By Joseph Mayo

Young children make sense of the world by engaging with the physical environment through movement and the use of their senses. We simply refer to this as learning. However, like the work of a scientist, when children engage in play, they use touch, smell, sound, sight, and taste to experiment, discover and synthesize their encounters. Creating environments that promote these experimental and experiential activities can lead to better learning and developmental outcomes, especially for early learners. Similarly, strengthening connections with nature by utilizing natural and non-toxic materials, and incorporating other biophilic strategies, can create a supportive and sustainable learning environment for infants, toddlers, and preschool learners.

This was the central vision for the new Capitol Campus Childcare Center at the Washington State Capitol. The facility, an initiative of First Lady Trudi Inslee, is a model for nature-based early learning, returning childcare to the Capitol Campus after a 13-year absence.

First Lady Inslee explains:
“As parents and grandparents, Jay and I appreciate the importance of early learning. We have long believed quality childcare should be available and affordable to all working families. We want current and prospective employees to view our state as an employer of choice by providing close proximity of childcare to the workplace. This will not only provide convenience but will also result in greater employee productivity as parents experience the peace and security of having their children close by. Hopefully this model will be replicated by other employers in the state.”

The Capitol Childcare Center is a model for 21st century childcare facilities. Focusing on nature and health, the center will be an optimal place for our early learners to develop and experience the world.

A Green Gateway
Nature-inspired elements not only abound inside the building, but outside as well. Upon arrival, children, staff, and visitors are greeted by native shrubs, fruit trees, granite boulders, and locally harvested logs set within the landscape. A deep, protective overhang highlighted by Western Red Cedar and Douglas Fir is filled with daylight and creates a warm welcome into this approximately 10,000 SF facility.

Situated at the southwest corner of the Capitol Campus, the new building creates a green gateway into the State Capitol with nearly 40 new trees and a variety of native and adapted shrubs and grasses. As an entry to the Capitol Campus, the project provides improved accessibility with widened sidewalks, curb ramps and a new pedestrian crossing at Capitol Way to better serve pedestrians traveling to the Capitol and surrounding buildings. Existing connections to the East Plaza are improved and expanded upon so that adults, as well as the children, can easily access the park-like setting and pedestrian overpass that leads to the Capitol Building. Through close integration, the building and landscape function together to strengthen the Capitol Campus and provide a stimulating, natural setting for the children occupying the Center.

Nature-Based Play
Nature-Deficit Disorder was introduced in 2005 with Richard Louv’s publication of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Richard’s work posits that human beings, especially children, are spending less time connecting to the natural and outdoor environment and this change is producing a wide range of behavioral problems and is resulting in a negative impact on childhood development. Each of the building’s six classrooms have direct access to an outdoor classroom so children can get their hands dirty and experience the outside world first-hand. Pathways, plantings, and nature-based play equipment like timber steppers, log tunnels and balance beams, boulders, hillocks, and timber stages balance discovery with development of gross motor skills, balance, and tactility. The design is a direct response to Richard’s ideas creating an opportunity for the children to connect to nature through play.

The secure, exterior spaces are planted with a variety of shrubs, grasses, and fruiting and flowering trees to stimulate the senses and attract pollinators and birds. Play structures are constructed from minimally processed natural logs and boards, with organic shapes and textures.

Deep overhangs provide shelter for outdoor activities during frequent Northwest rains, and roof scuppers highlight the path of water on the site. The roof scuppers direct rainwater into a stream before being carried away to nearby Budd Inlet, offering another way for the children to connect to their environment by tracing the path of water. The building’s overhangs protect Western Red Cedar siding, providing a natural backdrop for the learning environments.

Biophilia is defined as “a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in nature: a desire or tendency to commune with nature” by Merriam Webster. In 1984, Edward Wilson published a slim volume titled Biophilia. In it, Wilson proposed the term (which translates to “love of life”), to define what he observed as humans’ innate tendency to focus on living things, as opposed to the inanimate. Since then, researchers have given his intuitive idea validity through rigorous peer reviewed research. Biophilic design elements – like access and views to nature, the presence of biomorphic shapes, and natural materials – have been shown to decrease blood pressure and improve creative performance, comfort, reduce stress, and promote greater satisfaction (Tsunetsugu, Miyazaki & Sato, 2007). Terrapin’s14 Patterns of Biophilic Design” articulates and collects much of this emerging research into three distinct patterns which explore the relationships between nature, human biology, and the design of the built environment so that we may experience the human benefits of biophilia in our design applications.


Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT)
One of the ways the new facility promotes a Biophilic response is through the State of Washington’s emerging Mass Timber industry. The project’s roof is constructed from cross laminated timber (CLT), the first use of this innovative material on the Capitol Campus. CLT is large, prefabricated wood panels made of, in this case, Northwest grown Douglas Fir. This emerging high-tech timber industry is creating new, high paying jobs in rural Washington and placing a priority on harnessing sustainable material and forestry practices. Of the approximately 11,500 square feet of CLT, many of the panels used on the project are over 40-feet long and were all pre-cut to exact specifications. The structural capacity of CLT is highlighted by cantilevering the panels and creating deep, protective overhangs around the building. A self-adhered vapor barrier was pre-applied at the CLT manufacturing facility before shipping the panels to site. Despite heavy rains throughout the October installation, this protective membrane kept the panels pristine, dry and reduced construction time on-site. The CLT used on the project has a net carbon sequestration of nearly 8,500 kgCO2e – the amount of emissions generated by approximately 1,850 passenger vehicles driven for one year. This type of construction not only saves time and supports the local economy, but when left exposed as the finished ceiling in each of the classrooms can create a “comfortable” feeling documented by Tsunetsugu, Miyazaki & Saito.

Healthy Materials
In addition to the integration of CLT, the remainder of the interior prioritizes elements made of natural, non-toxic materials, as well as nature inspired colors and shapes. Children are especially susceptible to pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the environment, which can inhibit lung growth and cause other long-term health problems. Products like gypsum wall board, paint, acoustical wall panels, carpet, casework and trim makeup the vast majority of interior materials. All these materials, and more, were vetted to be either inherently non-emitting or have Greenguard Gold certification, demonstrating ultra-low VOC emissions. The selection of these materials provides enhanced indoor air quality and a healthy environment for young children.

Many of these materials are also Red List free, meaning that their manufacturing avoids harmful chemicals and compounds. Douglas Fir wood doors, frames, relites, and trim are used throughout the facility as a safe, natural material that also strengthens the biophilic response of staff, teachers, and students. Simulating patterns found in nature is another way to create a calming and healthy interior environment. Large nature-inspired area rugs that mimic the color and texture of grasses are used through the classrooms. To ensure optimal acoustical performance, natural hued sound absorbing wall panels, which double as tack boards, are also used throughout. Round suspended lights are hung from the CLT ceiling to create a pattern that emphasizes movement and visual interest. The use of cedar cladding in outdoor classrooms brings the warm, rich texture and patterning of wood to child level, again strengthening biophilia.

Carbon Draw-Down
Every manufactured building material has an inherent “carbon footprint” associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing carbon emissions in material production and transportation is a primary way the construction industry can fight climate change. The use of wood was a critical strategy in the reduction of embodied carbon (CO2) for the Center and was the optimal choice to meet Governor Inslee’s commitment to promote sustainable design practices in Washington State. Environmental impacts are reduced when using wood as compared to steel and concrete. In fact, an in-house Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) study conducted by Mahlum Architects illustrated that the use of wood as the primary structural frame, in combination with other strategies reduced equivalent CO2 emissions 60 percent compared to a baseline steel frame building of identical size. All the wood framing in the project is sustainably certified, meaning harvested trees are replanted and will continue to sequester carbon from the atmosphere as they grow.

In Pursuit of Net Zero Energy
While embodied carbon is an important environmental impact, carbon emissions that occur through the building’s energy usage throughout its operational lifespan is another critical aspect of reducing the global impact of carbon emissions in the built environment. Driving down operational energy use and associated carbon emissions is a priority for the State of Washington and the Capitol Campus. Washington State Executive Order 20-01 mandates new building construction be net-zero energy when construction costs allow. Because a large percent of Western Washington’s energy grid production is from clean hydroelectric power, eliminating fossil fuels from the building reduces overall carbon emissions due to operations. The Capitol Childcare Center is 100 percent electric with a net-zero ready roof area available for future photovoltaic (PV) array. Several strategies to reduce the Energy Use Intensity (EUI) of the building have been employed so that its full energy needs can be met by a future rooftop PV array. Power for the building is supplied from an off-site wind farm, but with a PV roof array the energy production will shift to on-site for net zero energy. An 88 kWh rooftop PV array is scheduled for installation beginning in mid-July 2021, fulfilling the Governor’s executive order for new construction to be net-zero energy.

To reduce heating and cooling needs, which can lead to considerable energy use and associated emissions, the building has a high performance, thermally efficient envelope. Exterior walls are framed using 2×8 wood studs, allowing more insulation than standard construction. The use of wood also reduces thermal bridging through the exterior wall assemblies. The project’s large windows not only allow ample daylight, provide visual access to nature throughout the building, and reduce the need for electrical lighting, but are made from fiberglass, one of the most thermally efficient window materials. Skylights in each classroom drive natural light deep into the classroom and provide an additional connection to the outside world, including the movement of the sun which helps children develop a sense of time while reducing the need for electric lighting. The windows and skylights serve another critical function of cooling the building during warmer weather. Each window is controlled by the Building Management System (BMS) and will open automatically depending on outside conditions to let fresh, cool air into the classrooms. The skylights are also operable, and when open, allow natural stack ventilation in the classrooms and promote natural, low-energy cooling. Ceiling fans are integrated as a final measure to keep spaces comfortable with minimal energy demands. The building’s roof is also super insulated, providing almost twice the insulation thickness of a standard code compliant roof. Together, these design strategies, combined with efficient LED lighting helps to substantially drive down energy use in the building by over 30% from a LEED baseline building. This equates to 12,805 kg CO2/yr (30,436 lbs CO2/yr) or the amount of carbon sequestered by 18 acres of forest land each year. The project is slated for completion in Summer/Fall 2021 and anticipated to achieve LEED Gold.

All spaces in the childcare facility receive 100% fresh air through the building’s ventilation system. The Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) is energy efficient due to low-velocity air movement, reduced fan loads, and smaller HVAC ducting. In addition, Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV) is used to precondition in-coming fresh air by capturing waste heat and coolth as it is exhausted from the building. No air mixing occurs during this process, making it completely hygienic. Microbial contamination of ventilation air is not a concern with DOAS systems because no mixing of fresh and recirculated air occurs. This makes DOAS an excellent choice for ventilation air, especially with increased awareness of viral spread through air-born pathways.

Thanks to the vision and dedication of First Lady Trudi Inslee to support early childhood education, the Capitol Campus Childcare Center leverages a multitude of design strategies to create a diverse, healthy, and sustainable environment, both inside and out. These strategies support play, curiosity and serve as the foundation for life-long learning and growth. By achieving a pathway to net-zero energy and showcasing the benefits of cross laminated timber construction, this small but mighty addition to the Capitol Campus is an inspiring example of Washington State’s commitment to environmental stewardship, to an emerging industry, and an investment in our long-term future through early education.

Corrie Rosen has been elevated to Partner, joining Anne Schopf, David Mount, Mark Cork, and Kurt Haapala in leading the firm.

A graduate of Columbia University with a Master of Architecture degree, Corrie initially honed her architectural skills at A+I and Maya Lin Studio in New York City. She joined Mahlum in 2007 and has spent the last 14 years making a significant impact on the firm, focusing much of her efforts in promoting social justice and equity in the firm’s work.

“Corrie introduced and has led Mahlum’s Pro Bono and Commitment to Community programs, which have critically altered the trajectory of the firm’s culture and contribution to the communities we serve,” said Anne Schopf, Design Partner.

In her new role, Corrie will continue to deepen her focus on culture and community, both internally and externally, maintaining her commitment to sharing the important role of architecture and its ability to impact positive change. In Corrie’s own words, “I’ve made social outreach an integral part of my practice. I consider the built environment a laboratory – an opportunity to create stimulating new ways of learning and to empower students to effect positive change.”

The essence of Corrie’s commitment to community is demonstrated in her work with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV). Leading the firm’s efforts to connect Mahlum with non-profits in the local community, Corrie recognized an opportunity to provide the WSCADV with pro bono architectural services to create design guidelines for shelters serving women and children. The resulting interactive online resource, Building Dignity: Design Strategies for Domestic Violence Shelter, has been leveraged locally, nationally, and internationally as a tool to assist designers and organizations to create supportive and safe environments for those in crisis.

Photo of Corrie Rosen working with Margaret Hobart
Corrie Rosen collaborating on Building Dignity with Margaret Hobart (formerly with Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

The creation of Building Dignity is just one example of how Corrie believes architects can serve those who might not normally seek them out. Her determination to show how thoughtful design can help empower parents, support children’s needs, and facilitate healing, is the reason Corrie’s elevation to Partner is critical to Mahlum’s commitment to addressing environmental and social justice both in the firm’s work, and in how they do the work.

Though Corrie has worked on a variety of award-winning projects since joining the firm, some of the most notable include Nathan Hale High School Modernization in Seattle, Arlington Elementary School in Tacoma, which received the 2019 AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture, and most recently, Madrona School in Edmonds, winner of A4LE’s LESolutions Planning & Design Award for New Learning Environment in 2020. Corrie has also participated in speaking engagements, focusing on inclusive design, and creating successful pro bono programs.

During her time with Mahlum, Corrie has always maintained that, for her, architecture is not just about building physical structures, it’s also about building relationships. Internally, she supports and uplifts staff, valuing each person’s personality, value, interest, and commitment that helps shape our culture as a whole. Externally, she deeply listens to clients, users, partners, contractors, and communities. It is the process that she’s passionate about; the time spent with staff, users, and clients, working together to capture ideas and create spaces that support human connections and inspire joy.

Violence and racism against Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are deeply entrenched in the history of the United States.  We stand with our staff in denouncing the recent string of murders and attacks, the latest manifestation of the longstanding history of violence and hate crimes against AAPI.  

We are deeply saddened by the increased amount of anger and hostility directed against the AAPI community that has emerged during the Covid-19 outbreak and the immeasurable toll it has taken on their communities.  We understand that the struggles the AAPI communities face are bound up in a global system that perpetuates violence against all communities of color, including Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples.  

WHAT Do We Stand For?
We stand with organizations like Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta  in calling for community-centered responses to crisis, in lieu of over-policing that so often leads to criminalization of communities of color.  We are clear that the struggle for AAPI liberation is intersectional. It includes overlapping oppressions—affecting BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folx, immigrants, workers, and women—all perpetuated under a system rooted in white supremacist patriarchal colonization. We stand in full solidarity with all who are exploited and oppressed under this system. This also includes white allies who understand this oppression and are actively fighting against it.   

WHAT Can You Do?  
We call on White and Black, Brown, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to confront anti-Asian racism within your communities. Internalized white supremacy takes many forms.  Research the Asian/AAPI plight in the U.S. and worldwide so you can also be aware of its long and fraught history.  Use the hashtags #StopAsianHate and #StopAAPIHate—not #AsianLivesMatter. Co-opting the work of Black activists undermines necessary coalition building.  

WHAT Are We Doing?  
We will take the lead from the AAPI community in calls to action, direct actions, advocacy, and education efforts. We will acknowledge their suffering and seek their perspective to understand how they are uniquely affected by white supremacist patriarchal power structures.  

We are working with our impacted staff and giving them the support they need to grieve and heal.  

We commit to lift up the voices of Asian and AAPI groups who have been in the struggle for many years by aligning our charitable contributions with our Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) principles.  

We commit to remaining vigilant. By intervening or documenting  if we witness a hate crime or see an Asian or AAPI person in distress or danger.  

As we hold each other through this period of mourning, let us also remember that in the face of violence and oppression, there has always been solidarity and resistance. Let us come together, learn from and uplift each other, and build a resilient, diverse community that includes everyone on the path to justice and liberation.  

We remain committed to advancing racial equality and living a culture of inclusion. We invite you to Stand With Us to Stop Asian Hate.  

By Kurt Haapala and Octavio Gutierrez

Mahlum’s vision of empowering healthy communities through the built environment guides our understanding and celebration of the rich diversity of the human condition. We listen for stories from students, staff, administrators, and other project stakeholders that can influence the way we craft space to be welcoming and inclusionary, as well as socially and academically supportive. Patients, nurses, doctors, and medical staff remind us of the value of daylight, views, and access to nature in shaping positive health outcomes. Our clients fuel our passion for design. They challenge us to treat every project as an opportunity to shape a better world, where justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are core values.

As a firm dedicated to promoting a deep sense of community within our work, Mahlum was humbled by the vision for transformation brought to us by our client for the Our Home – Cathedral Park cohousing community, and are honored to be collaborating with Our Home Inclusive Community Collaborative (ICC) on this project.

When we first met Our Home ICC ‘Founding Neighbor,’ Alicia DeLashmutt, she shared with us her vision for a truly supportive community called Our Home, to be located in North Portland’s Cathedral Park neighborhood and offering studios, 1-bedroom and 2-bedroom units, with modern amenities and expansive views of Forest Park, the Willamette River, and the iconic St. John’s Bridge.

Alicia’s passion and commitment to this project was inspiring and radical. As the mother of a young adult who experiences disability, she shared the story of her own journey to find a community where she felt her family, and families like hers, could thrive. She recognized that there were barriers preventing families with unique needs from finding supportive homes. Alicia then said something that really struck a chord with us: “Society has systematically segregated people into living environments based on their differing abilities and identities. This segregation is a fundamentally flawed and tragic consequence of an inability to accommodate the needs of a diverse society – be it a physical, cognitive or emotional disability; cultural, racial or ethnic difference; or economically disadvantaged situations.”

Alicia believes the true strength of a community is the measure of its diversity.

Our Home – Cathedral Park will be utilizing the cohousing development model that originated in Denmark in the late 1960’s. Cohousing is an intentional community where shared common resources are balanced with individual privacy. Investing our deep passion and commitment towards equitable design solutions, Mahlum embraced the project mission and cohousing model to embed inclusionary design strategies that support the entire community.

This project will go beyond a typical cohousing community by prioritizing accommodation. Still incorporating traditional cohousing elements like the common house, bike storage, laundry, guest facilities, and open space, the design centers the needs of a broader cross-section of society by addressing aspects of Neurodiversity, DeafSpace, Universal Design, Blind and Low Vision, Staying-in-Place, and Trauma-informed Design:

Inclusionary design strategies are seamlessly woven within the principles of cohousing, enhancing the sense of an intentionally supportive community. The creation of a front porch for individual homes allows moments of community connectivity but also supports moments of rest for all ages. Clear lines of sight support safe navigation for deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and low vision community members. Clear programmatic zoning of spaces and identifiable spatial transitions aid those with neurodiversity differences to manage and control sensory levels. Windows at each individual kitchen provide views to the common open space, creating visual connectivity and a sense of comfort. Most importantly, these elements are built around shared indoor and outdoor community gathering spaces that will grow a strong and supportive community of neighbors.

We look forward to our journey with the community members of Our Home – Cathedral Park, and the realization of the vision of a truly empowered and inclusive community.

To learn more about this unique living experience, visit Our Home – Cathedral Park. You can also learn more on our website. Our Home – Cathedral Park is being developed in collaboration with Urban Development + Partners and Our Home, Inclusive Community Collaborative.

By Jesse Walton, Jay Hindmarsh and Anne Schopf

Following the historic 1997 Kyoto Protocol, and the growing understanding of the role that the built environment has on global warming, Mahlum began in earnest to incorporate sustainable strategies into our work. That early commitment resulted in the firm being awarded two national AIA COTE Top Ten Awards for The Evergreen State College’s Seminar II Building (2005) and Lake Washington School District’s Benjamin Franklin Elementary School (2006). In addition, Mahlum’s Providence Newberg Medical Center became the first LEED Gold Certified Hospital in the nation (2007). All these projects looked to low energy solutions, including natural ventilation strategies for summer comfort.

Our commitment to a low-energy future deepened on May 8th, 2009 when we signed onto the newly created AIA 2030 Commitment. Mahlum made this ambitious public commitment to prioritize energy performance in pursuit of carbon neutral buildings by the year 2030 in alignment with Ed Mazria’s 2030 Challenge.

At that time the year 2030 was more than 20 years in the future and while the commitment we had signed seemed daunting, at the time we had no idea (1) how far away we were from a carbon neutral future, and (2) how to accomplish the goal. Now that we are deep into 2020 and less than 10 years away from the 2030 goal of carbon neutral buildings, we are all too aware of the actual time, dedication and means it will take to achieve this goal.

For the first five years after we signed onto the 2030 Commitment we struggled with two things. The first was the creation of our Sustainability Action Plan (SAP) which was intended to be a publicly shared document outlining the firm’s culture of sustainable design and operations. We formed various committees and circulated drafts, but with the devastation of the recession, the document sat on our server in draft form, remaining incomplete.

The second struggle was how to collect every project’s predicted Energy Use Intensity (pEUI) and what form it should take. Most of our projects at the time did not have a pEUI or a person on the team who could run an energy model to calculate the pEUI. When it was possible, we leaned on our mechanical engineers to calculate each project’s pEUI. We also asked project teams to focus on collecting the pEUI data into Access Databases and Excel Spreadsheets, which we then submitted to the AIA annually. By gathering this information, we learned that though we were reducing our average pEUI, we were not actually meeting the current target of 60%. Though disappointing, at least this data collection effort kept us honest about where we stood.

Below is our first pEUI Reduction Percentage Report to the AIA in 2011:

A renewed interest in finalizing our firm’s SAP arose and we formed the Sustainability Steering Committee (SSC), a group of architectural staff, including leadership, who met regularly and focused on the firm-wide integration of sustainable design. The SSC, with input from the entire office, took two years to finalize and publish our SAP.

In 2015 the AIA created the 2030 Design Data Exchange (DDx), an online database of all AIA 2030 Commitment signatories’ projects and their related pEUI data. This helped regularize the type of data collected and the location to collect it in. Through trial and error, we also learned that each team needed support to collect the pEUI data for the DDx on an annual basis, so we formed the 2030 Birddogs. This small group of architectural staff (around six participants), distributed between our Portland and Seattle offices and our Healthcare, Housing, and K-12 studios, partnered with each team to make sure the data submitted to the DDx was accurate and complete. In addition, during our office’s bi-annual project check-in with leadership we asked project teams to update an Energy Use Intensity Speedometer which built in accountability for the pEUI regularly, as shown below.

Where are We Now?

After 9 years of consistent pEUI data collection and using new tools like Tableau Public to better understand this data, we now have a detailed understanding of where we are in relation to the 2030 goal of carbon neutral buildings. Since 2013 we have annually increased our energy efficiency 4%, and since 2017 we have had an energy efficiency of greater than 50% – achieving a higher pEUI savings than the average AIA 2030 Commitment reporting firm. In 2019 our project’s pEUI savings was 56%. While this did not meet the 70% energy efficiency goal in 2019, if we extrapolate our historical improvements of 4% annually it is realistic that we can achieve 100% energy efficiency by 2030.

In 2020 we decided to analyze the 2019 pEUI data using Tableau Public. We created an interactive data visualization and found several compelling findings that highlighted some correlations and differences outlined in the 2018 Summary Report of the AIA 2030 Commitment, which currently represents the national average from reporting firms.

  1. We found that our new construction work was 19% more energy efficient than the national average while our renovation work was 19% less efficient than our new construction work. For example, Mahlum’s renovation work at a 45% reduction aligns with the 2018 report, but our new construction work at 64% is 19% more energy efficient than both our renovation work and the national average for new construction work.

  2. Our K-12 and Higher Ed work at a 55% reduction was slightly better than the 53% reduction in the 2018 Report. Our healthcare work at 48% reduction was on par with the Healthcare work in the 2018 Report, but 7% less efficient than our K-12 and Higher Ed work.

  3. Our energy modeled projects had a 58% reduction whereas our projects that were not energy modeled had a 42% reduction, a 16% delta. The 2018 Report notes a 25% delta between the two, a larger discrepancy between energy modeled and non-energy modeled projects.

  4. Our projects in Washington State have an average 62% reduction, while our Oregon work is a lower 46% reduction – a 16% delta. Our 2019 Washington State work was designed under the 2015 IECC with Washington State Amendments, which aligns with ASHRAE 90.1-2013 energy efficiencies. Our 2019 Oregon State work aligns with the 2014 OEESC and ASHRAE 90.1-2007 energy efficiencies. The National Impact of ASHRAE 90.1-2016 Report notes that the difference between 2007 and 2013 versions of 90.1 is 14%, making it close to the 16% difference we are seeing between our work in Washington and Oregon. With the new Oregon 2019 Zero Energy Ready Commercial Code implemented at the end of 2019 we expect to see our new Oregon projects in 2020 align with the energy efficiencies we have been seeing in Washington State for the past three years.

Below: Our pEUI Exploratory Dashboard for AIA 2030 Commitment 2019 Data created in Tableau Public.

How We Get to Carbon Neutral and Achieve the 2030 Challenge

  1. Focus on Renovation work. Even though our New Construction Work is performing significantly better, we will need to focus our efforts on renovation work to bring it up to the same energy efficiency levels as our new construction work.

  2. Energy Model all projects. Considering our energy modeled work is performing 16% better than our non-modeled work, we will advocate for all projects to use energy models during design to continue to build energy efficiency awareness.

  3. Focus on our lower efficiency Healthcare work. Since our Healthcare work is 7% less energy efficient than our other market sectors, we will need to transfer some of the energy efficiency strategies from our higher performing K-12 and Higher Ed work to our Healthcare work.

  4. Implement Washington State efficiency standards into our Oregon projects. With the new Oregon Zero Energy Ready Codes now in effect in 2020 we will take the lessons we learned complying with the Washington State energy codes to our Oregon work including continuous insulation above and below grade, reduction in thermal bridging, and tight air barriers. Now that the two state’s codes are more closely aligned, the efficiency of our Oregon projects should increase by 14%-16%.

  5. Measure & Collect Actual Energy Use Intensity (EUI). With inspirational efforts like the Seattle Energy Benchmarking Program which requires the public disclosure of EUI for buildings over 20,000sf on an interactive online map we have started to collect our own projects EUI to see if they align with our predictions during design.

  6. The Addition of PVs. The few projects we have to date that meet the 70% and 80% reduction targets of the 2030 challenge are really Net Zero Energy Ready, meaning that with a large PV Array they can achieve 100% net energy reduction aka Net Zero Energy. Most of our work at Mahlum is low rise construction and can handle large PV arrays on the roof, or Community Solar must be integrated to achieve Net Zero Energy.

  7. Embodied Carbon. The AIA 2030 Commitment signatories have been dedicated to focusing on operational energy and carbon impacts. Now that our buildings are more typically seeing high energy efficiencies it is even more important for us to focus on the embodied carbon and its impact on our climate – but that is for another post.

To 2030 and Beyond!

In the mid 90’s we started our sustainability journey with a handful of project specific goals to achieve LEED certification. Those goals have since snowballed into a firm-wide effort of accountability to our planet with the implementation of energy-efficiency and low-carbon goals into all our work. In 2020 we now have measurable data that shows us where we are in relation to the goals of the 2030 Challenge, and how much further we must go to get there.

When considering the daunting task in front of us we, as architects more aware than most of how distant carbon neutrality is, must remember the words Greta Thunberg spoke in September 2019, “You must take action. You must do the impossible, because giving up can never be an option.”

As a partnered program of Seattle Design Festival’s virtual programming, About Time, Listen Now engages our family, friends and neighbors by gathering their personal stories about times when they truly felt connected with someone who was different from themselves.

Each of us comes to our community bringing the stories that have made us who we are. Stories have deep power. One aspect of that power is the ability to either connect or separate us. People come together through work, organizations, and initiatives, but what brings hearts together and moves us to feel beyond ourselves are the personal memories that we share. In that spirit, it is About Time to truly hear from our communities. It is About Time to listen deeply and amplify the individual stories that reflect today’s shared experiences.

We all inhabit a physical position in our community and are nodes within a complex network.

This communal web is constantly in flux, pushing and pulling with the pressure of everyday life, and responding to our own individual influences. When we pause to listen to the story of our community, will we find a moment that moves our hearts? The act of extending beyond one’s place of comfort by sharing a personal story with another opens our hearts and offers us the chance to move closer together.

It is About Time to recognize and share our differences in culture, race, religion, and political viewpoints. It is About Time to remind ourselves what we share as human beings.

We reached out to our communities and asked if they would be willing to share their stories.

We called family, friends and neighbors and explained that we were gathering stories about the many ways people can come together and form meaningful connections through shared memories. We asked if each person would be willing to share a story — a personal moment in their life where they felt truly connected with someone who did not look like them.

We were thrilled with the response and within a couple of weeks we were gathering sound clips from all over the country. We’ve been deeply moved by our community and are excited to share these stories far and wide.

Listen Now is live. Come and take a listen.

We also recommend you visit Design in Public for the full line-up of multi-design discipline events happening August 15-23, 2020, all exploring the theme of About Time.



We can no longer remain silent. Our communities are suffering. The killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis and the endless acts of racism and injustice in our society remind us of how far we are from realizing a world where each of us is able to feel safe in our communities – free of fear, discrimination, and oppression.

We live in a society where there are great inequities in healthcare, education, shelter, and personal safety. These inequities persist along racial lines. In Portland and Seattle, we want to believe that we live in progressive cities where these inequities do not exist. We want to believe everyone has equal opportunities and receives fair treatment, and yet the protests in our cities in recent days remind us that we are far from this ideal.

Our world must change. It’s time.

As the injustices surround us, we grapple with what to do beyond the protests. We are all beginning from different places, but to begin we first and foremost need to listen and learn as much as possible. The resources on-line are almost limitless when you start to dig, so we pulled out some that rose to the top. It’s a start and an invitation to begin a deeper understanding by listening, learning, patronizing local businesses, and supporting organizations fighting to dismantle racist policies in our communities

In that spirit, we share them here.




POC Online Classroom
Through resources, syllabi and zines, POC hopes to amplify the voices of marginalized communities, educate others and themselves on critical social justice issues, empower marginalized peoples, and incite change.

How to be an Ally
Taught by Kimberly Harris in two, 2-hour sessions on Saturdays in June for $30 each. Register here:

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man
Former NFL football player and current co-host of “Speak For Yourself” on Fox Sports 1, Emmanuel Acho is creating an ongoing series of 10 to 15 minute videos in which he hosts uncomfortable conversations with white people.

Your Black Friends Are Busy
A growing resource for learning about anti-racism and supporting the people and organizations doing important work for the Black Lives Matter movement.


(Please consider ordering books from black-owned independent bookstores.)

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
“Kendi has gifted us with a book that is not only an essential instruction manual but also a memoir of the author’s own path from anti-black racism to anti-white racism and, finally, to antiracism. . . . How to Be an Antiracist gives us a clear and compelling way to approach, as Kendi puts it in his introduction, ‘the basic struggle we’re all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.” —NPR (You can order the book here.)

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. (You can order the book here.)

Beyond the Hashtag: How to Take Anti-Racist Action in Your Life by Zyahna Bryant
In this op-ed for Teen Vogue, Zyahna Bryant — a Charlottesville-based activist, organizer, and social impact strategist — offers insight into how people can take anti-racist action.


(Please consider ordering books from black-owned independent bookstores.)

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Dear Martin tells the story of an Ivy League-bound African American student named Justyce who becomes a victim of racial profiling. Justyce confronts injustices and micro-aggressions he experiences at his mostly white prep school and the fallout from a brief detainment. Parents should be prepared to talk about current events, the Black Lives Matter movement, underage drinking, and stereotypes. (You can order the book here.)
Fiction, Age 13+

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Winner of a 2018 Coretta Scott King Author Honor, a Michael L. Printz Honor, and the Odyssey Award for best audiobook for kids and teens. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, it involves the police shooting of an unarmed black teen. The book covers topics of race, interracial dating, political activism, grief, friendship, wealth disparity, police brutality, addiction, and the media’s depiction of African Americans. Parents should be prepared to discuss recent and past instances of police shootings, how they were covered in the media, dealing with grief, and possible reactions to the trauma revealed in the book. This book was also made into a PG-13 movie of the same name and is available to rent. (You can order the book here.)
Fiction, Age 13+

A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
This book provides a clear explanation of what racism is and how to know when you see it. It’s never too early to start this important conversation. (You can pre-order the book here for its July 2020 release.)
Age 5+


These films and shows creatively dive into racism, past and present.

13th by Ava Duvernay
Documentary film, available on Netflix
In this 2016 thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.

Dear White People by Justin Simien
TV series, 3 seasons available on Netflix
Students of color navigate the daily slights and slippery politics of life at an Ivy League college that’s not nearly as “post-racial” as it thinks.

If Beale Street Could Talk by Barry Jenkins
Rated R, available on Hulu
Based on the novel by James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk is a drama about a young couple fighting for justice in the name of love and the promise of the American dream.

I am Not Your Negro by Raoul Peck
Documentary, available to rent on multiple platforms
In 1979, author James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing how his next book would be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book he never finished in this 2016 documentary.



Through their directory, guides, and events, it is easy to find and support local businesses and the diverse people behind them through everyday decisions about where we eat, drink, and shop.

Your donations will assist them in doing the meaningful and impactful work that must follow the protests.

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
America’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, LDF seeks structural changes to expand democracy, eliminate disparities, and achieve racial justice in a society that fulfills the promise of equality for all Americans. LDF also defends the gains and protections won over the past 75 years of civil rights struggle and works to improve the quality and diversity of judicial and executive appointments.

Black Lives Matter
Join the Movement to fight for Freedom, Liberation and Justice by signing up for updates, supporting our work, checking out our resources, following us on social media, or wearing our dope, official gear.

The Southern Poverty Law Center
SPLC is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality.

Campaign Zero
It will take deliberate action by policymakers at every level of government to end police violence. Funds donated to Campaign Zero support the analysis of policing practices across the country, research to identify effective solutions to end police violence, technical assistance to organizers leading police accountability campaigns and the development of model legislation and advocacy to end police violence nationwide.

by David Cole

Soothsaying is a tricky business, especially from the midst of a global crisis where new information emerges almost daily. Only with hindsight can our predictions be validated: Get it right and you’re a prophet, get it wrong and you’re a punch line. The COVID-19 crisis has already brought forth prognostications concerning the future of architecture and design. We’ve seen various hot takes proclaiming the end of cities, the end of suburbs, the end of the office, and the end of bars and restaurants as a result of the pandemic. To be sure, the pandemic has greatly disrupted our lives and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, and we can’t overlook the pain caused by those disruptions, particularly the pain felt by the most vulnerable communities.

A healthy dose of skepticism is in order whenever somebody claims to divine what the future will bring. People have been drawn to cities and gatherings for thousands of years despite countless pandemics, and it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon. We’re social animals by nature, and there will always be a demand for places where we can come together to eat, drink, socialize, be entertained, and collaborate. That said, there will likely be changes. This isn’t humanity’s first rodeo when it comes to pandemics, and it’s worth taking a look to the past to see how society has adapted under similar circumstances.

Photo: New York City’s Central Park, by David Cole

In the mid-1800s, waves of cholera were sweeping major American cities. Frederic Law Olmstead, under the belief the disease was airborne, designed New York’s Central Park to be “the lungs of the city.” Although the modern understanding of cholera as a waterborne disease had emerged by the 1850s, the health benefits provided by access to nature have long been understood by architects and designers at an intuitive level, and a growing body of research has begun to provide quantitative data to back up our intuition. We could argue Olmsted was a leading proponent of biophilic design before the term had been coined.

With the 20th Century came pandemics of tuberculosis and influenza, most notably the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-1920. Compounded by the ravages of the First World War, this led to a new emphasis on cleanliness in design, exemplified by early modernists such as Le Corbusier, who prioritized bringing sunlight and ample air circulation into their buildings. Corbu’s concepts for urban housing – large high-rises with ample balconies set within a park-like landscape – greatly influenced the design of public housing for a generation. In retrospect we now recognize the serious shortcomings of this approach in terms of damage to neighborhoods and streetscapes, but on a smaller scale, many of the innovations from that era remain with us today: large windows, ample balconies, and interior surfaces that are easily cleaned. Nearly every home built from the 1920s through the 1950s made extensive use of tile throughout the kitchen and bath areas for easy cleaning.

Over time, though, as memories of pandemics faded from our collective consciousness and construction budgets became more austere, many of these features came to be seen as frivolous luxuries. Balconies in multifamily projects have largely been eliminated in favor of communal rooftop spaces. Tile surfaces have been reduced to a bare minimum or replaced altogether with cheaper resilient products. Stricter energy codes have reduced the amount of allowable glazing area, and our reliance on mechanical systems has all but eliminated operable windows in nonresidential buildings.

Rendering: Views to nature at Northwest Kidney Center’s Rainier Beach Clinic

What might the future of design hold in the post-COVID era? The aforementioned caveats about prognostication still apply, but it seems plausible that some of the innovations from a century ago will come back into vogue. Impervious, easily cleanable finishes have been mainstays of healthcare design since the days of sanitariums, and such strategies may again find their way into other building typologies. With our work for Northwest Kidney Centers, we’ve already been exploring the healing properties of nature and strengthening the connections between indoor and outdoor space; these concepts are likely to become more widely adopted. In the age of social distancing, expect to see more discussion about finding the balance between individual space and communal space. Although it’s unlikely that telecommuting will entirely replace the workplace – collaboration is still best accomplished in person, and we’re quickly discovering the limits of Zoom-based meetings – we can expect to see remote work become a major factor in office design.

Nobody can predict with certainty what the future will bring, but the COVID-19 crisis will undoubtedly change the way the built environment is designed. As architects and designers, we have the responsibility to shape that future in ways that protect the health, safety and welfare of our communities and the world at large. Going forward, that responsibility now includes re-learning the lessons from past pandemics.


Mahlum is thrilled to announce the AIA has recognized the talents of two of our own.

JoAnn Hindmarsh Wilcox AIA, LEED AP is one of 22 nationwide recipients to be recognized with the 2020 AIA Young Architect Award. This award is given to individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and made significant contributions to the architecture profession early in their careers. Learn more about JoAnn’s accomplishments here.

Stacey Crumbaker Assoc. AIA, IIDA is one of five nationwide recipients to be recognized with the 2020 AIA Associates Award. This award is given to outstanding leaders and creative thinkers for their significant contributions to their communities and the architecture profession. Learn more about Stacey’s accomplishments here.


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.