Gallery: ECO•LABORATORY: Seattle’s Exemplary Eco Community


The Eco•Laboratory is an exemplary green complex designed around a vibrant community garden In Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. Conceived by Weber Thompson, the project recently won the Natural Design Talent Competition at Greenbuild. The innovative design focuses upon energy systems, natural ventilation, community aspects, renewable energy, and indoor air quality, resulting in a spectacular example of what green building is about – interdisciplinary teams designing living buildings.

Situated on an infill lot in downtown Seattle, the Eco•Laboratory will house a neighborhood market, residential, office space, vocational training center and a sustainability education center. The project is planned for a 7,200 sq ft plot of land known as the P-Patch, and the development offers local residents plots of land for gardening and features three historic cottages that house local writers-in-residence. The goal was to not only make the space more usable for the community, but also to make it financially viable. The designers of the Eco•Laboratory concentrated on the six petals of the Natural Living Building Challenge in order to create this design.

The project incorporates the current buildings and community aspect into a more functional space that benefits a greater number of local residents. Additionally, since the community garden is so important, the design team highlighted the outdoor landscape and extended it into the building with indoor vegetation.

The designers sought to minimize the introduction of new materials while carefully considering the resources required. All demolition waste is used on-site during construction. Concrete walls are composed of a fiber-optic aggregate that helps reveal the systems within the building and pulls light into interior spaces. Additionally, the main living modules in the building are composed of repurposed shipping containers.

The project makes excellent use of both passive and active systems to reduce energy consumption. The passive ventilation system uses Earth Tubes to pull outside air in, creating a stack-effect thermal control system. To generate energy, solar, wind, biofuels and hydrogen fuels will be used.

Indoor Quality of LIfe:
The Eco Laboratory promotes healthy indoors, and brings nature inside. Again, the Earth Tubes play a huge role in natural ventilation, while occupants have direct control over air flow, and lighting. Solar passive design promotes the stack effect and natural lighting. Vegetation, both indoors and in the gardens, enhances occupants’ indoor environmental quality and health.

Conservation of water is a very important aspect of this project. Water is collected through impervious surfaces and sent through an organic filtration system that harnesses aquatic ecosystems to convert black and gray water to usable resources. This water is used for building’s residents, indoor vegetation and outdoor gardens.

Beauty & Inspiration:
The structure and design are definitely aesthetically pleasing, but as the design team says: “Beauty and Inspiration are not only found in aesthetic form, but in the aesthetics of performance, through the experience of place and lasting value for visitors and residents, with the satisfaction of a site’s potential brought to fruition.”

+ Weber Thompson

Via Jetson Green


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  1. Robert Burns Birthplace... December 15, 2010 at 11:45 am

    […] efficient heating and cooling. The ventilation system designed by Buro Happold makes use of “earth tubes” where were buried 2 meters into the ground. These tubes draw in fresh, cool air to provide […]

  2. archytextural January 8, 2009 at 4:01 am

    Congratulations design team for the win! That has to feel pretty good.
    However,I’m sorry but I don’t find this as visually pleasing as the article makes it out to be, and the renderings don’t give it any help until the last image, which actually feels fairly decent. My criticism is that I would have liked the designers to be less overt with their “green” features and intergrate them more successfully into the overall design of the building. There appears to be no over riding idea that brings the building together as a whole, leaving it feeling a little bit like a glazed sturctural system with sustainable features attached here and there. I don’t see capital “A” Architecture here. I see engineering and systems but no soul. While I understand this was for a Cascadia design competition, we’re still designers and shouldn’t use “carbon nuetral” as an excuse to build unpleasant buildings. Would any of you really choose to live/ work there for it’s aesthetics? I’m just asking if you think the Ipod would have been as successful if it had just been the raw electronics without the styling of the case? But, again congratulations on the win.

  3. Kay December 19, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Looking forward to seeing this come to fruition. As a born and raised here, Seattlite, it is exciting to see green growing up around the city that is equitable for lower income people. More space for growing food and more green is a good thing especially in this day of pesticide laden choices. The building is looks like a beautiful design.

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