Weber + Thompson’s New Headquarters is the First Modern Office Building Without Air Conditioning

April 1, 2008

Weber + Thompson’s new headquarters in SeattleOn April 4th, the architecture and planning firm of Weber + Thompson will move into its new headquarters, located at the intersection of Thomas Street and Terry Avenue in the South Lake Union neighborhood of downtown Seattle.

The firm sees its new headquarters as an emblem of its sustainable approach to architecture. The most innovative feature of the building is its passive cooling design; the building will not be air conditioned at all.

The 40,000 sq. ft. structure will be organized around a central courtyard. This will make for shallower interior floor plates — only 36 feet across — affording natural lighting and cross ventilation to all workstations. Operable windows will allow staff members to actively manage their environment, and carbon dioxide sensors attached to exterior wall louvres will help to regulate air quality.

Green-tinted glass shades (dubbed “sunglasses” by the architects) shield windows from heat gain on the east and west elevations, while still allowing light into the building. A heat-reflective coating is expected to further reduce interior temperatures. Hot water radiators will heat the building in the winter.

While in the design phase, thermal modeling was performed for the space. It was determined that, for a structure located on this particular site (and built without air conditioning), there could be 18 to 20 hours per year that the interior temperature will climb above 80 degrees. Weber + Thompson’s headquarters will be, in many ways, a ‘test case’ for passive cooling design, although not one which can be easily copied in less temperate climates.

Weber + Thompson has set up a blog to track the performance of the building, so it will be interesting to watch over the next couple of years and see whether the passive cooling strategies perform as planned, and what, if any, follow-up measures need to be taken.

Photo Credit: Weber + Thompson press release