Eden Hill, in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, is articulated by a juxtaposition of clean lines of brick, smooth metal panels and corrugated metal panels.
INSPIRED BY A biotech architectural philosophy, Weber Thompson’s buildings demonstrate clean, contemporary style; an innovative use of materials; and sustainable features. Located in the revitalized South Lake Union area of Seattle, Weber Thompson is a 20-year-old, design-oriented architecture firm that often uses metallic materials to achieve its goals: thoughtful design, clever details and handsome proportions. “My ultimate design ambition is to create timeless design, much like buildings of modern architects from the early 20th century,” says Peter David Greaves, AIA, LEED AP, a principal at the fi rm. Weber Thompson employs a collaborative staff of 75 professionals in four integrated design fi elds: architecture, interior design, city planning and landscape architecture. Armed with experience with sustainable design, more than half the employees are LEED Accredited Professionals, meaning they have the knowledge to navigate the LEED rating system, a program of the Washington, D.C.- based U.S. Green Building Council.
“Intensive collaboration and a commitment to environmental sustainability are hallmarks of Weber Thompson,” says Elizabeth Holland, LEED AP, director of Operations and Marketing and another principal at the firm. Weber Thompson’s design philosophy is based on the ideology of biotech architecture. Biotech architecture places an emphasis on artistic expression of a building’s shape and character, as well as its functions, rather than geometrical organization. Another biotech distinction is the integrated-design process that requires owners, architects, engineers and contractors to work together closely from the predesign phase through to completion.
At night, the scrim of the Willow Creek Office, Redmond, Wash., appears to float off the building.
Weber Thompson selects corrugated metal siding, set horizontally or vertically, for the majority of its projects. “We use metal siding for its contemporary, sleek image; its durability; and its excellent construction details,” Greaves explains. On the fi rm’s own headquarters building, the Terry Thomas, the metal siding has an R-21 insulation value and a silver prefi nished coating. Furthermore, the siding is a protective rainscreen that drains water away from the building’s envelope through a ventilated air gap. Weber Thompson chooses metallic materials that have a coordinated appearance, such as aluminum and galvanized steel. The Terry Thomas is an impressive example with its façade panels, windows, courtyard railings, corrugated planters, perforated-metal screens and castellated beams. Greaves says: “The corrugated steel is characteristic of factory or industrial buildings. With all the coordinated metallic materials, the office building looks like a machine.” The metallic expression of the Terry Thomas’ façade suits the lightindustrial character of the neighborhood.
A unique aspect of the Terry Thomas’ structural system is the structural castellated beams that are engineered for superior strength and expressed on the façade design. Furthermore, the increased depth of the castellated beam uses the same amount of steel as its comparable I-beam while its strength is increased. Th us, fewer beams are needed for the fl oor’s structural framework, which in turn reduces the depletion of natural resources. Willow Creek Office, Redmond, Wash., is an adaptive-reuse project of a 1980’s office building that had wood-lap siding in serious disrepair. “We were commissioned to turn a traditional suburban building into a contemporary loft -type building,” Greaves remembers. With durable metal siding and new, taller storefront windows, Weber Th ompson converted the structure into a building meant to attract high-tech industrial companies. Th e entrance structure on the Willow Creek building is one of Weber Th ompson’s more creative metal innovations. A layer of perforated, corrugated aluminum sheet metal is attached to both sides of 6-inch (152-mm) metal studs. “At night, the carefully engineered lighting makes the scrim appear to float off the building. During the day, a moving visual effect occurs,” Greaves remarks. The trellis at the top of Eden Hill, a multi-use project in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, is a customized use of powder- coated aluminum tubing. The trellis provides sunshading for the top floors of the building, which reduces heat gain and cooling load.
Weber Thompson’s office building expresses the fi m’s noteworthy sustainabledesign principles. “The root philosophy behind our sustainability initiatives is to try to do more with less. We pushed this idea further with the Terry Thomas than on a lot of other projects,” Greaves says. For example, the castellated beams are used for the structure and finished aesthetic appearance. Another example is the removal of the drop ceiling with the addition of taller windows at Willow Creek to enhance the amount of interior natural daylighting. The Terry Thomas does not function with a mechanical air-conditioning system; rather, the building is cooled via passive- esign strategies.
With all the coordinated metallic materials, the Terry Thomas office building, Seattle, resembles a machine.
The open, central atrium enacts the chimney effect, in which air circulates through the building allowing heated air to escape to the exterior façade. “Industrial-type louvers above the window system allow the warm air to exit the building in the summer and excessive carbon dioxide to exit during the winter months,” Greaves explains. Anodized aluminum, exterior mechanical Venetian blinds provide additional thermal protection from excessive solar heat gain on the northern glass façade. On the roof of the building, a sensor is mounted to enact the computer-controlled system that opens and closes the blinds, depending on heat-gain needs throughout the day.
Contemporary style, biotech architectural philosophy, a quest for innovation and a commitment to sustainability compose Weber Thompson’s backbone. Metal features help the fi rm achieve the desired aesthetics and sustainability through high insulation values, recycled content, minimal building materials and longevity.
Stephanie Aurora Lewis writes about architecture and metal construction from Columbus, Ohio.