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In Sustainable Laboratory Design – A Case Study of the Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center

Allyn Stellmacher, Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership
Geoff McMahon, Affiliated Engineers NW
James Walker, P.E., Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's commitment to providing a humane environment for patients, visitors, and employees naturally extends to the development of a sustainable campus. The seven story, 372,000 square foot Robert M. Arnold building is the sixth and largest building designed by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership (ZGF) and engineered by Affiliated Engineers, Inc. (AEI) for the 14-acre campus in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. In addition to serving as the "front door" to campus and accommodating members of the public who participate in cancer-prevention studies, the building houses laboratories, offices, and conference areas for the cross-disciplinary research. While the entire campus is designed with sustainability in mind, the Robert M. Arnold building is the first building to pursue and receive LEED™ certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Quality design is inherently sustainable. When the decision to pursue LEED™ certification was made, construction of the building was already underway. The sustainable nature of design implemented from the project's inception, combined with the Center's commitment to sustainability and the close working relationships between the architect, engineer, client, and contractor, enabled LEED™ certification to be achieved with little additional work. The Labs for the 21st Century Program was used to identify sustainable laboratory components during the early stages of the project, which enhanced lab design and building efficiencies contributing to LEED™ certification.

The presentation will focus on the Center's corporate commitment to sustainability, and the critical factors that allowed LEED™ certification to be easily achieved in spite of the decision to pursue certification after construction had started.

Labs21 Connection:

While the Center has been practicing sustainable design for years, and sustainability objectives have long been central (if not so-named) to ZGF's and AEI's design philosophies, a number of quantitative and qualitative design strategies unique to the Robert M. Arnold building facilitated LEED™ certification. These include:

Variable Geometry Exhaust – The Robert M. Arnold building is the first facility in the Western Unites States to employ variable geometry damper technology for fume stack discharge velocity control. This system uses 31 percent of the energy required by traditional designs, saving 56,820 Kilowatt-hours annually.

Urban Site Selection – The Center's urban location contributes to development of its neighborhood and provides access to alternative transportation options. The campus is strategically located near the University of Washington and Seattle's urban core, helping attract the best and brightest scientists and researchers.

Water Conservation - A subsoil drainage system captures site water and reuses it for irrigation, saving approximately 350,000 gallons of potable water a year.

Atrium – Valuable to both culture and function, a soaring atrium extends from below grade to the roof, drawing natural light necessary for clinical functions and providing comfortable gathering spaces.

Design for Daylighting – Design features including a multi-level prow utilize natural light to conserve energy and provide interaction areas encouraging collaboration and group interaction.

Right Size Laboratory Equipment Load – A comprehensive study of the supply/exhaust air system established minimum airflow requirements for laboratory temperature control and occupant safety. As a result, internal heat gain load design criteria were reduced 33 percent for lab spaces and 60 percent for heavy equipment.

Heat Recovery – Waste heat from server and UPS rooms is captured and used to pre-heat outside air.

Exhaust Ventilation Instead of venting onto the roof, exhaust is filtered and released into the parking garage. The clean, warm air self-regulates carbon monoxide levels and conserves energy used to operate exhaust fans and heat the garage.

Because the Labs for the 21st Century Program was used to identify sustainable laboratory components for the Robert M. Arnold building, Labs21 principles are integrated into the facility's design - a focal part of the presentation.


Allyn Stellmacher is a Design Principal with ZGF, with over 20 years of experience. Since joining the firm in 1989, he has been involved in a wide variety of projects, both in the public and private sectors. He has been involved in projects that are complex and multi-phased, working closely with user groups throughout design. His responsibilities on projects have involved planning, design development, technical and design coordination and documentation and design team management. Allyn has worked on a number of technically complex projects working closely with project managers during schematic design and design development to ensure design quality, completeness of drawings, and adherence to budget. He received a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Oregon in 1983.

A summary of Laboratory/Healthcare experience follows:

  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA
  • University of North Carolina Hospitals, Clinical Cancer Center and Physicians' Office Building, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Providence Alaska Medical Center North Expansion and Renovation, Anchorage, AK
  • Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seattle, WA
  • Oregon Health & Science University, Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Portland, OR
  • National Institutes of Health, Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center, Bethesda, MD
  • U.S. Department of Energy William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory, Richland, WA
  • Legacy Health Systems, Various Projects, Portland, OR

Geoff McMahon has served as a Project Engineer and a Project Manager and is currently Principal-in-Charge of Affiliated Engineer's Seattle office. His background includes design, applications, and research experience with mechanical and electrical systems. Specific areas of expertise include analysis of energy using and converting pro­cesses or systems related to energy conservation, and the design of mechanical systems for research and development facilities. Many of these facilities have required specialized systems to support unique research activities or have otherwise required specialized design to improve system control, flexibility, and economy. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Wisconsin in 1983.

Recent project experience includes:

  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA
  • National Institutes of Health, Clinical Research Center, Bethesda, MD
  • University of Washington, Seattle, WA
    • Chemistry Building Design and Commissioning
    • Chemistry Teaching and Research Building
    • Electrical Engineering & Computer Science Bldg. Phase II
    • Electrical Engineering Building Phase I Commissioning
  • Legacy Health Care, New Hospital, Medical Office Facilities and Central Utility Plant, Vancouver, WA
  • Sacred Heart Medical Center, New Hospital and MOB, Springfield, OR

James J. Walker, P.E., is a facilities engineer with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Mr. Walker has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Seattle University. He has 30 years of professional experience as a mechanical engineer in manufacturing, consulting engineering, and facilities engineering. As a consulting engineer working for a top 15 AE firm, he specialized in energy conservation starting in 1982 and continuing over a 15 year period. His work involved energy surveys of over 110 commercial and institutional facilities to identify cost effective, energy saving measures and follow up retrofit design.

Mr. Walker is currently employed by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle as the Facilities Engineer where he has served for nine years. He is heavily involved with the implementation of water, gas, and electrical conservation projects and bringing cutting edge conservation technology into practice.

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