Featured Project: Blakey Hall

April 1, 2006
By Janet Wiens
New Facility Garners Green Recognition, Twice
Weber + Thompson’s design for Blakey Hall, Issaquah, WA, provides a wonderful example of sustainable design that resulted in two prestigious green certifications.

Judd Kirk, president of Port Blakely Communities, the developer of Issaquah Highlands (WA) is a man with vision. This vision has produced a community that offers a wonderful example of sustainability for other developers to follow. Blakely Hall, the development's new community center, showcases Kirk's commitment to the environment as well as the sustainable design talents of the Seattle-based architectural firm Weber + Thompson.

"The overall concept for Issaquah Highlands is 'Living Green,'" says Kirk. "Everything that we do seeks to respect the environment and to show that developing sustainable communities is possible today and not something that we can only aspire to in the future."

People would have been surprised if Blakely Hall wasn't designed from a sustainable perspective, according to Kirk. "This is a vital resource both for the purpose that it fulfills as a community center as well as for its educational value. From the beginning we designed the property with the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)® and the Green Building Initiative's (GBI) Green Globe™ system in mind."

The 7,000-sq.ft. Blakely Hall is located in the heart of the Issaquah Highlands across from a major park. Features include a demonstration kitchen and dining area, a multipurpose room, a central meeting space, meeting rooms, and offices for the development's marketing arm and the Issaquah Highlands Residential Association. Two exterior terraces—one off the multipurpose room and the other off the meeting rooms—enables the staff to expand the event space by using the terraces for gatherings when the weather is nice. More than 100 events are held at the center each month including parenting meetings, educational seminars, birthday parties, weddings, after-school programs, and club gatherings.

"This project had an interesting program," says Kristen Scott, AIA, principal with Weber + Thompson. "The design had to accommodate the needs of a wide range of users and had to be very flexible. The center also serves as a sustainable-design teaching tool, which greatly impacted what we did. In fact, there are signs throughout the center that provide information regarding its sustainable design features."

Scott says that Blakely Hall is warm and welcoming, and that it also has a strong civic presence and formal touches. Traditional Northwest architecture inspired the design team, which used grey, shingle siding, heavy timbers, sheltering roof overhangs, and extensive fenestration to create a striking facility.

A central 35-foot-tall vaulted corridor runs the length of the building and all rooms open off this feature. A living room is located on one side of the double-sided fireplace at the front end of the corridor. A secondary gathering room with a flat-screen TV on the other side of the fireplace provides a place for students to congregate after school.

The demonstration kitchen and dining room are also located near the front entrance, adjacent to the living room. A metal leaf sculpture above the dining room table was moved from the original community center to Blakely Hall.

The walls throughout the center were painted off-white with a hint of gold in order to meet daylighting criteria. Heavy wood timbers, harvested from the nearby Port Blakely Tree Farm, were used on the building's exterior and were also set into the walls at key locations to further emphasize the building's Northwest architecture.

The Weber + Thompson design team worked with a lab in Seattle to conduct daylighting studies of Blakely Hall early in the design process. Upper clerestory windows in the clock tower and other windows throughout the hall invoke a more residential feel and allow natural daylight to flood the interior. Natural light combines with fluorescent light, (which uses 45 percent less energy), pendant lights, and custom light fixtures to meet LEED® lighting requirements.

Flooring includes recycled carpet tiles in the central space and meeting rooms to allow for easy replacement if carpet becomes worn or damaged. The floor in the entry, dining room and kitchen is stained concrete.

As expected, environmental features are evident throughout the project. The combination of low-flow fixtures and toilets, waterless urinals, and water-wise landscaping helped reduce water usage by 42 percent over comparable facilities. The hall is naturally ventilated and features electronically controlled operable windows that provide good cross ventilation. A minimal HVAC system can be engaged when large meetings are held in the facility. The construction waste management program developed by the contractor, RAFN, helped divert more than 97 percent of project waste to uses other than landfill.

The USGBC awarded LEED® Silver certification to Blakely Hall, which is the second project in Issaquah Highlands to receive this certification. In 2003, the community's Fire Station 73 was also awarded LEED® Silver certification, which takes into account the complete environmental performance of a building. Blakely Hall was also awarded two Green Globes™ from the Green Building Initiative. Green Globes, which were originally developed and implemented in Canada, are the first Web-based, interactive green building design and assessment tools for new commercial construction in the United States.

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