by Anne Schopf

As an architecture, design and planning firm, we work interactively with our clients to produce environments which support their vision, searching for solutions which reflect our client’s values, responsive to needs of their occupants, their community, and the environment.

Mahlum Community Space

Faced with the task of designing our new Portland Office, we began the process as we do with many of our clients by asking ourselves a question, “Are we willing to walk the talk and fully embrace our commitment to creating healthy and sustainable communities?” The answer was an adamant yes. We know that if we are asking our clients to consider using the Living Building Challenge (LBC) as a framework for responsible design, we needed to demonstrate our own commitment and consider using it ourselves.

The purpose of the LBC is to transform the way buildings are both designed and constructed. In the words of the International Living Future Institute, LBC is “the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings.” We took on the challenge to produce a design for our office that was truly regenerative, going well beyond baseline code-compliant architecture.

As a tenant improvement project, Mahlum is specifically pursuing LBC Materials Petal Certification. The team was challenged to design, specify and build with a materials palette that is non-toxic, ecologically restorative, fully transparent, and socially equitable. The materials market has positively transformed since the inception of LBC in 2006, but much work remains for the design community and manufacturers to fully embrace transparency and agree on tools that assess the full impact of our choices. Given the realities of the current construction industry and the traditional design process, it is widely acknowledged that the Materials Petal is the most difficult LBC pathway to achieve (compared to Net Positive Energy or Water Petals). In that spirit, our LBC project has become a platform for market advocacy and mindfulness; we challenged our own typical material assumptions and we asked manufacturers to fully disclose both material content and chain of custody.

The result is that our new 7,431 SF office space serves over 50 staff in an equitable and non-toxic environment, flexible to support different working styles and project types. Individual team spaces allow for projects to “live” indefinitely so that ideation is on display to spark inspiration, collaboration and celebration of the work. Large, medium, and small conference areas support focused meetings, digital networking and cross-office collaboration. The signature space is the community room, an open flex space with a gracious open plan kitchen. This space has been envisioned as a truly community-based resource to support anything and everything our staff and clients can dream up. Additionally, the project supports principles of universal design from the front door to the lactation/wellness room. Open spaces, clear sightlines and controllability for daylight will support the diversity of needs in our staff.

We are happy to be in our new home, located in the Central Eastside at 1380 SE 9th Avenue, and we welcome you to visit anytime you are in the neighborhood.


by Emily Everett and Joseph Mayo

When students and staff enter the new Kellogg Middle School, they will be greeted by an abundance of natural, carbon sequestering material: dowel-laminated timber panels (DLT) and ribs of glued-laminated timber beams (GLT). Not only is the roof/ceiling of the building’s entry, dining commons, and library a warm and beautiful material, it also readily absorbs noise and is a vital component to creating excellent acoustics within the school’s largest spaces. While DLT has been gaining popularity, Kellogg represents the nation’s first acoustic DLT system installation, utilizing the wood panels for structure, finish, and acoustical control all at the same time.

DLT is an all-wood product, made up of 2x softwood lumber stacked together and laminated with hardwood dowels to create massive structural panels that can be used for floors and roofs. The use of hardwood dowels to bind the panels into a tight structural unit virtually eliminates the need for any adhesives, resulting in DLT panels which are essentially 100% wood and have zero potential to off-gas any harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the school environment. This healthy choice contributes to positive indoor air quality where the main scent is natural pine, a positive feature for ensuring the health of the student population.

Acoustic DLT is also unique because sound absorbing fiber insulation is added to the panels. This is accomplished by using CNC tools at the factory to rout out thin channels between the laminations where acoustic insulation is inserted into the cavities. This unique process can be used to achieve noise absorption as high as a 0.7 NRC value. At Kellogg, the acoustic profile was utilized to showcase the wood structure without the need of an additional acoustic ceiling, like acoustic ceiling tile, typical in standard construction.

The largest DLT panels used at Kellogg are nearly forty feet long by six and a half feet wide. The panels were prefabricated and efficiently flat-packed to the construction site where they were erected in just two weeks’ time. A small gap was left between the panels to provide an integrated space for electrical, lighting and other systems. To further quicken the pace of construction, Zip System sheathing was used on top of the DLT panels as a diaphragm to transfer shear forces through the roof system. Because the sheathing has an integrated water-resistive and air barrier pre-applied at the factory, this allowed the building to be dried-in quickly and efficiently, thereby minimizing the chance of moisture exposure to the wood structure and finish.

In addition to the acoustic, structural, and material health properties of DLT, the material also sequesters large amounts of carbon. Traditional construction materials like steel and concrete emit large quantities of climate altering greenhouse gases into the atmosphere during their production. The use of DLT instead sequesters more carbon than it emits in the manufacturing process and consequently it can be used as an effective carbon store for long periods of time. By transitioning from carbon emitting to carbon sequestering materials, buildings can play a key role in fighting global climate change.

The DLT used at Kellogg has sequestered an estimated 75,000 kg of CO2. In addition, the GLT beams supporting the DLT have sequestered an estimated 214,000 kg of CO2. The total carbon sequestered in Kellogg’s wood structure is equivalent to the CO2 emissions from 32,500 gallons of gasoline.

Mahlum’s use of this new technology was made possible because of the following partnerships:
Owner: Shoreline Public Schools
Engineer of Record: Coughlin Porter Lundeen 
General Contractor: Hoffman Construction 
DLT Manufacturer/Supplier: StructureCraft 
Installer(s): Mustang Ridge Construction and McClean Iron Works

On September 20, 2019 Mahlum staff in Portland and Seattle took part in the School Strike for Climate in support of over 4 million students and adults across the world demanding immediate and transformative climate action. While wet weather in Portland threatened to dampen the crowd, both cities saw record numbers of climate strikers contributing to the worldwide demand for immediate action. Students of all ages challenged adults to recognize the urgent climate crisis and act now to ensure that they have a just and livable future on this planet. Speeches and protest signs clearly communicated the fear and anger this generation harbors, unsure what their lives will be like after the year 2050. There was also optimism that the collective strength of our next generations can lead this change.

So how are we, as adults, professionals and government leaders going to respond? Estimates show that to meet our drawdown targets and avoid a global warming tipping point, we need to more aggressively reduce our carbon emissions in all aspects of our economy and we understand that the building industry is responsible for 30-50% of the annual greenhouse gas emissions on planet earth. This means that architectural practices worldwide have a huge opportunity to positively impact the direction of this crisis. It is our responsibility to leverage the technology and systems that already exist to bring our carbon footprint to zero by 2030 or sooner.

Thank you to all the brave and inspiring youth who are coming forward to demand action to sustain a just and livable planet. It’s our opportunity to listen to the next generation and ACT NOW.

To learn more about the local impact to Washington State, see No Time to Waste, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC and Implications for Washington State.

To learn more about the local impact to Oregon, the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute has published its Fourth Oregon Climate Assessment Report.

by Anne Schopf

“Our house is on fire — let’s act like it.” 
– Greta Thunberg

Mahlum Architects will join Greta Thunberg in a “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (“School Strike for the Climate”), a Global Climate Strike demanding an end to the age of fossil fuels. On September 20, millions of us will walk out of our workplaces, schools, and homes to join Thunberg and other student activists across the world who are demanding immediate action in addressing the Climate Crisis.

With offices in both Seattle and Portland, Mahlum will support our staff in joining the marches to City Hall in each of our cities. There are multiple events throughout the day in cities across the world. More information and the full listing of activities can be found here:

We encourage you to join us in this simple yet powerful way to put pressure on our elected officials to approve new legislation that moves us closer to a carbon free economy.

Architects throughout the country are recognizing the impact the building industry has on climate. On Sept. 5, 2019, The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Board of Directors approved a landmark resolution, championed by AIA members, that defines immediate and long-term efforts to engage the architectural profession in the fight against climate change. The approved resolution sets into motion a prioritization of, and immediate support for, urgent climate action to exponentially accelerate the “decarbonization” of buildings.

“This is a defining moment for the Institute,” said 2019 AIA President Bill Bates, FAIA. “We are making this our top priority in order to address the crisis our communities face. Moving the needle on this critical issue—that threatens the future of our planet and humanity—requires our firm commitment to achieving carbon neutral goals in the built environment and our immediate action. It’s imperative that the industry acts today.”

Mahlum invites you to Stand With Us on September 20th for urgent Climate Action.

by Jeff Sandler

Since its inception in 2011, the Seattle Design Festival (SDF) has given the local community an opportunity to celebrate our rich design landscape and provide a venue for Seattleites, visitors, businesses, and designers to engage in dialogue with one another about how design impacts our lives and our city. Each year, the festival selects a theme for designers to respond to, and this year it’s all about Balance.

The design festival is an opportunity for us to roll up our sleeves and have fun creating a project to be enjoyed by the community at large. It also gives us the opportunity to collaborate with our consultants and builders in a different atmosphere from our daily work and our usual interactions. This year we are fortunate to have Aldrich + Associates, who we are currently working with on the construction of several medical facilities, assisting us in making our installation become a reality. And from the work we’ve done so far, I think it’s clear that they’re having as much fun as we are.

Every year, we kick off our design process with an all-office ideas charrette. To get the office thinking about balance, we took over the pin-up space in our main conference room and posted definitions, etymologies, associations, and anything else we could find related to the idea of balance. From here, we facilitated an exercise where everyone wrote or drew their ideas, split into small groups to discuss, and then shared back to the entire office. Much of what we discussed centered on the concept of movement or the passage of time and eroding boundaries. After that a smaller group of us met weekly and arrived at the following list of goals:

The installation should be fun!
The design should feel light and airy.
We should utilize recyclable materials or embrace the idea of non-permanence.
It should broadcast an individual’s interaction to the community.

Merging our recurring ideas of time and eroding boundaries with our list of goals, we arrived at an irregular form, comprised of a repeated and reusable element that had a softened boundary, allowing visitors to choose their level of interaction while providing an engaging experience for people of all abilities. The arrangement of repeating elements and overall form have been tweaked and tuned using parametric design tools in the office. We chose fiberglass poles, used for agility training and running exercises, as our repeating vertical element, with the idea that they will be donated to local health programs or park districts–giving them life after the short installation.

We are currently in construction to prefabricate the installation for an easy assembly during the weekend of the festival. We’re using full-scale mock-ups to test our details, spacing, and final materials with Aldrich, and every day we are getting more excited to share the finished project with you!

If you are interested in seeing how our project (and some 60 others from various Seattle-based designers and offices) turns out, come join us at the Seattle Design Festival Block Party, August 24-25 at Lake Union Park.

In honor of Earth Day, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Committee on the Environment (COTE) announced the 2019 recipients for its highest honor, the COTE Top Ten Awards.

Mahlum’s North Transfer Station is one of the 10 projects named this year for demonstrating expertly integrated design excellence with cutting-edge performance in several key areas.

Project submissions were required to demonstrate alignment with COTE’s rigorous criteria for 10 measures that include social, economic, and ecological values. The five-member jury evaluated each project submission based on a cross-section of the 10 metrics balanced with the holistic approach to the design.

We are honored to be included in such great company. Complete details for each COTE Top Ten award winning project are available on AIA’s website.

Recognizing how strategic, integrated planning can result in exemplary buildings, grounds and institutional success, we are delighted that the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) announced on April 15 that two projects received Honorable Mentions in the 2019 SCUP Excellence Awards program.

Tapʰòytʰaʼ Hall at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon was recognized with an Honorable Mention in the of SCUP/AIA CAE Excellence in Architecture for a New Building category.

The Campus Master Plan for UW Bothell/Cascadia College in Bothell, Washington was recognized with an Honorable Mention in the SCUP Excellence in Planning for an Existing Campus category.

If you would like to learn about the trends and observations that came from the winning projects, you can attend the awards session at SCUP 2019 in Seattle.  And you can click here to see the full listing of all the 2019 winners.

by Octavio Gutierrez

Every architect has played with LEGO blocks at some point in their life – and many still do. The simplicity of modular, color-coded blocks lets one inject creativity and beauty with limited, and even then only self-imposed, constraints. So, when asked to develop the Mid-level Challenge for the 2019 NWACUHO (Northwest Association of College and University Housing Officers) Conference last February in Portland, Mahlum turned to the venerable block for inspiration and invited housing professionals to develop their ideal student community. Four teams of professionals – conference attendees representing Colleges and Universities across the Pacific Northwest – accepted the challenge.

Formatted as a game board experience, the challenge simulated the design and procurement process of a student housing project.  Each team was provided a fixed budget and a site at Portland State University, and professionals were tasked with engaging exhibit hall vendors (designers, builders, vendors and service providers) as they deliberated important and realistic scenarios – following their projects from conception through day-to-day operation.

Each team was asked to start by developing a program, and Mahlum was on hand to offer advice on site and planning restrictions. With standardized housing and amenity “blocks”, each team quickly saw the potential of stacking and arranging different program components in a manner that spoke to their vision of a student community. While some teams prioritized density, others focused on themed experiences. All teams finalized their program by assembling their program massing models.

With a design concept in hand, teams were then asked to walk the exhibition hall floor. They were encouraged to first visit a contractor and engineer to verify project budgets and consider potential building systems: Walsh Construction made sure each team met their construction budget while PAE offered insights on potential enhancements, increasing awareness of the importance for planning for sustainable systems. Teams were also asked to procure other necessary services, such as furniture and operational software, by exchanging play money – “Stumps” in this case – for game board stickers.

The challenge was capped by a short presentation to a panel of jurors consisting of Mahlum, Michael Griffel (University of Oregon) and Mike Walsh (Portland State University). Each team outlined their community priorities, project program, budget, and vendor interaction. Massing models were useful in conveying the big ideas, and the jury was impressed at the level of interest, engagement and innovation in the massing/stacking process.

We are thrilled that the American Institute of Architects announced on January 29 that Arlington Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington has been recognized with a 2019 Honor Award. Arlington was chosen in part because its design “eschews basic assumptions and promotes a new model of civic practice in education.”

You can learn more about Arlington’s winning submittal by going to the AIA website, or reading more about the project on our website.

by Joseph Mayo
Large format, solid engineered wood construction, known as mass timber, first rose to prominence nearly a decade ago when a 9-story mass timber building, the Graphite Apartments (AKA Murray Grove), was completed in London. A stream of new innovative mass timber projects has followed – a 14- and 18-story timber building in Norway and an 18-story mass timber building at the University of British Columbia have led to a 24-story mass timber tower in Vienna, Austria, topping out at around 275 feet.


Washington, a state rich with some of the nation’s best timberlands and long history in building with wood, is particularly hampered by the 2015 IBC. Our design community wants to use local materials with excellent sustainability and performance metrics**.

Yet in the United States, this new-ish building system has been held back by its regulation under the International Building Code (IBC). Falling under the IBC’s heavy timber construction provision, or Type IV, mass timber is only permitted up to 6 stories or less despite recent testing and research on mass timber’s safety, resiliency and reliability.

Washington, a state rich with some of the nation’s best timberlands and long history in building with wood, is particularly hampered by the 2015 IBC. Our design community wants to use local materials with excellent sustainability and performance metrics**. Timber cultivation and manufacturing offers living wage jobs in rural communities, helps preserve working forests, and boost our state’s economic growth. Two high-tech cross-laminated timber (CLT) plants under construction in Washington can benefit from increased demand for mass timber.

Action Percolates in Washington State

With these numerous opportunities, Washington State Legislature Bill ESB 5450 directed the State Building Code Council (SBCC) to adopt new rules for using mass timber in residential and commercial buildings. This legislative directive builds on over two years for research and testing conducted by a committee of the International Code Council (ICC), the organization responsible for writing building codes used in the United States.

The ICC’s Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings (TWB) is a diverse group of building code officials, engineers, architects, and steel, concrete and wood industry representatives. The TWB proposes 14 code changes to allow the safe construction of taller mass timber buildings. These changes were overwhelmingly approved by the ICC at the Committee Action Hearing (CAH) in Columbus, Ohio in April of 2018 and again at Public Comment Hearings in Richmond, Virginia in October of 2018. If the final ICC On-Line Governmental Consensus Vote is successful, the TWB code change proposals will be part of the 2021 International Building Code.

New Code Changes

The TWB code proposal creates three new mass timber building types: Type IV-A, IV-B and IV-C. The original Type IV is maintained, but renamed Type-IV HT (Heavy Timber). The new types allow up to 18-, 12- and 9-story tall buildings, respectively. The new code language also prescribes significant fire and life safety standards.

Experts on the TWB believe these recommendations are inherently conservative, and often with more stringent fire and life safety standards than for comparable non-combustible construction. This is intended to increase comfort with and confidence in this new type of building.

A Coalition Pushes for Early Adoption

A coalition of partners interested in establishing Washington State’s national leadership in mass timber design and construction has included Forterra, AIA Washington Council, Mahlum and others. Strong technical data supports the safe use of mass timber in taller buildings here.

In May 2018, the coalition submitted a state-wide building code amendment proposal to adopt the TWB’s 14 code changes now. This will allow use of the new provisions three years earlier than when the national model code is available in 2022.

In mid-July, we first met with the SBCC’s Building Code Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to review the mass timber code change proposal. The TAG unanimously passed a motion to submit the proposal to the full SBCC. At the end of July, the SBCC further debated and then overwhelmingly approved the code change to move forward for public comment.

Following an extensive period of public comment and additional discussion and review, the SBCC officially approved the code change proposal on November 30th, 2018. This approval makes Washington State the first in the country to incorporate these changes into their State Code***. After one legislative session, the new code language and new mass timber building types will be part of Washington State’s 2015 Building Code and available to designers as early as April 28th, 2019.

Adoption of these code change provisions will help Washington establish early leadership in this emerging field, create jobs, fuel economic growth, provide new hi-tech sustainable building materials, offer new options for designers and owners, and renew discussion on sustainable forestry practices in the state. Mass timber can mean mass building, mass housing, mass customization and mass change (disruption) for the design and construction industry. We are on the cusp of creating new, innovative buildings that push the boundaries of sustainability and design.

UPDATE – December 19, 2018: The ICC vote results are in, and all mass timber code change proposals have been accepted for the 2021 IBC. Click here to view the AWC press release.

* The phrase “Timber 2.0” has been used by U.S. Congressman Derek Kilmer of Washington’s 6th District to refer to the new opportunities in mass timber as compared to traditional wood construction.

** While research is ongoing to quantify the exact carbon benefits of mass timber over other construction types, there is evidence to suggest that mass timber can provide environmental benefits when designed efficiently and utilizing wood from sustainably managed forests.

*** Oregon has adopted a Statewide Alternative Method that also permits the use of these new code provisions, but it will not be officially part of the Oregon State Building Code until later.

Both photos: © Will Pryce & Waugh Thistleton Architects; original photos can be found here and here, via Wikimedia Commons.