Fostering Community: Building Collaboratively
Situated in the heart of the University of Washington's gothic campus, the brand new 132,000 square-foot Foster School of Business Paccar Hall sits next to the UW's oldest building. Ten years in the planning process with another two years of construction, the $95M, privately-funded facility is the crown jewel of the business school and a gathering place for students, faculty and visitors. Emphasizing the building's focus on “interconnectedness," the heavily-glazed five-story building includes terraces overlooking the quad, a café, a 250-seat auditorium, administrative offices and dozens of classrooms. The interior prominently features FSC-certified vertical grain Douglas Fir linear wood panels in the four-story atrium. Many challenges from design through installation were overcome in order to furnish the matching wood ceiling and wall panels.
Paccar Hall, expecting LEED Gold status, is heavily daylit. Because 45% of the building's surfaces are glass, wood offers a warm high-end finish to balance the glazing. Douglas Fir has strong ties to the region's heritage and it was important to have the members extra thick and wide to match the grandeur and scale of the space. To accomplish this, custom modules were developed: 5/8" x 1-3/4" for the ceiling and a heftier 1-3/8" x 1-3/4" for the walls. Through a series of design samples, the 9Wood sales team worked with our local rep, Jerald Schwarz of Schwarz & Associates, to present appropriate species to the Seattle-based LMN Architects. Because the wood extended beyond the interior atrium and into the exterior soffits, it was critical that the species met specific criteria. First, per the LEED requirements: the wood had to be harvested from FSC-certified forests within 500 miles of the campus. In addition, it had to maintain structural integrity and architectural aesthetics even with exposure to the elements. This required us to dig deep within our supply chain.
After thorough research and subsequent samples, FSC-certified vertical grain Douglas Fir was selected. The break-through was when we were able to source this wood from a Native American reservation in Northern California, an FSC-certified landowner. This location met the 500-mile requirement just barely. “It was 462 miles to be exact," recounted Schwarz. “I remember the number because they wouldn't believe me at first!"
It turned out that the Paccar Hall project was the very first FSC-certified Douglas Fir project for 9Wood, and likely a first in the suspended wood ceiling industry. Once the species and module had been selected, the focus was turned to the challenges during installation of the 40-foot tall interior and exterior ceilings and custom-mitered walls.
The ceiling posed some real challenges. First, the 12-foot long ceiling panels ran end to end for 250 feet and had to be aligned nearly perfectly. From the fourth-story walkways, the close-up sightline would reveal any misalignment along the long run. Absolute precision was required of the installing contractor's crew as they moved from bay to bay. The panels weighed about 40 pounds each and had to be raised in a scissor lift both for the interior and exterior. There was little room for recourse once a panel was installed because of the extreme coordination required to maneuver the scissor lift around other trades.
The custom wall panels were located along the first level and required floating, factory-cut mitered corners to allow for backlighting. 9Wood project manager Leo Batenhorst worked with the installer to develop corners that would allow factory-cut precision with a field-install friendly approach. These corners would have to stand the test of minor impact by passers-by and rowdy undergrads. We worked closely with the installer as a wall-specific set of shop drawings were generated (in addition to the ceilings) to assure that every detail was thought through.
The installation was completed in Spring, 2010 and the building had the official grand-opening in November, 2010. David Schneider with LMN summarized the final installed product by saying: “The Paccar Hall building interior is a warm and rich environment because of the combination of finishes, especially the wood wall and ceiling panels and their textural relationship with the brick, metal and glass in the space. The warmth of the wood helps punctuate the individual spaces, especially when the sun filters into the building. It is quite striking." Paccar Hall is certainly set to be a campus center for decades to come.