Craft Issue 8, 2019

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Letter from the CEO






Meet the Experts


Client Spotlight

On the Cover A feature lighting fixture reigns in the lobby of 9th and Thomas. Photo: Loretta Grande


A Destination Worthy of the Journey We’ve all seen Seattle’s newest iconic feature, The Spheres; now, read the story of how the project came to be.

Design-Build 2.0 9th and Thomas is an innovative new building in South Lake Union; its delivery was also characteristically unique.



Making an Impact in the Lives of Others In 2018, Sellen set out to redefine our purpose and community commitments; here, we share our 2018 achievements.

letter from the CEO


Building New Leadership


his past year brought many changes at Sellen. And while I feel like that’s something we’ve said before, this time it rings more true. In the past year, Sellen saw a change in our executive leadership as we wished a happy retirement to former COO Wilf Wainhouse in December, and former CEO Bob McCleskey retired this past June. Back in May 2018, I was honored to step into the role of CEO with Tim McKey and Dave Ratzke at my side as partner COOs in charge of field management and project management, respectively. Our succession planning at Sellen has been an ongoing process over the last few years and has involved the transitions of many roles across the company. I’m confident that we have the right team to carry Sellen forward for the next generation. We also refreshed Sellen’s Purpose and Core Values. I met with over 150 Sellen employees and found that Best,

Scott Redman Chief Executive Officer Sellen Construction


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our collective desire to help others is a powerful and beautiful thing. Our purpose — to improve the lives of those around us, as builders, partners and neighbors — reflects this. Turn to page 26 to learn more about how we are working to make an impact. Lastly, we saw a staggering number of significant project completions over the past year and a half. You may find this issue of Craft features more completed projects than in the past. We couldn’t help it — the stories, lessons and partnerships that came from these projects will hold long-term significance for Sellen and are worth sharing. After a year of change in 2018, we’re looking forward to one of celebration throughout the remainder of 2019, as December marks our 75th year in Seattle — an anniversary worth commemorating. Keep an eye out for your invitation to help celebrate Sellen’s past — and future — later this year.

PUBLISHER Sellen Construction PRODUCTION Erin Hobson Amanda Erickson Connor Davis Ashley Di Cristina Monica Veles GRAPHIC DESIGNER Loretta Grande WITH THANKS TO Amazon ArtsFund McKinstry Company MKA NBBJ Olson Kundig Seattle Repertory Theatre Seneca Group Treehouse Weber Thompson SELLEN CONSTRUCTION 227 Westlake Avenue North Seattle, WA 98109 T: 206.682.7770 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------PAPER INFORMATION 30% Post Consumer Waste Recycled FSC Certified Green Seal Certified Green-e (Certified Renewable Energy) Acid Free Processed Chlorine Free

Celebrating 75 Years of Shaping the Pacific Northwest On Dec. 9, 1944, John Sellen announced the formation of his new company, the John. H. Sellen Construction Co., and this December marks Sellen’s 75th anniversary. Over the decades, Sellen has had the privilege to partner with many of the Northwest’s leading companies and individuals to shape Seattle’s skyline into what it is today — and what it

will be in the future. Throughout this year, we will celebrate the projects, people and partnerships that have come together to bring us to where we are today, including the release of a special 75th commemorative issue of Craft later this year. Thank you for an astounding 75 years. We can’t wait to see what the next 75 will bring.

Fostering Growth With 30 years under its belt and an ambitious goal in sight, Treehouse and Sellen Special Projects partnered together to update its space and create room for the future. Edited by Amanda Erickson • Photography by Bob Noble of Bob Noble Photography


ast year marked the 30-year anniversary of Treehouse, a Seattle-based non-profit focused on closing the achievement gap between youth in foster care and their peers. Sellen first partnered with Treehouse in 2003 when we built its original office building. Last year, we had the privilege to return again to complete an office renovation for the fastgrowing organization. We also had the opportunity to ask Treehouse CEO, Janis Avery, who has led the non-profit since 1995, about Treehouse turning 30 and the important role it plays in advocating for Washington’s foster youth population. Craft: Are there other organizations in Seattle that provide the same services that Treehouse does? Avery: Treehouse is unique in the services it provides in Seattle, the state of Washington and the entire country. There are other organizations that provide a small part of our service array, but none that provide clothing and other basic needs, enrichment funding, and educational support and advocacy. Part of our philosophy is to do only what Treehouse is uniquely positioned to do, encouraging and supporting


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other agencies and institutions to do their best work with our youth. From our beginnings, Treehouse has received significant community support. The needs of youth in foster care resonate in the hearts of our community because they are the same needs all children have. Through experiences and support, youth develop skills and confidence to dream and set goals for a bright future. Together, we provide opportunities that would otherwise not be available to youth in foster care. Treehouse turned 30 last year — what does it mean to Treehouse and the community it serves to hit this milestone? It is a significant achievement to celebrate our 30th birthday. During the last 30 years, we have increased capacity from serving hundreds of youth in King County each year to more than 7,000 across the state. We have established a substantial presence in Spokane, Pierce and Snohomish counties, and we aspire to be offering services to youth and young adults statewide by 2022. How has Treehouse changed in the past 30 years?


In 2011, the Treehouse executive team saw the high school graduation rate for youth in foster care in King County for the first time — a shocking 36 percent! [The graduation rate for all youth in the state is 79 percent.] This caused Treehouse to reconsider its approach to services, and we shifted from filling gaps to fundamentally leveling the playing field. We set a goal that youth in foster care in King County would graduate at the same rate as their peers with a plan for the future by 2017. We succeeded beyond our expectations! In 2018, we launched expansion teams in Spokane and Tacoma,

New Digs

Last year, Sellen had the opportunity to return to Treehouse’s office, which we originally built in 2003, to help Treehouse renovate its offices. The 7,800-square-foot tenant improvement was a perfect fit for Sellen Special Projects, which focuses on specialty, quick-turn projects, often renovations. When Treehouse first moved into the building in 2003, it had 35 staff members. Fast forward 15 years, and the non-profit had 111 employees with the potential for continued growth. The new office reconfiguration provides improved functionality and added work capacities, including 30 workstations and 10 meeting rooms. “It is a welcoming and functional space where our staff, community partners and other stakeholders can come together to work collaboratively toward the mission of serving our youth,” said Ray Oen, the CFO of Treehouse. “[Sellen’s team] brought the vision and design of our project to reality.”

state of Washington becomes the guardian, that child becomes our collective responsibility. If we fail to wrap children with loving support, opportunities and remediation, we have endless evidence that they will have difficulties in childhood and adulthood that are expensive for the community. When children get the support they need, they can become members of society who have an opportunity to contribute. We can and should rally around these children to help them overcome the challenges that led them into foster care so they can achieve their greatest potential. Want to donate or get involved? Go to

“As soon as a judge determines that a child in foster care is unsafe in his or her birth home, and the state of Washington becomes the guardian, that child becomes our collective responsibility.” – Janis Avery, CEO, Treehouse Treehouse was founded a lot like a PTA to a school — filling gaps in the state child welfare agency’s support for children and families. The state simply could not pay for normal childhood experiences such as music lessons, team sports and school activities. Over time, the Treehouse board added a free clothing store, and then decided to provide tutoring for youth in foster care. We continued to add a few more specialty education services — still in the model of filling gaps.

and are continuing to expand statewide with a larger goal: By 2022, youth in foster care across Washington state will graduate from high school at the same rate as their peers with support and a plan to launch successfully into adulthood.

OPPOSITE PAGE: The renovation of Treehouse’s office space included a new front reception area and updated graphics. THIS PAGE: The space features new open collaboration areas.

Why is Treehouse’s mission so important, and why should people donate and volunteer? As soon as a judge determines that a child in foster care is unsafe in his or her birth home, and the

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Helen Sommers Building By Monica Veles • Photography by Doug Scott


he new Helen Sommers Building is a state-of-the-art environmentally friendly building that operates as one of the top 1 percent of energy efficient office buildings in the nation. Sellen and ZGF Architects partnered together for this design-build delivery project, making this the second design-build office building at this high caliber of design quality and energy performance we have completed together. Located on Olympia’s Capitol Campus, the LEED Platinum building is the new home for the Office of Financial Management, Washington State Patrol and other legislative and supportive agencies. Previously known as the 1063 Block Replacement, the project was named after former Democratic state congresswoman Helen Sommers, who served from 1972 to 2009 and was the state’s longest serving legislator at the time of her retirement. The facility is far more energy efficient than an average comparable building, giving off 71 percent less carbon. The design-build team regionally sourced more than 20 percent of the building’s materials and diverted up to 92 percent of construction waste from local landfills. The building features decorative wood walls and workstations near large windows to allow natural light into the office. Efficient fixtures reduce the potable water usage by 35%. Overall, the Helen Sommers Building


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“This building exemplifies the types of innovation we want in Washington state .” – Jay Inslee, Washington Governor sets a new standard for energy efficient office buildings. “This building exemplifies the types of innovation we want in Washington state  — t  hose that lead to more green jobs and less carbon pollution,”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement shortly before the building opened. “It is in the best interest of our state to take sustainability seriously, and at the state’s capitol, we have a special responsibility to lead by example.”

Owner Department of Enterprise Services Architect ZGF Architects Location Olympia Size 215,000 SF Number of Levels 5 Completed September 2017


West Edge By Ashley Di Cristina • Photography by Nic Lehoux


n the heart of some of Seattle’s most iconic landmarks — most notably Pike Place Market — the new West Edge tower offers residents a high-rise luxury apartment home in downtown Seattle. Owned by Urban Visions, this 39-story, 440-foot-tall mixed-use skyscraper was a design collaboration between Ankrom Moisan and Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig. Because of its location on one of Seattle’s most-used bicycle arterials, and opposite Pike Place Market with heavy pedestrian traffic, the site logistics proved to be one of the most challenging aspects of the project. The West Edge high-rise includes a destination Sky Bar, glass-floored observation cubes and ground level retail. The amenity spaces provide residents with access to nature starting at the ground floor through exterior courtyards located off the residential lobby. The exterior design is a subtle tribute to the building’s urban surroundings. The lower, darker elements complement the street level and accompany the pedestrian experience within the city. As the structure ascends, lighter elements provide a gentle nod to the Pacific Northwest skies. “This building is intended to be an urban, forward-thinking, dense, exciting place with active public spaces that engage the city streets and Seattle’s downtown culture,” said Tom Kundig, principal and owner of Olson Kundig.

“[It’s a] dense, exciting place with active public spaces.” – Tom Kundig, Principal & Owner, Olson Kundig

Owner Urban Visions Architect Ankrom Moisan Designer Tom Kundig Size 554,000 SF Number of Levels 39 Completed March 2018

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Stratus By Ashley Di Cristina • Photography by Benjamin Benschneider


ellen, GID Development and Weber Thompson partnered together a second time to complete one of the latest high-rises to grace the Seattle skyline, Stratus. The trio previously partnered to design and build Cirrus, which was completed in 2015 and sits next door to the new tower. Monopolizing on the opportunity to build two similar towers in a row, the team was able to seamlessly integrate and build upon lessons learned from Cirrus, including more time early in the process for mock-up vignettes to help streamline decisions, for example. Weber Thompson designed Cirrus and Stratus as sister towers that both complement and contrast each other: Stratus is light and transparent while Cirrus has darker features. Building upon the light and modern theme, the interior of Stratus features a grand curving staircase, sculptural light fixtures, and a warm fireplace with metal and limestone elements. Designed with a focus on its surrounding neighborhood, Stratus has a sleek and modern building composition with each level responding to its adjacent structures. “The sculptural and playful façades … respond to a shift in the grid at a five-way intersection that fronts the site, to the future park that resides at the project’s doorstep, and to the presence of Stratus’ little sister, Cirrus,” said Blaine Weber, senior and founding principal of Weber Thompson.


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Stratus is light and transparent while Cirrus has darker features. Stratus offers socially focused spaces on floors 6 and 43, a dog lounge with an outdoor dog run, fitness center, and media and sports lounge. The building’s 396 units are equipped with high-end finishes and range in size from one to three bedrooms, but each

has a view of the city. The apartment tower also includes five levels of below-grade parking. The project team partnered with the City of Seattle Parks Department to ensure that the space between the two towers was secured for a future city park.

Owner GID Development Architect Weber Thompson Location Seattle Size 613,490 SF Number of Levels 43 Completed January 2018


MultiCare Covington Campus Expansion By Ashley Di Cristina • Photography by Ed Sozinho


ast year, residents of South King County welcomed a new hospital specifically designed to meet the needs of the ever-growing community. Before the expansion to the Covington campus opened, close to 40 percent of residents in South King County had to leave their community to receive medical attention. Partnering on this campus for the third time together, Sellen and CollinsWoerman were able to seamlessly integrate a new inpatient care facility with an existing emergency department and medical office building — all completed without disrupting the ongoing operations. The new addition is complete with adult medical surgical beds, operating rooms with pre- and post-op rooms, recovery areas, and a surgical waiting room, as well as an inpatient pharmacy and lab. In addition, a family birthing center with private rooms and in-suite bathtubs accommodate expecting families. It has allowed MultiCare Covington to transition into a full-service medical facility that is now the most comprehensive multi-specialty clinic in South King County. “We are so excited to serve our community with this project,” said Mark Smith, president and chief operating officer of MultiCare Auburn Medical Center and MultiCare Covington Medical Center. “No hospital comes into completion without the effort of a tremendous group of people working hard for a very long time.”

“We are so excited to serve our community.” – Mark Smith, President and COO, MultiCare Auburn and Covington Medical Centers

Owner MultiCare Health System Architect CollinsWoerman Location Covington Size 120,000 SF Number of Levels 4 Completed April 2018

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Pacific Northwest Ballet, Francia Russell Center By Monica Veles • Photography by Kevin Scott


ellen, Mithun and the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) partnered together for the third time to transform a warehouse in Bellevue into a refreshing new home for the ballet company, the Francia Russell Center. The state-of-the-art space is a tribute to PNB’s renowned founding artistic director, Francia Russell, who served the PNB from 1977 to 2005. The ballet school provides more than 1,000 students with a space to practice and study dance on the Eastside. Building the new facility was a necessity for the ballet school. Sound Transit’s eastside light rail expansion required that the PNB’s existing school be demolished to allow room for the light rail drivelines. For the PNB, relocating outside of the Eastside was simply not an option, as they felt that a quality dance school was essential in the area. Devastated to discover that their space would be torn down, the PNB began planning for a new building and raised funds for the project with the help of numerous donors. The new Francia Russell Center is a polished school for all ages to practice the art of dance. The LEED Gold facility is used for daily dance school, dance practice and Pilates classes. The center features raw steel and wood throughout the building, as well as acoustic wall panels and sprung floors. Unlike the previous building


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The new center is a polished school for all ages to practice the art of dance. that had minimal natural light, the new space has many windows to bring in more sunlight. In addition to seven dance studios, the facility has a new performance space and a library filled with dance resources and areas to study. Several studios are two stories

high and include balconies, allowing guests to watch practices. For the PNB, the Francia Russell Center is more than just a building — it’s a creative space that allows students to artistically express themselves through dance.

Owner Pacific Northwest Ballet Architect Mithun Location Bellevue Size 34,000 SF Number of Levels 2 Completed August 2017


Design-Build 2.0 A behind-the-scenes story of how private designbuild delivery resulted in an ambitious, innovative building that captures the spirit of Seattle. By Connor Davis • Exterior and Lobby Photography by Nic Lehoux • Office Photography by Cleary O’Farrell


he first time you see the 9th and Thomas building, one thing is abundantly clear: it’s different. The dark steel façade is surrounded on all sides by a sea of glimmering glass; the striking design begs for more than just a passing glance; and, an eight-story banner proudly displays the work of world-renowned artist Shepard Fairey. This is 9th and Thomas — an ambitious project with the personality and soul of the Seattle family behind it, achieved through the collaborative design-build delivery model. Continued on next page

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The Vision

For the Redman family, who owns the property, and many at Sellen, the 9th and Thomas project was always going to hold a special significance. The new building sits atop the land where John Sellen founded his construction company back in 1944. For more than half a century, it served as Sellen’s headquarters. When the company moved across the alley to our current location on Westlake Avenue, there was an opportunity to create something new. “As a family, we decided we wanted to design and build something that we’d be proud to own for a long time,” said Scott Redman, Sellen’s CEO and John Sellen’s step-grandson. “We wanted to make something unique and interesting, and we wanted Olson Kundig to design something unlike anything else in the neighborhood.” Redman family discussions about the project date back to 2004, and Design Principal Tom Kundig became involved in 2012. As zoning requirements changed, so too did the vision for the 9th and Thomas project. “We were really interested in the long history of connection the family had to the site,” said Kirsten Murray, principal at Olson Kundig. “We’re interested in projects where our clients are going to hold on to the property for a long time. 9th and Thomas was a statement about the family’s purpose and connection to the neighborhood.” From day one, several foundational elements were readily apparent: Sellen was going to build it, Olson Kundig was going to design it, and the project would come to fruition through a design-build delivery. “I’m a big believer in integrating design and construction, and it felt like a great opportunity to model it for our private sector clients,” Redman said.

“There’s often a gap between what the design team delivers and what the construction team needs to complete their work. We’re closing that gap with design-build by bringing everyone to the table earlier in the process.” – Scott Redman, CEO, Sellen

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Photographs from photographer Lance Mercer celebrate Seattle’s grunge legacy; Elm Coffee Roasters is a permanent lobby fixture; floors two through 12 feature office space


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Collaborative Delivery

Design-build delivery, wherein the contractor and architect work as a single contractual entity from the earliest stages of the project, has long been prevalent in the public sector. While the design-build model has always been known for its efficiency and economy, it has long been dogged by a perception that it could not reach the same design and aesthetic achievements of more traditional delivery methods. With recent developments, however, that stigma has begun to change. “We’re pursuing ambitious, high design along with economical delivery,” said Victoria Buker, Sellen’s senior project manager on 9th and Thomas. “Today, it’s proven to be successful at yielding projects that are highly functional, high performing and achieve high design standards, and we’ve been able to ensure the client remains closely involved in the decision-making.”

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Owner 9th & Thomas Partners Architect Olson Kundig Location Seattle Size 243,000 SF Number of Levels 12 Completed December 2017

OPPOSITE PAGE: The main lobby THIS PAGE, FROM TOP: An eight-story custom Shepard Fairey design graces the building; the mural “Upstream” by artist Ola Volo

Achieving these goals requires a healthy, trusting partnership, and Sellen and Olson Kundig began 9th and Thomas with recent experience working together on a design-build project at Washington State University. “You weren’t just working within a normal business partnership,” Buker said. “It felt like you were working with a group of friends.” The benefits of design-build were felt immediately, with the design team and construction team working hand-in-hand to overcome potential challenges and achieve the project’s vision. Key subcontractors were brought on very early in the project to leverage their expertise. “There’s often a gap between what the design team delivers and what the construction team needs to complete their work,” Redman said. “We’re closing that gap with design-build by bringing everyone to the table earlier in the process.” The building’s exterior serves as a prominent example of this collaboration, built with a sophisticated, elegant curtain wall system. Goldfinch Brothers, the vendor who installed the system, worked directly with Sellen, Olson Kundig and Magnusson


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Klemencic Associates early in the design process. This direct channel of communication among engineering, design and craft resulted in a smooth installation process when Goldfinch arrived on site many months later. “9th and Thomas still had the same schedule and budget constraints as the next building, but we focused on how we could stretch our team in different ways,” said Jeff Ocampo, project manager for Olson Kundig. “There’s an extra attention to detail when everyone is at the table together. Design-build helps leverage what everyone does really well.” In addition to adding efficiency during the planning process, designbuild also resulted in a team more resilient to last-minute changes. Toward the end of the project, the team needed to make several adjustments to accommodate the building’s future tenant, including adding two elevators — a significant change on a project nearing completion. “Through design-build, we reduced the elevator installation schedule by six weeks and added significant value for the tenant,” said Jason Harrison, Sellen project director. “Improvement of that magnitude is almost unheard of.”


South Lake Union’s Living Room

“I love seeing people walk into the lobby for the first time and stop in their tracks … To see our vision come to life — and the way people are connecting with and in the space — that’s a pretty cool feeling.” – Scott Redman, CEO, Sellen

The unique character so vividly illustrated by the building’s exterior continues inside with a lobby unlike anything in the city, designed and built to be a community living room. Music and art are both integral to the character of the building. In a nod to Seattle’s grunge legacy, pictures of famous rock musicians by photographer Lance Mercer are displayed prominently. John Richards, of KEXP’s “The Morning Show,” curates a custom playlist for the lobby, playing an eclectic mix of music ranging from Al Green to Modest Mouse. Murals are featured throughout the building. All of these artistic elements work together in harmony to give the building its distinctive character. “It’s got a soul, and ultimately that’s what we’re trying to deliver,” Ocampo said. “We wanted to create something with soul, character and a little bit of attitude.” The finished building is a testament to the spirit of the entire team and proof that design-build can be just as effective in the private sector as it is in the public sector —- particularly in Seattle, where the collaborative, innovative nature of the market lends itself to integrated delivery. “The design-build mindset is the nature of how we work here,” Murray said. “We work in a sophisticated, collaborative culture, and there’s a lot of skilled craft here. Those factors and Seattle’s hardworking, humble work ethic have contributed to great design and great buildings.” Today, the lobby is abuzz with activity, successfully achieving the living room concept laid out by the Redman family from the very beginning. “I love seeing people walk into the lobby for the first time and stop in their tracks when they see the Lance Mercer photography. They see one photo and it sparks something or takes them back to that time, then they get lost in their own little journey for the next 20 minutes as they take it all in,” Redman said. “To see our vision come to life — and the way people are connecting with and in the space — that’s a pretty cool feeling.”

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Voices of Seattle’s Tech Our Sellen+ series featured a panel of experts from the technology realm discussing transformative innovation in the real estate, design and construction spheres. Edited by Amanda Erickson • Illustrations by Loretta Grande


n Oct. 16, Sellen hosted our fourth Sellen+ event, focusing on transformative innovation and the role it plays not only in the real estate realm, but also within our lives in general. The goal of Sellen+ has always been to bring our partners and community together for conversations around the important and impactful work happening in the Puget Sound area. The conversation circled around the current and future innovations of technology within the A/E/C industry, technology industry, and our lives. “The next logical evolution of our Sellen+ conversations really seemed to be around innovation and the way innovation is alive and thriving in this community in a way we’ve maybe never seen before,” said Scott Redman, Sellen’s CEO. “And then connect that to the way that it is trickling into the real estate, design and construction industries.” Unfortunately, we don’t have enough room to share the entire conversation, but we did want to share some of the juiciest sound bites from the night.


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Ed Lazowska

Bill & Melinda Gates Chair in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington

“Almost every job in the future is going to require some level of digital fluency.” – Ed Lazowska

“Almost every job in the future is going to require some level of digital fluency. The best thing that’s happened in decades in that area is, which is a Seattle organization founded by Hadi Partovi, and it’s now five years old. [The organization has an] ‘Hour of Code,’ which is an attempt to get kids programming for one hour in school, using drag and drop programming. And, for example, more women and more underrepresented minorities programmed in [response to that] than in the entire 50-year history of the field. The goal is not to have all of these people go work for Microsoft or Amazon — although that would be nice — but there is this fluency with information technology, we call it computational thinking, and programming is the hands-on inquiry base way we try to teach that in elementary school and all the way through. Every kid needs this.”

meet the experts

Matt Crisler

Sr. Customer Signal Program Manager, Microsoft Mixed Reality “We are in the process of learning how to develop applications for what we deem mixed reality … how we bring computing into your space so that we can get away from being behind screens and actually interact with our environments in a much more natural way. … We’ve seen that we can end up driving innovation and value in a space that gets to a point where people get a better understanding of what they are building and what has been built and how they can eventually use it … But there’s a big gap between data and information insight. And a lot of that gap is hidden behind tables and tables of data. With mixed reality, we have the opportunity to take those spatial relationships and the data, tie them together, and be able to see them all in your space so you can have the insight from the information ... and most anyone can do it. So, if you really look at this opportunity, it’s a capability to democratize computing and democratize this information in a way that anybody can understand it, rather than just the keepers of the data.”

--Robb Andrade

Bellevue Branch General Manager, Siemens Industry “Everybody’s talking about smart buildings, but not everybody understands what a smart building is, and so we’re trying to work through International Standards Organizations [ISO] ... There is an ISO standard for smart cities, smart communities, smart campuses, and — by extension — all of those come from the smart building. … Right now, we’re identifying and then defining what [a smart

building] actually means ... Is there an application space that aggregates all the data, crunches it, and does something with it? What makes this building smart? Is it its interaction with the people that live or work in this space every day, or is it its interaction with the other buildings around it? ... We think there’s a combination of that, but you have to start with the building itself and then leave those little pigtails out there that are going to allow it to connect to things around it. We can’t build smart buildings in a silo. It cannot be smart if it doesn’t communicate outside of its own area.”

--Sarah Cooper

General Manager IoT Analytics and Solutions, Amazon Web Services “When I talk to Gartner [research analysts], the No. 1 industry that is adopting digital transformation … and connective devices, is construction. [At this point, the crowd audibly murmured.] ...I just heard the ‘Whoa’ — that was also my response, because it’s not necessarily apparent in my work space or even the rather new apartment building I live in. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not there, it just means it’s not smacking me in the face as a benefit. So I dug into this, given it was a surprising result, and partly it’s because of the breadth of technologies in the building and construction space that can be applied. So, when they pour big foundations … there are sensors that get buried into the cement that tell when it’s dry … so that gets counted. Any [Siemens’] equipment gets counted. And I think part of it is that there is this gradation of technology today in the built environment that we aren’t really putting to use. So, there’s data, there are sensors there. But are we using them? I think there’s a lot there, but maybe it’s not been valued yet.”

“When I talk to Gartner [research analysts], the No. 1 industry that is adopting digital transformation … is construction.” – Sarah Cooper

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A Destination Worthy of the Journey The Spheres are a result of experience-focused and innovative thinking about the character of a workplace. By Connor Davis • Exterior Photography by Sean Airhart • Interior Photography by Bruce Damonte


n Jan. 29, 2018, The Spheres officially opened to the world, instantly becoming one of Seattle’s most recognizable structures. Hundreds of people attended the event, including Amazon’s senior leadership, local politicians, and members of the team that designed and built it. It was a coronation for a project that is widely considered a resounding success. Just five years earlier, however, The Spheres project was no more than a series of confidential concepts, ideas and sketches. This is the story of how Seattle’s newest icon was conceived, designed and built by a talented team sharing a common goal: to deliver Amazon’s bold vision without compromise while creating something that had never been built before.

“We were trying to create a new kind of workplace — the type where you could truly disengage from your cubicle.”

Building a Bold Vision

The Spheres were built as one phase of the Rufus 2.0 project, which includes several blocks of high-rise and mid-rise office buildings, but the original Rufus 2.0 plans contained no trace of the domed glass structure that occupies the site today. The first phase of the project, the Doppler building, was already well underway in 2012 when architect NBBJ was

– David Sadinsky, Sr. Associate, NBBJ assigned a new task: to create a truly iconic space and bring an element of nature to the urban office environment. The design team, including Principal Dale Alberda and Senior Associate David Sadinsky, began sketching ideas. These early

concepts ranged from rooftop atriums to indoor gardens before eventually becoming The Spheres. “As the idea matured, we were really focused on the experiences we were trying to create — not the type of building it was — but we knew it was something that had never really been

OPPOSITE PAGE: At ground level, The Spheres dramatically stand out. THIS PAGE: The Spheres feature multiple areas for employees to sit and relax among nature.

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“The project commanded everyone’s best work.” – Elaine Wine, Development Manager, Seneca Group

done before,” Alberda said. “Amazon encouraged us to think big … they showed a lot of courage and vision.” Though the sheer scope of the finished building was still in flux, nature was at the core of its identity from the very beginning. “The idea of integrating nature and people together was that we’d have an office that actually made people feel better than when they arrived,” Sadinsky said. “We were trying to create a new kind of workplace — the type where you could truly disengage from your cubicle and think and act in a different way.” The groundwork had been laid for an ambitious concept — a workplace mixed with a conservatory in the middle of the city, the likes of which had never been built before. Now all the team had to do was figure out how to build it.

Thinking Round

On a conventional project, Sellen’s team relies on recent experience delivering similar work, but The Spheres project was anything but conventional. “The first step was understanding the vision of Amazon and NBBJ and breaking it down into recognizable subcomponents,” said Tom Boysen, Sellen’s senior project manager on The Spheres, who was charged with leading the team through uncharted territory. “Everyone came in with their own experiences, but we had to let go of all the work we had done before to come up with a new plan.” A typical project is laid out on orthogonal grid lines, but the shape of The Spheres demanded a circular grid. In fact, because the site was on a slope, many elements of the project weren’t even circles — they instead were ellipses.

One of these elements was the “ring beam,” a 400,000-pound concrete structure that sits where the building’s rounded exterior meets the ground, built with incredibly dense rebar along a continuously changing radius. The ring beam transfers the structural load of The Spheres to the more typical, rectilinear structure of the garage below. The level of technical precision and craftsmanship required was immense, but the team was up for the challenge. “I was taught in design school that any time you deviate from a straight line, things are going to become exponentially more complex. It didn’t take long to prove that on this project,” said Elaine Wine, a development manager at Seneca Group, the owner’s representative on the project. “The project commanded everyone’s best work, and the team was passionate and excited to bring their best work to the table.”

Creating the Catalans

In the early stages of the project, structural engineer Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA) was brought on board to develop the fully integrated glass and steel exterior structure of The Spheres and create a pattern that was both repeatable and visually striking. With the help of a supercomputer, MKA designed an interlocking structure made of pentagonal steel frames called the “catalans.” “The gauntlet had been thrown — we were asked to create something that had never been done before that would instantly become one of the most visible buildings in the city,” said Jay Taylor, a principal at MKA. “The first challenge was coming up with a geometry that hadn’t been done before, then we just had to figure out how to build it.”


Though it may look like a simple pattern from the outside, each of the 180 steel catalans is unique and composed of more than 100 welds, fabricated off-site by Canron and tailored to the specific structural load carried at each location. In addition, each catalan had four mounting points to receive the glass exterior, requiring a miniscule margin for error previously only reserved for airplanes. “If we were more than half an inch off target at any point, the façade would not have fit together,” Boysen said. By the time the steel and glass enclosure was complete, the largest variance was less than 3/8 of an inch, a testament to the astounding precision of the team. The finished exterior’s intriguing design, realized through precise modeling and craftsmanship, also preserves the public’s view of the wonders inside.

By the Numbers

40,000+ plants

50 feet

height of tallest tree, named “Rubi”

Plants vs. People

From the moment the project began, one of the most significant challenges was creating a space where both plants and people could thrive. “We were given a clear directive: people first. It was up to us to find the right plants that would be comfortable in the same space,” said Ron Gagliardo, lead horticulturist for The Spheres. “We let the interior climate — 75 degrees during the day with 60 percent humidity — guide our plant choices.”


panes of glass


inside temperature OPPOSITE PAGE: The Spheres features a 60-foot-tall living wall. THIS PAGE, FROM TOP: Multiple sitting nooks pepper the space; the“crow’s nest” viewed from above.

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“Amazon Pull quote, encouraged pull quote us to goes here think big … pull they goes showed here a Pullofquote lot courage goesand here vision.” – Dale Alberda, Principal, NBBJ

Many of the plants that would inhabit The Spheres were grown at an off-site greenhouse in nearby Woodinville under the watchful eye of Amazon’s horticulture team, including Gagliardo, Justin Schroeder, Mike Fong and Ben Eiben. Some of the larger trees, however, were procured from around the world. This includes “Rubi,” the 50-foot-tall ficus the team found at Berylwood Tree Farm in Somis, Cali. There was just one problem: as it turns out, transporting a 49-year-old, 30,000-pound tree more than 1,200 miles is no easy task. The team discussed every possible method — cargo freighters, military-grade helicopters, industrial cargo planes and more — before eventually settling on a three-day trucking journey. The drive north went smoothly, but once Rubi arrived on site there was one final hurdle to clear. Unbeknownst to the crew, part of the box containing the bottom of the tree had rotted, causing it to break as the rigging was positioned. “This was our ‘Apollo 13’ moment — things had gone very wrong, and we needed to figure out how to solve it,” Boysen said. The team regrouped, bringing everyone involved to the table and sketching out a number of plans on a whiteboard. Ultimately, they created a steel exoskeleton to protect the integrity of the remaining tree box. Soon after, Rubi was soaring over 7th Avenue and carefully hoisted into place, completing the final stage of her 1,200-mile journey. For those involved, it’s a sight they will never forget.


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Vision Achieved

As the grand opening of The Spheres approached, those who had worked so hard on the project for so long began to realize the time had come to share their one-of-a-kind space with the world. When the interior scaffolding finally came down, the team began to fully grasp the magnitude of their achievement. “For so much of the project, the entire team was working hard with our heads down, working through solutions and milestones,” said Brad Hayes, Sellen’s director of operations for preconstruction and estimating. “But every once in a while, we had to stop and look around to remind ourselves, despite all the challenges, just how cool it was to work on a project like The Spheres.” Today, The Spheres are the vibrant embodiment of nature and unique work space envisioned by Amazon and NBBJ from the earliest days of conceptual development. In a building that has become synonymous with Amazon around the world, employees and visitors are treated to incredible sights at every turn, including 40,000 plants from more than 30 countries and a 60-foot-tall living wall featuring 200 plant species. “I hope it inspires others to think about how we can make the living/ working environment feel more connected to nature,” Alberda said. “Before The Spheres, I hadn’t thought about it much, but now I take this element of nature into every project. We’re healthier and more creative when we have these connections to the natural world.” For the group that designed and built the space, it’s more than an iconic addition to Seattle — it’s proof that even the most challenging projects can be built when a diverse team works toward a common goal. “To each and every person who contributed to The Spheres, I say thank you,” Boysen said. “I hope the team’s takeaway from this project is a belief that you can do anything — there’s nothing the next project can throw at you that cannot be solved.”

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A Community Art With a focus on seeking new voices in its programming, the Seattle Rep proves a theater is more to a community than just a playhouse. By Amanda Erickson • Photography Courtesy of the Seattle Repertory Theatre


ome say art is a conversation, but with theater, it often feels more like a dance — and what a dance it’s been for the Seattle Repertory Theatre and its theater-goers in recent years. “I really want our audience to go on a journey through all of our plays to lots of different places and lots of different points of view,” said Braden Abraham, the artistic director for the Seattle Rep. “I think that’s one of the real aspects of Seattle Rep that sets us apart is that you have the opportunity to go through all of these stories, and I love the threads that can connect them all.” Abraham and Managing Director Jeffrey Herrmann took over leadership of Seattle’s 56-year-old theater in 2014. Since, the duo has been focused on expanding diversity in the theater’s programming, as well as investing in the community. In recent years, that effort has not gone unnoticed as theater-goers have traveled from a 1970s Filipino disco hall and New York City’s HispanicAmerican Washington Heights neighborhood; to war-torn Herat, Afghanistan, and the living room of a modern-day Zimbabwean family living in Minnesota.


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“[We] have really worked toward expanding the voices that are being amplified on our stage, so there are more diverse voices, more points of view,” Abraham said. In seeking a range of voices, Abraham and Herrmann have opened the Rep’s stages to the community — literally. Last year marked the first year of the Rep’s new program, Public Works Seattle. Public Works Seattle is a year-long production for the community, by the community. Throughout the year, the Rep teaches classes and workshops in various neighborhoods throughout Seattle. In the summer, the Rep holds public auditions and casts a community ensemble of around 80 people, as well as a core company of professional artists in the leading roles. Months of rehearsals culminate in one, 150-person production over Labor Day weekend. The Rep partners with seven local non-profits in different neighborhoods to make this all happen, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, Jubilee Women’s Center and Compass Alliance Housing. Tickets to the show are free, and last year the ensemble performed Homer’s “The Odyssey” to a packed

client spotlight

house. This year, they have been working on Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” This was the first project the Rep had ever undertaken at this scale. “It becomes this celebration of making theater in our city,” Abraham said. “It’s a wonderful confluence of excellence in theater and also making theater with the community.” The Rep also provides multiple educational opportunities. Teaching artists visit high school drama classes for free to engage with students and teach them about the August Wilson Monologue Competition, where students can work with artists on a monologue to potentially compete at a national level. In addition, the Rep hosts field trips to its plays and holds student workshops at the theater. Its education also extends to teachers, offering a professional training course on how drama can be integrated into the classroom. According to its Education Impact Report, during the 2017/2018

“The theater becomes more alive, more dynamic, more exciting when you have different voices speaking to each other.” – Braden Abraham, Artistic Director, Seattle Rep season, the Rep worked with 7,640 students in 93 schools and visited 183 classrooms. The Rep’s education and Public Works Seattle programs are a visible reminder of Abraham and Herrmann’s vision for the theater: “theater at the heart of public life.” “It’s about creating a theater where many people from different backgrounds, walks of life, and life experiences can come together and experience art,” Abraham said. “It’s a whole new way of making our work.” Another behind-the-scenes project the Rep has undertaken this past

year is the renovation of its PONCHO Forum, the first major capital project completed at the Rep in two decades. Sellen and ORA Architects partnered to renew this black-box space, which is used for rehearsals and workshops. The renovation included new sound and lighting systems, as well as a new flexible seating unit and window installation for outside observers to watch the artistic process. The project completed in September 2018. “We call the PONCHO the heart of the building,” Abraham said. “It feels right to put our attention on that space.”

The Rep’s recent focus on expanding its diversity of voices mirrors a national theatrical movement, largely spurred by the success of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s “Hamilton.” “Hamilton” and a range of new shows has led to a resurgence of interest in the theater. For example, demand for subscriptions at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre necessitated a waitlist for its 2018/2019 season. Similarly, Abraham said the Rep has seen an increase in both subscription and single-show ticket sales over the past few years — a trend he thinks is owed

to both the buzzworthy shows and the range of stories that the Rep offers. “The theater becomes more alive, more dynamic, more exciting when you have different voices speaking to each other,” Abraham said. “[Theater] can’t be locked in a certain era — it has to continue to evolve and be more inclusive just like any other art form.” As for the future of the Rep, Abraham said the community can expect more of what’s been offered over the past three years, as they “try to keep pushing the limits … both artistically and in the community.” “Theater doesn’t happen on the page or in the rehearsal hall. Theater is made in the moment when the actor and the audience come together,” Abraham said. “The community makes it happen.”

OPPOSITE PAGE: A scene from this season’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns.” THIS PAGE: A scene from last year’s “The Odyssey,” the Public Works Seattle performance.

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Making an Impact in the Lives of Others For decades, serving our community has been part of the “Sellen Way.” Over the past year, we’ve spent a lot of time discovering what that really means to the people who work at Sellen. By Erin Hobson • Photography by Ryan Warner, Kevin Scott & Lara Swimmer


n mid-2018, Sellen set out to create common language around the “Sellen Way” and what drives us in our decision-making. To get there, we held CEO-led workshops to help articulate how Sellen’s employees, as individuals, view the current and future state at Sellen. We met with people in all roles and at all levels of the organization to hear about their greatest Sellen moments, what they love about what they do and who they work with, and what their hopes for the future are. Through these sessions, we got to the heart of our renewed purpose: to improve the lives of those around us — as builders, partners and neighbors. We clearly defined how we work toward this purpose by living Sellen’s five core values: safety, people, craftsmanship, performance and community. Sellen’s purpose and core values are our navigational beacons — the way in which we build our company, engage employees, and partner with leaders in our industry and community. While we have much to do, we wanted to share

some of the work we have done in our community — as a leader in our industry, we have a profound responsibility to create better opportunities for others.

Giving Back

As neighbors, we seek out ways to serve others, inside and outside of Sellen. We give back, individually and as a company, and volunteer our time and expertise to help others. Through corporate donations and the generosity of our employees and partners, we were able to contribute

more than $777,000 last year to important organizations serving our community. Additionally, 2018 was Sellen’s second year that we offered employees our Volunteer Time Off (VTO) program. Our VTO program offers employees eight hours of paid VTO each year. Through Sellen’s VTO program, employees contributed 591 paid hours, plus countless hours of unpaid service, at organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the United Way of King County last year.

OPPOSITE PAGE: In December, Sellen Special Projects completed a tenant improvement for the Committee for Children, a non-profit focused on promoting the safety, well-being and success of children. THIS PAGE: The Pacific Northwest Ballet’s new Francia Russell Center opened in August 2017. FOLLOWING PAGE: The Seattle Repertory Theatre’s new PONCHO Forum, completed last September, is the heart of the community theater.

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“Sellen and its employees consistently make a difference for ArtsFund in many ways that empower us to build community through the arts. Thank you!” – Sandy McDade, Interim CEO, ArtsFund

2018 Community Giving By the Numbers Corporate Philanthropy


Sellen and the Sellen Community Foundation donated to organizations serving the community, including 20 organizations designated by employees.

Employee Giving

$273,000+ Sellen employees personally donated through workplace giving campaigns to the United Way of King County and ArtsFund.

Partners and Subcontractor Donations

$128,850 Our partners contributed to the Sellen fundraising campaign for the American Heart Association.

Mid-Year Report

Cost & Building Trends in the PNW For the full report, go online:

With the first half of 2019 in the books, Sellen’s preconstruction experts Brad Hayes, Chris Angus, Adam Lorenz and David Walsh present our industry predictions for the rest of the year. This year, Sellen is bringing you more than just the future trends for labor, materials pricing and escalation — we are digging deeper into the complex levels of cost analysis that are harder to quantify and more unpredictable to give you the full market picture. Go online for Sellen’s complete mid-year report on cost and building trends in our industry right now. GET IN TOUCH: Brad Hayes, Director of Operations - Preconstruction, Chris Angus, Director of Preconstruction, Adam Lorenz, Chief Estimator, David Walsh, Director of Sustainability,