Bertschi Living Building Science Wing

Bertschi Living Building Science Wing

Seattle, WA

Award Winner

Project Team

Architectural Design: Chris Hellstern, KMD Architects
Civil Engineering: Colleen Mitchell, 2020 Engineering
Food Systems Consultant: Brook Sullivan, Back to Nature LLC
Geotechnical Engineering: Dave Cook, GeoEngineers
Landscape Architect: Mark Sindell, GGLO
Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing: Hollis Heron, Rushing
Preconstruction/Construction Services: Stacey Smedley, Skanska
Public Relations Services: Megan Hilfer, Parsons Public Relations
Structural Engineering: Quantum Consulting Engineers
Sustainability Consultant: Chris Edlin, O’Brien and Company

Thanks to the Restorative Design Collective, the Bertschi Living Building Science Wing is a model for sustainability in construction, and has challenged our industry to push for more net-zero buildings in our region and beyond.
— Chris Toher, Skanska
The Living Building Science Wing will allow students to expand upon current components of the science and sustainability curriculum, such as rainwater harvesting and solar energy. In addition, students will learn about passive ventilation, net-zero water and net-zero energy consumption, concepts that will push their thinking and understanding decades into the future!
— Brigitte Bertschi, Bertschi School
With the integration of sustainability into our curriculum, we encourage students to become engaged as thoughtful stewards of local and global communities,” said Founder and Head of School Brigitte Bertschi. “This science building will truly bring learning to life, offering an unparalleled educational experience to not only our students but the greater community in Seattle and beyond.
— Udo Reich, Bertschi Board President
This project proves that empowering the children, whose ideas were integrated through the design, can really make a difference.
— Brigitte Bertschi, Bertschi School

A Model For The Way We Approach The Built Environment

The Green Wall was designed as an integral component of The Bertschi School Science Wing, with a primary role of meeting the Water Petal requirement of the Living Building Challenge. Located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood, the project was one of the first in the world to pursue the Living Building Challenge v2.0 criteria.

This non-profit elementary school science wing was collaboratively designed with the students and designed pro-bono by the entire design team. A 20-kilowatt PV system produces all of the electricity for the building and allows students to participate in real-time monitoring of the building’s energy use and solar power production. All the water needed for the building is collected and treated on site. This is done through a variety of methods including cisterns for storage, an interior green wall which treats grey water and a composting toilet to treat black water. The most important aspect of the project is that all sustainable features are visible and functional to students to learn ecological concepts that can become intrinsic values for future generations.

The Water Petal of the LBC requires 100% of stormwater and building water discharge to be managed onsite. Greywater from the classroom sinks flows down the drain, through an initial filtration system (Aqua2Use filtration units) and then is pumped to the green wall with distribution through an embedded (red list compliant) drip irrigation system. The plant material, selected for its hardiness, tolerance of low light, and ability to absorb water from the soil, uptakes the greywater and disperses it through evapotranspiration. The wall is a key feature of the Eco-haus, designed as a demonstration space to meet the ‘Beauty’ Petal which includes imperatives for Beauty + Spirit and Inspiration + Education. An education facility for pre-k through 5th grade, each of the sustainable systems is expressed, through design, as a visible living learning tool for the students, who measure and monitor performance of the green wall, rainwater harvesting cisterns, and other key features of the building.

Intended to be a model for the way we approach the built environment, the project is open for weekly tours by neighborhood residents, parents, and design professionals and has received thousands of visitors in the short time that it has been open. The judges praised the project’s connections to water and research, varied plant palette, as well as its integration into a larger system.