Seattle Academy’s new STREAM building, finished in the fall of 2015, is more than just another pretty structure. Behind the scenes of its thoughtfully designed communal areas and spacious classrooms, the STREAM pushes the boundaries of design with its integrated use of technology and sustainability techniques. Many know about the STREAM’s basic sustainability features, but few know of just how much thought, purpose, and time were put into the design of every aspect the building, from the landscaping to the carpet.
Before architects from Seattle based firm Miller Hull began drawings of the building, students in a sustainability class at Seattle Academy, taught by Tom Flood, began coming up with possible design and sustainability ideas. “Our kids used the Living Building Challenge as a guideline to create a design for what we thought the STREAM would look like. They ended up, at the end of the year, presenting to the architects, the SAAS board of trustees, engineers, and the faculty. A lot of what they recommended was actually implemented into the building itself,” Flood explained of the design process.
Meeting the requirements of the Living Building Challenge, a seven “pedal” set of sustainability criteria, is a lofty goal. Seattle Academy and its students are proud to have a facility that is LEED Certified Gold.
To meet such lofty sustainability and design goals, the STREAM is fit with numerous innovative and efficient features, many of which are uncommon knowledge to the SAAS community. One such feature is a vestibule between the two doors in the entryway off the street. “There is a dust and dirt attenuation mat that drops the dirt off your shoes so that when you enter the building the air quality is actually improved,” says Flood. The architects of the STREAM also purposefully designed the building to face south, to “maximize the solar exposure, increase the amount of light into the building, and to provide views to let the kids be able to see outside,” Flood explains.
However, it doesn’t end there. There are many other features that make the STREAM such a unique building, like the removable carpet squares that allow small portions of the carpet to be replaced rather than having to replace large sections. The list continues, with solar panels on the roof, natural ventilation by louvers in the middle of the building, automatic blinds to minimize glare, a 12,000 gallon cistern that provides water for the toilets, and drought tolerant landscaping that requires minimal watering.
All in all, the STREAM is built to last with minimal environmental impact, boasting, as Flood notes, “a life cycle of 100 years, whereas most contemporary structures have anywhere from a thirty to a forty year life cycle.”
With such a high bar set, one can only imagine what’s in store for the new SAAS middle school.