We have admired the work of Seattle architects Weber Thompson before, being particularly impressed with their low-tech sensible approach displayed in their own offices. (see Smart Architect Builds Dumb Building and Terry Thomas Building By Weber Thompson) However, given a competition without restraints, they show that they know the high-tech stuff too. A team from Weber Thompson won the 2008 Natural Talent Design Competition at Greenbuild with their "Eco-Laboratory".
It is a Whole Earth Catalogue of green systems, with a rainwater collection system; hydroponic garden to grown food for the community; biological wastewater treatment system to convert black water to greywater and potable water; earth tubes to funnel clean, natural air into the building through underground ducts; vertical axis wind turbines and solar panels for on-site green energy; and hydrogen fuel cells powered by methane, a byproduct of the wastewater treatment system.
But it also has all the dumb but effective stuff that Weber Thompson does so well, including natural ventilation and properly designed sun shading.
I have also never seen the combination of an earth tube with the stack effect, to deliver fresh air, cool in summer and warmed in winter, to a building this size.
Earth tubes draw in fresh air from the site and through indoor occupied spaces. User operability and proximity to light, air and vegetation throughout the building enhance resident comfort. A concrete wall along the north building’s corridor aids in the thermal stack effect and promotes efficiency through thermal inertia. The double glazing system on Ecolaboratory’s north and east facades gives superior insulation value and natural lighting to reduce heating and lighting loads, while intentional heat gain on the south and west faces activates the greenhouses and drive the stack-effect.
But they haven't missed the social aspects of green design:
The social aspects of Ecolaboratory, amidst a new sustainable economy, fasten together the ecological building systems. Ecolaboratory provides meals, hygiene, and shelter for the working poor and homeless. Grey water introduced via the water cycle is employed in bathing and laundry facilities. Produce harvested from hydroponics and an expanded P-Patch contributes to daily meals. A training center teaches residents about urban agriculture, Ecolaboratory’ssystems maintenance, food preparation, farmers’ market operations, and public outreach. For those dedicated to reintegration into society, longer-term housing comingles with market-rate housing (that sustains the complex financially). A public farmers’ market is integrated as a neighborhood amenity supplied by Ecolaboratory’s harvest. Long vistas to the sound and proximity to downtown make the market plaza a desired regional attraction, which increases the potential for sustainability education.
Preston at Jetson Green tells us who did it; I agree with his conclusion.
Eco-Laboratory was designed by Myer Harrell, LEED AP; landscape designer Dan Albert, LEED AP; and former Weber Thompson staff members Brian Geller, LEED AP (now Sustainability Specialist with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects); and Chris Dukehart.
Congratulations to the entire team for a fantastic and thoughtful design!