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green@work : Magazine : Back Issues : Mar/Apr 2002 : What Makes It Green : The Right Choice for City Hall


What Make's It Green?
The Right Choice for City Hall

Bainbridge Island, WA, is a bedroom community of Seattle located across Elliot Bay to the west. Surrounded by water and covered in verdant growth, the island mentality supports conservation. Thus, green design was the only appropriate choice for the island’s new city hall.

Completed in the spring of 2000, the 24,000-square-foot, two-story building is located in Bainbridge Island’s downtown district. The new building combines five previously dispersed city departments into one more efficient location, thereby reducing traffic across the island. In addition, pedestrian access is encouraged through the location of the building and the connection of walkways to downtown pedestrian paths. The public green outside City Hall was even constructed with reinforced turf in order to serve as a farmer’s market on weekends and an overflow parking lot for the adjacent arts building.



Six Submissions to the annual "What Makes It Green?" exhibit.

The exterior architecture of city hall is respectful of the other buildings in the downtown district.

“Bainbridge Island has a residential character and there are many historic homes,” says Craig Curtis, partner, The Miller/Hull Partnership, Seattle, and a citizen of Bainbridge Island. “Even downtown has residential styled buildings that are used for commercial purposes. Therefore, we needed to be sensitive to the existing character of the area and not create a building that would dominate the street. The building was broken down into smaller-scale units that better relate to the street’s existing architecture.”

Inside, the first floor is dominated by what the design team calls “main street.” Two 60-foot-long counters run down either side of the interior. The city’s various departments all have designated spots along the counters, so a number of transactions can take place at the same time, thereby eliminating long waiting lines.

A large skylight and big windows flood main street with daylight. These, plus the open floor plan and light colored interiors, reduce the need for electric lighting throughout the space. Large overhangs, operable windows and the open office plan help minimize and mitigate heat gain through windows, thus decreasing the load on the cooling system. Operable windows also allow users to control their own environment more than in a typical office building.

To maintain indoor air quality, low VOC and non-toxic paints, stains and flooring adhesive, as well as FDA-approved wood treatments, were used rather than standard alternatives. In addition, carpet exceeds Wash-ington State Indoor Air Quality Standards and construction was sequenced to avoid leaving a legacy of problems due to dust or moisture in the building systems.

“The city was particularly interested in having a healthy place for employees to work because absenteeism from sick-building syndrome had been a problem in previous city offices,” Curtis explains. “So, they pushed for indoor air quality and natural light.”

One issue that the architects had to push was the use of certified lumber. Because the client was worried about the cost of certified wood, non-certified wood was bid as an alternate. The end package for choosing certified wood amounted to an increase of some $8,000, which the city could justify as a small part of the total cost, as well as for its other benefits. Thus, the entire framing package for the building—70,000 board feet—was supplied out of third-party certified wood.

“At the turn of the century, Bainbridge Island was clear cut,” says Curtis. “Today, the island is very committed to the second growth forest that has grown back. So, it seemed rather fitting to choose certified wood for the town’s city hall.”

The project minimizes the impact on surrounding waterways by using an infill site in a developed area of town. The city’s storm water management system, which was significantly upgraded as part of site preparation, reduces runoff and thereby protects natural waterways.

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