Diving into Details. How Microscopic Can Make All the Difference!

We’re rounding up a few of our projects’ most exceptional details and unique items. Similar to our blog’s “Features We Love” series, we’re highlighting standout elements from three projects: WWU Kaiser Borsari Hall, Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance, and Puesta Del Sol Elementary School. Distinctly unique from one another, they’re united in having defining details that make them special, and proving that even the microscopic matters.

WWU Kaiser Borsari Hall

The new Kaiser Borsari Hall will support the expansion of Western Washington University’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science programs. The project is anchored by WWU’s unwavering commitment to sustainability. The WWU team was an advocate for mass timber from the project’s onset, and together with Mortenson, Perkins&Will, and the full project team, their vision is coming to life in an impressive tribute to sustainability and forward-thinking design. It’s a testament to what a clear vision can achieve.

THE DETAIL: A custom column splice. The 4-story facility utilizes cross-laminated timber (CLT) floor and roof panels supported by glulam timber columns and beams, all supplied by Kalesnikoff. The column splice, or the connection of one mass timber column to another, was invented specifically for this project.

This unique connection system has many benefits. It allows for a completely hidden connection once the floor is in place, and utilizes glued-in rods, an emerging mass timber connection type in the United States. Notches in the corners of the column were detailed to allow for easy field access to the rods. Benefits extend to installation too, as the splice system expedites field installation – the fasteners are pre-installed in the factory, and the installer only needs to set the column and install nuts.

We recently visited the Kalesnikoff Mill and Mass Timber Plant. There, we were able to see the project’s columns, beams, and panels in production. It was amazing to witness the customization of each piece, every notch, every cut, such precision! As structural engineers, we are the ones who work most closely with the lumber manufacturer during the design phase. Together, it’s our job to get the details right. During our visit, the pieces were slotted for final touches and finish work, and it was so cool to see them up close.

We were captivated by the scale – raw lumber coming in the door, plunging down a huge conveyer belt, and being processed by computer-controlled saws. But even more impressive was understanding the amount of sophistication that goes into the process. For example, every single log is scanned and analyzed to optimize the cuts. This analysis evaluates each log’s characteristics, then determines which cuts make the most sense. It’s an impressively speedy, and very sophisticated, process that was an eye opener to us. Overall, it maximizes use and minimizes waste. Even the byproducts are used as much as possible.

CURRENT STATUS: Timber framing is substantially complete and the project topped out earlier this month. It’s been exciting to see the careful planning come together, and to see WWU’s vision come to life. As part of the goals for the project, the university will be pursuing zero carbon and zero energy certifications under the International Living Future Institute.

Project Team: Owner: Western Washington University / Architect: Perkins&Will / General Contractor: Mortenson Construction / Landscape Architect: Berger Partnership / Mechanical & Plumbing: Affiliated Engineers NW / Electrical Engineer & IT/Telecommunications Consultant: Hargis Engineers / Civil Engineer: KPFF Consulting Engineers

Renderings courtesy of Perkins&Will.

Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance

The Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance will be the first practice and training facility built exclusively for a women’s professional athletic team. This facility is a groundbreaking achievement and a significant milestone for women’s sports in America. As the first of its kind for any professional women’s sport, it not only provides world-class training and resources for the Seattle Storm but also serves as a symbol of progress and inclusivity in sports.

THE DETAIL: Because the City of Seattle requires all stormwater manhole cover lids to display the word “storm,” we worked with our team to design one-of-a-kind manhole covers that say “Seattle Storm.” Installed along the baseline of the outdoor court area, it’s such a fun detail that the entire team is really excited about.

Our team worked with ZGF Architects and Walker Macy to meet the specific grading requirements that basketball courts require, while simultaneously keeping the courts clear of as many manhole covers as possible. However, since our detention system is located under the parking lot, we were required to provide maintenance access. For the manhole covers that we couldn’t avoid, they feature a fun element of surprise and pride.

Another amazing project detail: the design and construction team is primarily female! A true rarity for an AEC design team, this group consisted of 85% females. The team members who worked on it cite it as one of the best collaborative environments of their careers.

CURRENT STATUS: November and December will see excavation work, demo and concrete pours. Full construction updates can be found on Sellen’s website.

Project Team: Owner: Force 10 Enterprises LLC. / Owner’s Representative: barrientos RYAN / Architect: ZGF Architects & Shive-Hattery Architects / Civil Engineer: Coughlin Porter Lundeen / General Contractor: Sellen Construction / Structural Engineer: Holmes Group / Landscape Architect: Walker Macy / MEP Engineer: PAE Consulting Engineers / Lighting Designer: Rushing Co. /  Aquatics Consultant: Counsilman-Hunsaker

Renderings designed by ZGF and Shive Hattery, built by Sellen Construction.

Puesta Del Sol Elementary School

Puesta Del Sol Elementary gives a 34-year-old Spanish Immersion Choice School a new centrally-located home in the Bellevue School District. The district’s program supports 650 immersion students, and strives to create an “excellent learning environment for all students and immerses them in Spanish language and cultures.”

THE DETAIL: Well, this overachiever gets two! First, the new school celebrates Spanish-speaking culture through design and intentional, inclusive elements. And second, the facility achieved status as the first net zero energy school in Washington state thanks to ambitious sustainability measures.

Designs took seriously the district’s vision to create an immersive environment that celebrated Spanish culture. Visitors of the school are welcomed via a two-story, multi-use space (Teatro del Sol), and a covered learning and community space (Plaza del Sol) outside the soaring atrium that leads to the community garden, outdoor learning areas, and an outdoor amphitheater. Small learning spaces incorporate cultures of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries of the world through icons, displays, and recurring use of materials and colors. The academic area is divided into three distinct small learning communities. These feature unique entry portals celebrating the 21 countries through “Las Ventanas del Mundo Hispano” (Windows to the Spanish World) as an introduction to everyday learning experiences.

The school building is the first net zero energy school in Washington state, thanks to a super-efficient building envelope, deep geothermal heating and cooling wells, and large solar array covering the majority of the building roof. Achieving net-zero energy performance is a huge accomplishment for the district.

Our structural team also worked closely with Sierra-Martin Architects to fully realize the creative vision for this educational building with sharp angles and massing complexities that required unique steel-framed solutions. For example, accommodating tree-like forms of exposed steel along with differently angled radial beams in the atrium required refined coordination and design. Multiple materials and colors, sloping roofs, and roof overhangs unite to create a distinctive exterior that required a higher level of detailing and support to realize the architect’s vision.

Current Status: The school opened its doors to students and educators this Spring!

Project Team: Owner: Bellevue School District / Architect: Sierra-Martin Architects / General Contractor: SpeeWest Construction / Landscape Designer: Fora Landscape Architects / Mechanical Engineer: Metric Engineering / Electrical Engineer: Wood Harbinger / Civil Engineer: LPD Engineering PLLC

Images © 2023 Benjamin Benschneider All Rights Reserved.