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Federal Center South Building 1202

Federal Center South Building 1202 is a 209,000-square-foot office for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Northwest District. Located within the Federal Center South campus on the edge of downtown Seattle, the new regional headquarters redevelops 4.6 acres along the Duwamish Waterway. It is adjacent to the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant designed by Albert Kahn, on a brownfield site previously occupied by a non-historic warehouse.

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© Benjamin Benschneider

Funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Building 1202 was planned, programmed, and constructed in less than two and a half years. An early 2010 design competition commenced the design-build project, and the ensuing performance-based contract included a 0.5 percent incentive payment to verify energy efficiency a year into operation (which has since been met). Consequently, every major element of the completed building takes environmental performance into account. Because the building sits on sedimentatious soil, for example, its piles reach 160 feet below grade; these deep piles incorporate hydronic loops for geothermal heating and cooling.

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© Benjamin Benschneider

Coupling of strategies is particularly notable in Building 1202’s interior, which prioritizes employee well-being and workplace interaction alongside sustainability. The oxbow-shaped floor plate is 60 feet wide to maximize daylight penetration, and 50-inch-high cubicles guarantee individual workers’ access to sunshine and views. At the building’s heart, meanwhile, a dramatic atrium serves as a social center, daylight source, and exhaust vent for perimeter officers in equal measure. This community space is clad in timber salvaged from the previous warehouse, and accented by a water feature flowing with reclaimed rainfall.

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© Benjamin Benschneider

Design Features:

  • The project is one of the first in the region to use structural piles for geothermal heating and cooling and a phase change thermal storage tank. Two new products, chilled sails and open office lighting, were developed and manufactured specifically for this project to help achieve aggressive energy targets. To optimize the use of the available reclaimed timbers, the team designed, tested, and constructed the first wood/concrete composite floor system in the United States.
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© Benjamin Benschneider

  • As part of the project’s effort to reuse existing materials, the design-build team reclaimed approximately 200,000 board feet of structural timber and 100,000 board feet of decking from the decommissioned non-historic WWII warehouse on the site (the previous 1202 Building). Using a phased demolition process, wood components were individually harvested from the warehouse. The team pulled nails, unfastened bolts, removed brackets and devices, trimmed out fractures, and sorted the wood before it was shipped to a local mill for structural grading and fabrication for use in the new building. To optimize the use of the available size of the salvaged old growth lumber, the engineer suggested the use of composite design for the floor system. Since this was the first time this type of design was used in the U.S., the team built a mockup in the adjacent warehouse to test structural integrity of the proposed composite timber/concrete system.
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© Benjamin Benschneider

  • The atrium and centralized commons pool conference rooms and other specialized and shared functions into the center of the building. Through sharing, the number of meeting rooms for the headquarters’ 19 departments was reduced, while promoting connection and collaboration through more encounters among staff in this dynamic space.
  • The central atrium “commons” forms the social heart of the building and houses all shared resources, including conference rooms, kitchenettes, the library and informal seating areas to encourage interaction and create a sense of community.
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© Benjamin Benschneider

  • The building’s diagrid structure angles outward at one end of the oxbow where a conference room has sweeping views of the Duwamish Waterway. Information on local waterways and locational data are implemented as graphic devices to tie the building to its location. The building’s four quadrants are named for the four tributaries that formed the historic Duwamish River watershed—the White River, Green River, Black River and Cedar River
  • A system of stairs and bridges connects the commons to perimeter work spaces, which overlook the area. Timber reclaimed from the previous non-historic 1202 warehouse on the site is a focal point of the commons.
  • The building is clad in stainless steel shingles that reflect varying light from shingle to shingle. Vertical and horizontal sun-shading elements contribute detail and texture to the façade.
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© Benjamin Benschneider

Sustainable features include:

  • 90% of the building is naturally daylit through optimization of floor depth and facade
  • 100% outside air is filtered and distributed via underfloor ventilation
  • 300,000 board feet of reclaimed timber reused from an existing warehouse on site
  • 50% reduction of impervious surfaces, creating 4.6 acres of pervious landscape
  • 25,000 gallon cistern stores rainwater from the rooftop for use in toilet flushing, irrigation, etc.
  • 100% of storm water managed on site, eliminating the need to connect to the over-taxed City storm water system

Green Certification: Targeting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and will meet the requirements of the 2030 Challenge.

Federal-Center-South-Building-1202-By-ZGF-Architects-LLP-25-Lara-Swimmer-759x506 Federal Center South Building 1202 / ZGF Architects LLP

© Lara Swimmer

Jury Comments/AIA Top Ten Green Projects Awards:

  • Synthetically it brought a lot of dimensions together. It gathered the massing into a singular gesture which worked well on the site. It subjugates itself to a design idea about community. It had an intriguing structure of composite, concrete and timber, with each material, each component, working the best way that it can.
  • The contrast between a very sleek exterior and more of a warm interior was intriguing. It’s for the Army Corps Engineers and it feels like an appropriate home for them in that sense. It is muscular and humane at the same time. It’s really a beautiful work place.
  • It had a relatively modest budget compared to other commercial office buildings in the NW and for that to produce a building of this quality is quite commendable. It also had an interest in innovation. One was a phase-change material as part of their energy management system and another in a composite wood floor that they describe as being the first application in North America of that particular material. Just shows a sense of creativity and exploration and discovery which I think is of note.
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© Benjamin Benschneider

ZGF Architects LLP:

The Federal Center South 1202 building is a 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funded project and part of the U.S. General Services administration’s (GSa) design excellence program. With reuse part of the directive, the new 1202 building transforms a brownfield industrial warehouse site into a 21st century workplace for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Seattle District headquarters.

As a Design-Build team Sellen Construction and ZGF Architects LLP developed an integrated design and construction solution that balances programmatic, functional, and aesthetic objectives to set a new standard for high-performance, cost-effective and sustainable workplace environments. It is on-track to exceed the ARRA-set high-performance building requirements.

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© Benjamin Benschneider

The design solution— ‘the Oxbow’—respects the historic context of the site, including the natural oxbows past and present that characterize the Duwamish Waterway and adjacent historic warehouse designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn. Siting, orientation, building form and massing, material selection, and construction are structured to provide the most ideal workplace environment for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and to breathe new life into the historic campus.

The 1202 building expresses the distinct identity of the USACE and is in keeping with their mission of “Building Strong.” The high-performance interior environment promotes user health and productivity. The U-shaped configuration with all shared services clustered around a central atrium provides the ideal collaborative workplace environment and the greatest flexibility to expand and contract around the needs of each user group.

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© Benjamin Benschneider

The 1202 building is anticipated to be in the top one percent of U.S. buildings for energy performance and become the region’s most energy-efficient air conditioned building. The innovative use of Phase Change Material (PCM) provides significant energy savings, and the project is one of the first in the region to combine the use of geothermal heating and cooling systems with structural piles.

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© Benjamin Benschneider


Project Data:

Project name: Federal Center South Building 1202
Location: 4735 E Marginal Way S, Seattle, Washington 98134, United States
Coordinates: 47.559764, -122.342621
Type: Office Building, Office Interior
Principal Use:: Workplace for U.S. Army, Corps of Engineers / Includes Server rooms, small gym
Employees/Occupants: 530
Expected (Design) Occupancy: 736 / Percent Occupied 72%

  • Gross: 209,000 sq.ft
  • 180,000 sq.ft of office and conference space

Construction Start: July 2010
Status: Completed
Cost: $72 million – $270 / sq.ft building only (excluding site work and warehouse demolition)
Completion Year: October 2012


  • 2016 – American Architecture Prize – Category: Architectural Design / Green architecture – Bronze award
  • 2014 – WAN Awards – WAN Interior Awards – Category: Workspace interiors – Winner
  • 2014 – GSA Design Awards – Citation: Interiors
  • 2014 – U.S. Wood Design Award – Category: Commercial Wood Design – Honor Award
  • 2013 – The American Institute of Architect (AIA Awards) – AIA Top Ten Green Projects Awards
  • 2013 – Design-Build Project Awards – National Design-Build Award – Category: Office Buildings – Winner
  • 2013 – National Council of Structural Engineers Associations (NCSEA) Awards – NCSEA Excellence in Structural Engineering Awards – Category: New Buildings $30M to $100M – Winner
  • 2013 – Society for Environment Graphic Design (SEGD) Awards – SEGD Global Design Awards – Honor Award
  • 2013 – National Institute of Building Sciences Awards – Beyond Green Awards – Category: High-Performance Buildings – Honor Award – First Place

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: U.S. General Services Administration
Architects: ZGF Architects LLP – 1223 SW Washington Street, Suite 200, Portland, Oregon 97205, United States
Project Architect: Allyn Stellmacher/ZGF Architects LLP
Project Team:

  • Technical Architect/Project Manager: Todd Stine
  • Design Project Manager: Jack Avery/Sellen Construction
  • Project Manager: Rick Thomas/U.S. General Services Administration
  • Project Executive: Wilf Wainhouse/Sellen Construction Company
  • Project Executive: Brad Hayes/Sellen Construction Company
  • Construction Project Manager: Jim Kesl/Sellen Construction Company
  • Partner, Project Executive: Robert Zimmerman ZGF Architects LLP
  • Principal, Designer: Dan Simpson/ZGF Architects LLP
  • Structural Engineer: Jason Black/KPFF Consulting Engineers
  • Civil Engineer: Mark Veldee/KPFF Consulting Engineers
  • Mechanical Engineer: Tom Marseille/WSP Flack + Kurtz/University Mechanical
  • High-performance Building Specialst: Andrew Corney/Built Ecology
  • Lighting Designer: Melanie Taylor/WSP Flack + Kurtz
  • Telecommunications Manager: Herbert Els/WSP Flack + Kurtz
  • Electrical Contractor: Mahmood Ghassemi/Lane Coburn & Associates, LLC / Sequoyah Electric, LLC
  • Landscape Architect: Mark Brands/SiteWorkshop
  • Graphic Designer: Billy Chen/StudioSC
  • Elevator Consultant: Steve Mikkelsen/Lerch Bates
  • Acoustical Engineer: Julie Wiebusch/The Greenbusch Group
  • Code Consultant: John Gunderson/Rolf Jensen & Associates
  • Fire Protection Engineer: Eric Tuazon/Tuazon Engineering
  • Geotechnical Engineer: David Winter/Hart Crowser & Associates, Inc.

Text Description: © Courtesy of ZGF Architects LLP, GSA Design Awards, hpbmagazine, U.S. General Services Administration
Images: © ZGF Architects LLP, Benjamin Benschneider, Lara Swimmer


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