Seattle Office Building Engages Tenants to Reduce Energy Use

Summer 2014
The Terry Thomas uses a passive cooling system that features operable windows and automated louvers to draw air through workspaces in warm summer months. Gabe Hansen

The Terry Thomas, a LEED Gold certified office building located in South Lake Union, Seattle, is celebrating its sixth birthday this year by engaging the building’s tenants in an attempt to decrease its energy use 17 percent by 2015. Since its completion in April 2008, the four-story, 40,000-square-foot building has used about 50 percent less energy than a comparable Class A office building, and the new engagement will build upon that already impressive accomplishment.

Designed by Seattle architecture firm Weber Thompson, the Terry Thomas was the city’s first major office building in decades to be developed without air conditioning. The structure, which is shaped like a square doughnut, uses a passive cooling system that features operable windows, automated louvers and a courtyard that helps draw air through workspaces in warm summer months. The building is certified LEED Gold Core & Shell, and contains Weber Thompson’s 10,000-square-foot office, which is certified LEED Platinum for Commercial Interiors. Other tenants include B+H Architects, Ignition Capital, Innovative Dentistry and Weber Marketing Group.

Recognizing that ongoing improvements in energy efficiency can occur only when tenants are engaged in a building’s energy conservation goals, Weber Thompson and the building’s management company, Stephen C. Grey and Associates, have spearheaded the new effort. Their goal is to track energy use and involve tenants in further reducing energy use.

sign in Terry Tower lobby

Environmental graphics in the lobby and stairwell encourage tenants to use the stairs rather than the elevators and present energy tracking information. Erin Schiedler/Weber Thompson

In February 2014, the team installed environmental graphics and wayfinding signage that communicate energy performance data and encourage occupants to use internal stairs rather than the elevator. Tenants using the stairwell now see information about overall building energy use, definitions of key terms and metrics, and information about how their efforts are making a difference. The ground-level stairwell wall presents an overview of energy tracking and how it is used in the building. It includes a large chart with data compiled from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Portfolio on a quarterly basis from 2010 to 2013, which includes space for tracking both energy use and goals in future years.

Each landing offers information about how much energy is saved or calories burned by using the stairs, translated into easily understandable terms (i.e., how long the energy saved can charge an iPhone or illuminate a lightbulb). The initial reaction has been positive, with many tenants commenting that they hadn’t realized there were stairs behind the elevator before the new signage was installed. Building managers plan to continue to add additional graphic elements, and will survey tenants and hold information sessions to gather feedback so that they can continue to improve the system. They also plan to install similar signage and graphics in several other buildings that they manage, to help lower energy use and utility bills there.