Seattle Watershed Building Exceeds Strict Design Standards

For the WSP professionals working on Watershed, the project represented an exciting challenge and a milestone in their careers.

“Not many people have been able to complete Living Building Challenge projects,” said Chester Thompson, senior architectural lighting designer at WSP. “From an architectural point of view, the requirements of the standard are well ahead of what is being done internationally in terms of energy savings and water conservation.

The building boasts 25% lower energy consumption than code baselines, a state-of-the-art storm water retention and treatment system, castellated steel beams, a bicycle locker, showers and other green elements. And meeting the Living Building Challenge’s materials requirement, known as the “petal,” required extraordinary diligence on the part of the WSP team.

“We had to dig into all the materials and products used on the project and make sure everything was sustainably sourced and nothing was on the so-called ‘red list’ of toxic or environmentally harmful materials, many of which are still widely used in construction,” said Zach Stevens, senior sustainability consultant at WSP.

Thompson and Stevens corresponded extensively with suppliers and manufacturers to verify materials. Although it takes time, this level of engagement has helped raise awareness in the industry.

“As a company, we are trying to shake up the industry, increase awareness of the prevalence of these types of materials, and demonstrate that there is a demand for sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives,” Stevens said.

For lighting systems, meeting the materials petal required finding alternatives for “about 70 percent of the fixtures originally specified,” Thompson said. And lighting plays a particularly important function at Watershed: drawing attention to some of the state-of-the-art features, such as outdoor bioretention planters that not only handle on-site stormwater, but also runoff from the adjacent Aurora Bridge.

“Designing lighting to help tell that story was one of the most interesting parts of the design challenge,” he added.

Abdul J. Gaspar