Fifth & Columbia Tower: Leading Sustainability Into the Future

In deciding to move forward with ambitious plans to build a 43-story iconic tower as part of the master plan to save the century old First United Methodist Church ("FUMC") sanctuary building, Daniels Real Estate made a bold commitment to the region and the city. This commitment by the development team, however, is much more than merely a real estate decision. From design through construction, furnishing and occupancy, the development team has committed itself to producing the most environmentally friendly or "green" high rise tower in Seattle's history while constructing a build of the highest quality that will endure for the next century.

In 2002 the FUMC congregation completed their planning work for a smaller tower on the site that required the demolition of the historic sanctuary building, and received a Demolition Permit from the City of Seattle. In agreeing to purchase the property from the church, the developers have committed to saving the sanctuary and have developed a Master Plan for the property that allowed for both the new office tower and the preservation and re-use of the historic sanctuary landmark building. The process was difficult as the remaining land area on the site was not large enough to justify the necessary floor plate sizes the market required. In order to address this issue the designers were asked to find a way to economically cantilever the floors over the sanctuary building, and the neighbor to the east, the Rainier Club; but to do it in such a way as to protect the visual context of the historic landmarks yet achieve an appropriate market size for each floor plate.

So the first task in designing any truly "green" building should always be the re-use of the existing structures and/or materials. The design team used all of the materials on-site that result from the demolition of the former administrative building. And, of course, the preservation of the landmark sanctuary building is the highest priority as is the greenest building is always the one that exists today.

When the tower is complete in 2016, it will be one of the first high rise office building in Seattle to earn a Gold Rating under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) by the U.S. Green Building Council, which is recognized as the nation's leading authority on environmentally sensitive design and construction.

This is a significant design achievement and the development team is pleased to be setting a higher standard for future buildings in Seattle, and establishing a road map for others to follow. Our architectural firm has extensive experience with LEEDS certified new office buildings.

For the City of Seattle, the benefits from the design include significant reductions in pollution, advanced water retention programs, and increased conservation of the City's vital resources, including the landmarked structures on the property, as well as reductions of water and electricity.

For the tower's future tenants, it means a healthier, more inviting and more productive working environment and happier employees.

The environmentally conscious approach began immediately upon the control of the property. When contemplating demolishing the existing, three-story administration structure, the developer and its team of building professionals went to great lengths to collect and separate recyclable materials. As a result, almost 100% percent of the original structure was recycled.

Working with the architectural firm, ZGF, the developer settled upon an innovative "faceted" system that creates a series of "out of plane" triangles on the façade. Vertical steel beams are being used to accent the design and embrace the structural components necessary for the cantilevered approach, which is a first for Seattle. In addition to giving the tower a bold architectural distinctiveness, it is providing the developer with superior structural efficiency. As a result, the developer eliminated the need for approximately 2,000 tons of steel, a 20 percent savings over a typical office building.

The design team also selected an innovative type of glass that wraps around the exterior of the building. The glass has a special "low-E" coating that allows for internal spaces to be flooded with natural light while keeping out the invisible solar radiation that causes heat. It also allows for more transparency and less mirrored effect and is a great compliment to the darker, brooding buildings nearby.

In conjunction with the glass, the developer is installing light sensors that will control the amount of artificial light on each floor based on the amount of natural light available at any given time. The optimization of natural light has been demonstrated in recent studies to have important, positive effects on occupant health, quality of life and productivity, as well as lower the cost of operations within the building.

The developer will also utilize advanced technology that senses activity level. At lunchtime, when some employees are leaving or not using their computers, motion sensors will detect this and adjust the system accordingly. These sensors will allow for lights and computers to be turned off automatically when a room is vacant after a short period of time. Nearly 20% of current electrical use in office buildings is wasted when electronic equipment is not in use.

In addition, the tower is using high efficiency heating and air-conditioning equipment that will utilize outside air for cooling and ventilation for nearly 90 percent of the year, as well as Energy Star appliances. These and other energy-saving features are expected to increase energy efficiency by 30 percent compared to a standard office building.

The office tower is also employing pioneering technologies in order to conserve and more efficiently use water. For example, the roof has been designed to collect rainwater, which will reduce the amount of rainwater dumped into the City's sewer system entirely. The rainwater will then be harvested in one 14,000-gallon reclamation tank located in the basement of the office tower. The rainwater will be used to replace water lost to evaporation in the office air-conditioning system. It also will be fed into a special pumping system to irrigate plantings and trees inside and outside of the building, including the "living wall" on the south face. It is expected that the captured rain will produce all of the watering needs for the building.

The harvested water also will be utilized for a sculpted water feature adjacent to the historic sanctuary and next to the building's grand atrium. In addition to serving as a stunning entrance to the building, it will also serve an environmental function by serving to humidify and chill the exterior atrium lobby as necessary.

The development team's focus on sustainability does not stop after construction and installation of building systems. In fact, the developer made a conscious choice at the outset of the tower project to make environmental considerations a major factor in every single decision, including the interior spaces.

While the tower was designed to include as few internal walls as possible in order to maximize natural light, the walls that do exist will be coated with low vapor paints. Workstations and offices will be furnished with desks, chairs and other furniture that is formaldehyde free. Concrete surfaces will be furnished with low toxicity sealants.

In a nod to ecological conservation, the floors beneath and the ceiling tiles above will be manufactured with recycled content.

Daniels Real Estate has long been an integral part of Seattle's development scene and a vital contributor to the metropolitan's unquenchable passion for boldness and innovation. With its emphasis on architectural distinction, modern technology, historic preservation, and sustainable design, the new tower at Fifth & Columbia will further the developer's tradition of solving what seems like insurmountable problems and preserving key elements of the city's great historical fabric.