Human Spaces

Spaces designed with the human in mind

Powered by: Biophilic design hub powered by Interface

Case studies

Federal Center South

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

Federal Center South Building

Andrew Buchanan

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

We interviewed ZGF Architects about their fantastic Biophilic design of Federal Center South Building 1202 headquarters for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in Seattle. Here’s what they had to say about the project and their approach:

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

Biophilic design has been integrated into ZGF’s design ethos for decades, starting in healthcare where it was recognized that natural elements aid in the healing process for patients, visitors, and caregivers. Over time, ZGF and the design industry as a whole have recognized the explicit value of biophilia in all building types. Some of our clients have explicitly requested  “biophilic” design elements, but virtually all clients recognize the value of natural elements such as daylight, views to the outdoors and other elements that connect the indoors and outdoors as well as providing cues from the natural world. That said, for some of our projects, there are real limits to how far this strategy can go and a balance must be met between programmatic concerns and the provisions of biophilic design elements for the well-being of the occupant.

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

The design brief for Federal Center South Building 1202 listed 37 specific sustainable design requirements; however, there were opportunities for adaptation. In many ways, we greatly exceeded the requirements, such as achieving LEED Platinum Certification.

There were a number of things driving the incorporation of biophilic design. The building is situated on the banks of the Duwamish River, the central waterway of south Seattle which has suffered for a hundred-year legacy of industrial pollution. Air quality concerns, combined with federal anti-terrorism requirements, led the building design to require less physical connection to the outdoors than we would have ideally included and therefore drove the inclusion of biophilic design elements to the interior.  The central atrium space known as the “commons” brings the outdoors in, as well as reflecting the work of the USACE, restoring the natural habitat of our rivers.

The optimal building form was found to be a U shaped “oxbow” design solution which provides the greatest flexibility for work groups to expand and contract as needed, and allowed for the inclusion of a number of biophilic design elements. The interior environment is bathed in natural daylight through skylights which animate the atrium, bringing in light from both sides of the floor plate and giving almost every work space access to daylight. We recognize that daylight, views to the outdoors, and the use of natural materials and plants not only create a beautiful space, but they can increase the effectiveness of a workspace, in terms of employee wellness, productivity, recruitment, and retention, all of which have important economic benefits to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Federal Center South Building

Benjamin Benschneider

Fortuitously the existing 1920s warehouse that previously stood on the site was constructed of old-growth heavy timber. Approximately 200,000 board feet of salvageable structural timber and 100,000 board feet of decking was reclaimed to form the building’s foundation, structural system and the interior cladding of the commons.

The overall organization of the building has been extremely successful in terms of creating a high-performance workplace. According to Olton Swanson, Deputy District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, “This is an absolute phenomenal facility. What I like best about the building is the openness and seeing people kind of on a professional level and a personal level. Spending time interacting, you don’t have to seek each other out. Just the act of walking from one office to another, you are interacting with lots of folks.” The commons centralizes conference rooms and other shared amenities encouraging interaction among USACE’s departments as well as a more efficient use of resources. The commons has also helped to achieve the project’s energy goals, both in enabling a compact form that decreases excessive solar gain and reduces envelope area, but also in integrating passive features that reduce energy consumption.

Overall Federal Center South Building 1202 is seen as a model to be followed, both in process and outcome. While design solutions should not be replicated in part and parcel, certain qualities of the project, such as access to daylight, creating spaces that provide a sense of community, incorporating a material palette rich in natural materials as well as including nature within the built space are all biophilic elements that will translate positively into other schemes .