain PVC in the wiring insulation. After vetting alternate products, PVC in wire insulation is understood to be a current industry standard that the project was unable to avoid. As a best effort to eliminate Red List ingredients, we included two of the only Red List Free linear light systems that have a Declare Label– Goldeneye’s Airelight and Vode’s Zip Two. All other interior lighting fixtures had to utilize the General Red List exception.
The project also had to the Minimum Order Excess exception for the metal studs that were found to contain Chromium VI, which is a Red List ingredient. The manufacturer explained that the product could be made without Chromium VI under special orders that exceeded a certain threshold. Unfortunately, as a tenant improvement project of 5,710 square feet, the project’s order did not exceed this threshold and therefore had to use the metal studs that contained the Red List ingredient. An advocacy letter asking the manufacturer to supply the Red List free alternative for smaller orders was sent.
One of the most arduous parts of the Red List vetting process was the lack of manufacturer engagement. In some circumstances, the team submitted three inquiries for additional ingredient information to manufacturers with no response. In these situations, the project was forced to move forward without adequate information. Overall, it was found that the majority of manufacturers required additional education on Red List ingredients and other health-compliance programs, such as RoHS and GreenGuard. Sending advocacy letters to manufacturers was one of the most critical pieces to opening conversations about future health and transparency of building materials.
One of the key highlights of the project was the partnership between the design and construction team. As the first Living Building Challenge project for many on the team, there was a good amount of education that occurred internally in order to be able to properly vet the project’s products. This knowledgebase has served the team well in engaging with vendors and tradespeople and has helped us to become better advocates for healthy materials in buildings.
EMBODIED CARBON FOOTPRINT IMPERATIVE
INTENT: To minimize projects’ embodied carbon through design as well as to offset projects’ climate change–related construction impacts.
Limiting carbon footprint was top of mind from the project’s inception and informed the decision to locate the project in an existing building. During early phase design, the approach was to expose as much of the existing structure as possible and to have those surfaces as the finish surfaces for the renovation. The intent was to reveal and celebrate the natural qualities of the building while limiting the introduction of extensive new finishes for the space. For example, structural columns, exposed ceilings and beams and existing finishes along the interior face of the façade were left in place.
Additionally, it was the project team’s goal to limit the amount of new partitions and associated finishes by utilizing an open floor plan and only adding partitions where privacy and acoustic requirements dictated. New finishes were intentionally selected for their renewable or recycled qualities in order to limit their carbon footprint.
The Tally analysis proved difficult given the limitations of this carbon-tracking software. Tally for an interiors tenant improvement project was very specific/deep in some areas and entirely lacking on others. For example, in regards to doors, it goes down to specifics in hardware, hinges, closers, etc. but there is no category for millwork or furniture altogether, so those categories do not get included in the carbon analysis. There were also limited finishes to select from so often times, we had to choose the closest finish possible but was unclear if the carbon footprint of the alternate was similar. Furniture, millwork & other “soft architecture” components are major parts of tenant improvement projects & would represent a significant carbon footprint that is not currently being calculated by Tally.
WRNS believes that our total embodied carbon calculated using Tally is not an accurate representation of the project. It is acknowledged that the carbon total of 25,427 kg CO2e is likely an undercalculation.
Since running into these gaps within Tally for interiors tenant improvement projects, the team has been researching others’ experiences with Tally analyses for similar projects. One study published by Carbon Leadership Forum in 2017, Embodied Carbon Benchmark Study: LCA for Low Carbon Construction1, found that the embodied carbon of the average interior build out was 75 kg CO2e/m2. However, the participating research team and advisories named many limitations in during their findings including unaligned analysis methods to generate data.
The CLF study was based on the average interior buildout and WRNS believes, that as a LBC-pursuant project, the total embodied carbon would be much lower than any “average’ building that is unconcerned about environmental footprint or waste reduction. The WRNS office Studio used an reductive material pattern and embrace the exposed ceiling and beams. The project does not contain any carpet, one of the more carbon-dense finish materials2. So it is no surprise that this project would come in well under the average tenant improvement at 42 kg CO2e/m2.
In fact, the embodied carbon calculated for this project was so low that it was difficult to find a carbon offset provider that sells offsets in that small of quantities. WRNS has purchased 26 mT of CO2e to offset the embodied carbon accumulated with this project.
1 Simonen, K., Rodriguez, B., McDade, E,. Strain, L. (2017) Embodied Carbon Benchmark Study: LCA for Low Carbon Construction. Available at http://hdl.handle.net/1773/38017.
2Simonen, K., Rodriguez, B., Li, S. (2017) CLF Embodied Carbon Benchmark Data Visualization, website. Available at www.carbonleadershipforum.org/data-visualization/
LIVING ECONOMY IMPERATIVE
INTENT: To support investment in local economies that stimulates local economic growth, strengthens community ties and development, and minimizes environmental impacts associated with transportation of products and people.
The project team prioritized the use of regional resources to reduce environmental impact of transportation and to support the local economy. The Material Petal Guidelines ensured that all manufacturers and suppliers were vetted for sustainable, healthy practices.
The Project utilized the great work of Urban Hardwoods, a local Seattle company that sources salvaged wood from within a 20-mile radius of Seattle and gives the wood a second life as a beautiful, timeless treasures. WRNS worked with Urban Hardwoods to produce the custom salvaged English Elm conference table and two coffee tables.
The FSC lumber used to construct the wood decking was sourced from Algona, Washington, less than 25 miles from the project site.
37% of the material construction budget was spent supporting manufacturers within 500km of the project, and 67% spent with manufactures from a 1,000km-5,000km distance from the project site. In total, 100% of the materials construction budget was sourced from within 5,000km from the project.
NET POSITIVE WASTE
INTENT: To reduce environmental burdens from the extraction, processing, and disposal of materials and turn waste into a valuable resource through beneficial reuse.
The WRNS Seattle Office has undertaken many material conservation and waste management initiatives. These low-impact, resourceful waste management practices extend beyond the scope of the office tenant improvement and into daily operations.
Beginning early the design phase, the space was inspected by a local company that sells reclaimed, salvaged building materials, Second Use. WRNS Studio was able to donate 2,500ft2 of the existing carpet to Second Use for resale/reuse. Additionally, the team strove reduce the amount of materials used on the project. For example, a limited number of partitions and associated finishes were built into the project. The team focused on functional materials, only including the partitions were privacy and acoustic would be optimized.
During construction, the demolition team was thoughtfully chosen for their expertise in selective demolition, to preserve as much of the existing infrastructure as possible. The demolition team and the builder were able to work together to achieve an overall diversion rate above 90%.
This Seattle office participates in a comprehensive recycling, e-recycling and composting program in partnership with the base building management. The kitchen is stocked with glass and ceramic dishware and utensils instead of single use paper and plastics. In fact, single serve items/packaging are avoided to reduce packaging and boxed lunches are avoided all the like. Office supply purchasing (printer paper, ink, pens, etc.) always prioritize materials with recycled content.
The reductive material palette innately lends itself to minimal waste during the office’s final deconstruction. However, WRNS plans to occupy their new studio space for many years to come. With a longer lease length, it is assured that new construction and demolition waste will not be created from a new tenant improvement project in the foreseeable future. The studio guarantees to use the currently installed products will be used until they are no longer safe or effective. If necessary to replace or dispose of materials and products used in the office, Second Use will be contacted again. All salvageable materials will be donated to Second Use.
BEAUTY + SPIRIT IMPERATIVE
INTENT: To ensure that beautiful Living Buildings contribute to their communities’ sense of place, delighting and inspiring their occupants for generations to come.
The office was organized around the idea of a communal front door – a front door that ties to the region, on access with a view toward the Puget Sound and mountains. You enter into a living room and kitchen space that is the social hub of the office. A long table parallels the long expanse of windows and invites you to bask in the sun, enjoy the view of the water, marvel at the activity on Pikes Peak Market, and take a break. Two patio doors invite you onto the outside deck, which will, (when Covid SIP allows) hold a wooden designed by our office but shared with our neighbor. While we are a part of the downtown, we are part of the water’s edge.
Designed for flexibility, the conference room is bound by the south-west windows facing the water on one side, adjacent north windows, a front screen for projection, and a large sliding door that allows the conference room and social space to blend for larger meetings, and gatherings. in the middle of the room is our live edge wood conference table made of local reclaimed wood. The neutral cork walls help to make the space feel gracious and can accommodate work pin ups and artist expression by the office. in the kitchenette, neutral wood cabinets meet the marker wall where ideas are expressed and local events are posted. Lounge furniture is meant to encourage conversation or a place to take a break.
Work desks run down the longer spine that is bracketed by windows on one side and pin up wall on the other. Nobody is farther than 20 feet from the light source. Wood tables between the work benches provide a place to collaborate and showcase models or materials. The natural and reductive palette is a complement to the major design element – nature – the sweeping views of the water and islands beyond, and the color of the day and seasons that is made evident as daylight, rain, snow and clouds change the palette of the office and the experience of the moment.]
INSPIRATION + EDUCATION
INTENT: To teach and encourage project occupants and visitors, as well as other design teams and the public, by providing explanatory information about the project through a variety of means
Advocacy for environmental and human health are both core tenants at WRNS Studio. As an architectural practice, the Studio has the unique opportunity to inspire and educate clients, consultants and fellow designers about the beauty and importance of honoring biophilic design and creating connections back to nature. To better understand the Living Building Challenge, it seemed most fit to embark on the journey to certify a space of our own – really get our hands dirty. As we’re now nearing completion of the space as well as the Living Building Challenge certification, we are thrilled to stimulate even deeper conversations with our peers about maximizing the positive impacts each project can have on their place, community, and culture.
As a visual reminder and a conversation starter, signage featuring some of the project’s significant achievements will be installed. A sign will be installed for each Petal achieved through the Living Building Challenge – Health + Happiness, Materials, and Beauty.
Additionally, WRNS will host an annual Open Day event to invite any and all interested in learning more about built environments that optimize physical and psychological health, materials that can lessen one’s carbon footprint and support the local economy, and celebrate design that enhances the human experience.
STOP BY SOMETIME
Interested in seeing our living building for yourself? Well you are in luck! Feel free to fill out our tour request form. Please note that we do not offer private tours at this time.