One of a handful of buildings enrolled in Seattle’s Living Building Pilot program, Watershed is an agent of change.
A glass cube on a grounded base, a large overhanging roof, lushly planted bioswales stepping down a hillside—these design decisions support a regenerative project in Seattle between the iconic Fremont Troll and Lake Union.
The stepped bioswales filter polluted stormwater from the historic highway bridge overhead. Each year they clean 400,000 gallons of highly polluted runoff before it runs into Lake Union, a major salmon migration route and habitat for thirteen endangered species. Terraced open spaces, educational signs, and interactive art pieces lead visitors through the water story.
The project is pursuing the Living Building Challenge Materials Petal. All construction materials were vetted to avoid toxic chemicals and encourage manufacturer transparency, while reducing embodied carbon and supporting the regional economy through local sourcing. A modest palette achieves this requirement while connecting to its Pacific Northwest location.
The building features self-tinting electrochromic glass, reducing solar heat gain and glare while maintaining daylighting and views. This contributes to an energy target of 34 EUI (kBtu/sf/year), 25% lower than the stringent Seattle code requirement.
The dramatic shed roof captures 200,000 gallons of rainwater annually for reuse and provides habitat for four beehives. The cedar soffit draws the eye and highlights the regional connection to the northwest timber industry. Expressive steel channels funnel rainwater down a sculptural waterfall to a subgrade cistern for reuse.
In a world devastated by the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change, many wonder about the future of commercial office buildings. Living Buildings like Watershed provide a possible answer. The impact of this class A building goes far beyond the tenants; it shows how new construction can reach beyond its site and contribute to the environmental health of a community.