The Terry Thomas Office Building

File Type: Free Content, Case study
Release Date: January 2010
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Terry Thomas office building

Fast Facts

Address: 225 Terry Avenue N., Seattle, Wash.
Company/Developer: First Western Development Services
Project Specs: Build to Suit - The building was designed by the architectural firm that is the main tenant.
Project Type: Office Building
Square Feet: 69,900

Project History: The Terry Thomas building is a highly sustainable, commercial building located in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. Wrapped in windows, it is a building designed along a modern aesthetic with a combination of time-tested strategies from the pre-HVAC era and complimentary new technologies. It is Seattle's first commercial office structure to be developed without a central air conditioning system in decades and is a working demonstration of the possibilities of sustainable design.

Commitment to Sustainability

The design choices made for this building reflect changing attitudes about the environment, climate change and employee well-being. The project reduces its carbon footprint with no air conditioning, reduced lighting, a feature staircase that encourages use, and a single elevator.

The Terry Thomas building is a working example of what can be accomplished by dedicating the project team to a strong sustainable goal and using both old and new technology to achieve it. The project has achieved a LEED Gold certification.

Green Features

Economic Analysis

  • A main goal of the design of The Terry Thomas building is to reduce its energy use by 30 percent from that of a typical office building with conventional air conditioning.
  • Lighting strategies allow a reduction in wattage per square foot to 35 percent below the baseline of one watt per square foot.
  • Low-flow fixtures, dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals are anticipated to save approximately 50 percent water during everyday operation as compared to a typical office building.
  • Rafn Company recycled 93 percent of materials during demolition and 94 percent of the construction waste.
  • Commissioned heating and electrical will ensure that all these systems are working as efficiently as designed.
Terry Thomas office building ground view

Site Sustainability/Materials Use

  • The project is purposefully located near transit and a future pedestrian corridor, building on civic amenities and encouraging employees to get out of their cars and walk, cycle or bus.
  • Building materials include recycled steel, aluminum and fly ash.
  • Interior finish materials are formaldehyde free and low VOC.
  • The windows and storefront are locally manufactured, as is the metal exterior cladding.
  • Lobby interior and exterior stair walls feature Ipe wood cladding.
  • The exposed structure of the interiors minimizes the use of additional finish materials. The design team integrated castellated steel beams to efficiently span column free spaces and allow for natural air circulation.
  • The former building - a 1920's vintage light industrial warehouse - was used as a practice space for one of Seattle's defining bands, Pearl Jam. Most of the existing, two-story building was salvaged for any reusable building materials and components, especially the existing brick and heavy timber (a few bricks were squirreled away by adoring grunge fans).

Energy Efficiency

  • The most significant feature, operable windows, was requested by the main tenant's staff.
  • Exterior shading devices protect occupants from significant solar heat gains.
  • A reflective roof keeps the upper floors cool while reducing the urban heat island effect.
  • Exterior automated blinds are installed on specific windows that modeling predicted would receive the most sun. These "smart blinds" automatically adjust depending on the sunlight levels and orientation.  A wind sensor causes the blinds to retract into their housings when the wind exceeds 40 mph.
  • On the roof, sensors with hemi-spherical lens acts as photocells, monitoring the intensity of lights.
  • Interior controllers on the ceiling are programmed based on the blinds' orientation towards the sun, building latitude and an astronomical clock that tracks the seasons.
  • The designers increased thermal insulation.
  • Heating is provided by highly efficient hydronic radiators placed along exterior walls; this allows for individual temperature control.
  • Shallow floor plate depths and high ceilings allow natural light to penetrate the interior of the offices from both the exterior of the building and the core open-air courtyard.
  • Daylighting models were tested at the Integrated Design Lab to ensure even lighting without glare to users working on computers.
  • Within the bulk of the building, daylight sensors are on all lighting within 15 feet of the windows.
  • Energy Star equipment is provided to reduce the plug load.
  • Photoelectric eyes measure the amount of sun coming into the space and increase or decrease the fluorescent lighting to balance the light levels in the office.
  • Occupancy/motion sensors turn lights on and off in conference spaces, and the lights are programmed to turn off automatically at night and on weekends.
  • Only one elevator (energy efficient) was integrated into the building. Use of the stairs by employees is encouraged by a prominent and accessible outdoor staircase in the courtyard, while the elevator is located towards the back of the building.
Terry Thomas office interior

Water Efficiency

  • A storm water drainage system was designed to detain runoff into an onsite tank, then slowly release it to the city storm water system.
  • Low-flow fixtures, dual-flush toilets and waterless urinals are anticipated to save approximately 50 percent water during everyday operation as compared to a typical office building.


  • Passive cooling is achieved through several design strategies working in concert to enhance ventilation and reduce solar gain.
  • Eliminating a traditional HVAC system contributes significantly to energy savings through both its ongoing operation and during initial construction.
  • The central court acts as a chimney, drawing the warmer air across the floors and up through the courtyard.
  • Every exterior façade is treated differently, according to its micro-climate and sun exposure.