University of Washington

THA Architecture

Construction Professional
Lease Crutcher Lewis

Type of Project
Higher Education

Delivery Method
CM at-Risk

Gross Square Footage

Final Construction Cost
$44.2 million

With a heavy focus on new stem-based degree programs like mechanical and electrical engineering, life sciences, and computer sciences, the University of Washington’s Bothell campusUniversity of Washington’s Bothell campusUniversity of Washington’s Bothell campusUniversity of Washington’s Bothell campusUniversity of Washington’s Bothell campus recently found itself both short on space in general and woefully lacking in laboratory and modern instructional space in particular. The Discovery Hall project was designed to be a solution to these challenges, and it was the first new building constructed on campus in 10 years. The new facility provides approximately 75,000 gross square feet of additional academic space to support the new and expanded degree programs.

Discovery Hall accommodates an increased capacity of more than 1,000 full-time students, providing for general capacity expansion, including instructional labs necessary to support the new science and technology programs, faculty offices, a 200-seat lecture hall/performance space, and classrooms sized and configured to meet the needs of the lower division curriculum. The project also provides a new central gathering space, a “crescent-path” walkway ready to serve future buildings, an upgrade to the campus chiller plant, and emergency power generation.

Overall Project Management

UW Bothell’s project management team instituted two key measures that greatly impacted the project’s success: 1) retooling the standard contracts for architects and contractors to include language that set clear expectations for a project “culture” that was integrated, collaborative, and emphasized the use of BIM; and 2) managing the expectations of UW Bothell’s staff, who had never participated in a major design and construction project and came with high expectations for involvement and facility standards, which in many cases greatly varied from what’s typical on the nearby University of Washington Seattle campus.

While UW’s Capital Projects Office (CPO) has executed dozens of major projects successfully, the Major Projects Group’s leadership knew that they were not realizing the power of the sort of integrated project delivery that is possible in the private sector. Given the assorted statutory requirements that must be followed in the public sector, along with an institutional attitude about contract language that could be characterized as “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” making a course correction for the delivery of Discovery Hall was no small undertaking.

While certainly obligated to follow the letter of the statutes, CPO also explored the “grey areas” and pushed on its own Contracts Office and UW’s branch of the Attorney General’s Office to consider changes in the Architect/Engineer and GC/CM agreements. Within the contracts, several key expectations were established:

It is the Owner’s intention that the Owner,  Architect and GC/ CM work together collaboratively through the design and construction process. The following definitions are provided to clarify this relationship:

1. Project Partners (Partners): The University of Washington (Owner), the Architect, and the GC/CM. The term “partner” as used herein refers to the informal collaborative and cooperative relationship intended between the parties and is not used in the formal legal sense. As a “partner” on this Project, Architect does not assume any special responsibilities or duties (including but not limited to fiduciary duties) to GC/CM, as would be required of a legal partner in a true formal partnership.

2. Partnering Activities: Activities undertaken by Project Partners intended to foster commitment by and between the Partners to improve communications and avoid disputes by working together towards shared and common goals and objectives on a project specific basis.

14. The Architect will work with the Project Partners throughout the term of this contract in a collaborative and proactive manner to deliver a project that meets the program, schedule, and budget goals of the Owner. The Architect will participate with and support the GC/CM in the GC/CM’s execution of its responsibilities in the following areas, at a minimum: value engineering and assessing alternative design and construction options for cost reductions to achieve the Construction Budget; cost estimating; determining construction feasibility and constructability; site logistics; determining subcontract bid packages; sequencing of work and scheduling; and coordination with GC/CM’s subcontractors during design, including support necessary for early selection of electrical and mechanical subcontractors; incorporation of GC/CM’s subcontractors’ work into design documents, if required by Owner. The Architect shall be responsible for addressing all reasonable issues identified by the GC/CM as directed by the Owner.

20. Construction drawings, addenda, and change orders shall be prepared utilizing a computer-aided design (“CAD”) system in accordance with Owner’s CAD standards and requirements. Architect shall submit data and information to Owner for approval to confirm that Owner’s standards and requirements are met. Architect shall utilize 3-D (BIM) modeling software to prepare Project documentation to the extent practicable, and shall transmit 3-D model electronically to GC/CM, as required. The Owner, Architect, and GC/ CM shall, at the earliest practicable time, establish CAD protocols and tolerances as may be required for the proper execution of the Project. Architect shall work with GC/CM to ensure that the BIM software used by Architect is compatible with BIM software used by GC/CM.

The project team was expected to operate in a highly collaborative manner; go “all-in” on BIM to an extent that the University had not yet done; take advantage of new legislative authority to hire mechanical and electrical trade contractors to assist the design engineers and then skip much of the traditional CD phase and go straight to shop drawings; let the project needs determine what documents would be produced rather than following the “same old checklist;” not utilize a third-party estimator and spend weeks reconciling competing estimates; and to use a mutually accessible budget to fund key—but difficult to quantify in advance—services, such as safety and BIM, to provide what the project needed in those areas. Any of these items would be a significant advance in major project delivery for UW Bothell, but to implement all of the items as a “pilot project” on an important new building was a bold and transformational initiative.

Of course, spelling out the Owner’s expectations in the contracts was only the beginning. It took consistent emphasis early and often to achieve the team’s confidence in the approach and more importantly, each other—and this is what led to project’s superior success. Co-location during design and construction also helped with both confidence building and collaboration, and at the end of the job, the different parties involved emerged as a unified team with a great project and great metrics.

Another important example of project management success involved the management of a difficult situation, in terms of being able to proceed with the project in an efficient and linear manner. Early design work did not produce a good fit for the growing campus, so the team decided to switch architects and go with THA Architecture. Despite that initial setback, the campus master plan and the associated design of Discovery Hall made great progress through early construction documents, until funding for the completion of the design and construction was not provided by the State of Washington. This proved highly discouraging, but CPO kept the team’s contracts in place by suspending them, rather than terminating them, with hope that the project would be re-started and would not have to go through a new selection process. After nearly a year hiatus, the state came forth with a “stimulus package,” which included the project, and this put Discovery Hall back in business. This good news was tempered by the expectation that the project be “shovel-ready,” and the team feverishly worked to complete bid documents on an early site-work package. Those documents were completed in time for early site work to begin, while the rest of the building was still in design.

During the hiatus, UW Bothell underwent changes in its academic offerings and in its approach to infrastructure, and this resulted in significant design changes once the project restarted. For example, new labs for mechanical and electrical engineering programs were required, a sizable server room was eliminated after a move to the “cloud,” and the team studied more efficient approaches for the campus chiller plant expansion and sizing of the emergency generator. Through it all, the integrated team met every challenge and worked to complete the design sequentially as needed to serve the construction requirements.

Project Scheduling: UW Bothell set the expectation that the project schedule could be compressed, without compromising design or construction quality. In fact, both were expected to improve. A “draw-it-once” approach was emphasized, in which construction documents were not followed up by shop drawings, which repeat much of the same information. In many cases, the shop drawings were the construction documents. The team was also willing to take the risk of starting construction before the building design was completed, even with the academic program in flux due to the funding interruption. The team could not wait for design to finish before starting construction, because then the project would not be “shovel ready,” and funding would be at risk. While the team did make changes after construction started, it was made clear that anything that would require changes in the structure were off the table.

The scheduling approach required the use of “over the shoulder” reviews by university stakeholders, such as campus engineering and UW technology, to compress the cycle through which designs are reviewed and comments addressed. The “over the shoulder” approach involved giving staff just a few days to familiarize themselves with the documents, and then having a face-to-face meeting with their design and construction counterparts to explain the design, review issues, discuss solutions, and document the agreed-upon outcomes. This method shaved months off of the project development schedule, while still maintaining document quality and allowing technical staff to ensure that the university’s requirements were met.

Cost Management: Aside from the usual “budget options logs” and similar tools for tracking potential Owner-scope changes and their associated costs, UW Bothell leveraged its early integrated team to explore several options for reducing cost while still maintaining quality:

• The electrical subcontractor led a study to re-think the size of the emergency generator, and after reviewing the detailed analysis of generator options, the Owner elected to reduce the generator size and save over $250,000.

• Similarly, the electrical subcontractor suggested a revised location for the generator that saved $600 per lineal foot of relocation. The mechanical subcontractor was key in a study that looked at the upgrade to the campus chiller plant and helped the design to be optimized for first cost, flexibility, and ease of maintenance.

• The GC/CM was instrumental in reducing cost on the building enclosure and cladding, spending several days each week with the architect refining details, coordinating subcontractor and supplier ideas on detailing, and developing prefabrication approaches. This work made the curtain wall and a complex steel armature that supports both terra-cotta panels and brick much simpler—and less costly—to document and build.

• The GC/CM worked with the civil and structural engineers to re-think how one of the below-grade building walls could be constructed as a shoring wall during the early site work, thus preventing the need to export—and later import—soil to meet the intended grades.

• The intensive use of BIM for early and frequent collaboration was paramount in reducing change orders and buyout errors.

Through these and similar efforts in collaboration and coordination, the project was completed on schedule and at approximately six-percent under budget. These savings were critical, as the Owner hoped to build a campus-corporation yard for material and equipment storage, shipping and receiving, and similar back-of-house functions. However, that scope was entirely at risk, since it would have to be funded out of the Discovery Hall budget. The project’s integrated approach was instrumental in achieving these savings. Just as important, capturing these metrics to justify the ROI in modeling and preconstruction coordination was critical in making this approach the standard by which other major projects are now delivered at the university.

Quality Management: In keeping with the Owner’s emphasis on integrated delivery and leveraging BIM, the team helped select the bid packages that should contain requirements for modeling and participation in the coordination effort. In the end, 19 trade contractors performed modeling, and several of them had not previously engaged with this level of effort. The modeling led to improved project quality for many reasons:

• The work was well planned and coordinated, which allowed workers in the field to focus on doing their work well, rather than asking the home office to send in another RFI or discover that another trade’s work was in their way.

• Up-to-the-minute documents are available electronically on the job site, allowing the field staff to get quick answers and work efficiently. Less re-work kept morale up and improved quality.

• The model became the basis of a Bluebeam-based punch-list management system, which greatly increased the efficiency of the contractor’s pre-punch list and the design team’s punch list.

Overall Project Success

A number of factors contributed to the project’s overall success, including:

• Creating the expectation for a culture of collaboration prior to the selection of the design and construction teams, and then maintaining that culture as the project progressed.

• Using a target-value design approach for early MEP trade contractors after target budgets were set with multiple independent estimates.

• Early selection of electrical and mechanical contractors under new statutory authority from the State of Washington. This was the first project to take full advantage of this new tool for project delivery, and it was fully embraced.

• Going “all-in” on BIM, with 19 trades modeling and coordinating their work. The GC/CM provided a BIM Integrator, who led the entire modeling and coordination effort between the design team and trade contractors.

• Keeping UW Bothell’s staff well informed, with regular review meetings outside of the overall team meetings.

• Providing a technical liaison from UW Seattle’s engineers to mediate between doing things “the Seattle way” versus “the Bothell way.”

• Investing in preconstruction services, coordination, and modeling paid returns many times over and led to significant underspend on project contingencies.

Project Complexity

Several factors made the Discovery Hall project challenging, including:

• The project featured a highly involved Owner, with many stakeholders who had not been involved in delivering a major project before. The Owner organized a building committee to set the vision for the project, and then moved to a smaller core team as the design progressed and construction commenced. A regular update meeting was scheduled for the university’s team leaders outside of the weekly Owner/Architect/Contractor meeting, so issues could be reviewed, questions answered, and direction provided in advance of the OAC meeting.

• The unsteady funding stream had a stop-start impact on design and construction. The Owner quickly reinstated the design and construction contracts and gave early authorization to begin work in advance of the funding reappearing.

• The design program was changed due to rapidly evolving academic programs. The team met with the faculty leading the new engineering programs and toured several facilities on the Seattle campus to quickly decide what was needed, so design could be rapidly advanced as site work was started.

• The sloping site was addressed through on-grade building entries on four of the five floors. A site stair and associated runnel water feature will serve Discovery Hall as well as future buildings built nearby. • A large portion of the UW Bothell campus was impacted by the project, as it provided a new pedestrian and vehicular road, a “crescent path” pedestrian walkway to serve this and future buildings, a new plaza and “seating steps,” and expansion of the campus chiller plant housed in another building.


The State of Washington required that the Discovery Hall project achieve LEED Silver. However, the project team went above that minimum standard by shooting for LEED Gold, and the documentation for that certification is currently being reviewed. Some of the project’s key sustainable elements include:

• A skylight and light well brings sunlight to the center of the top two floors.

• High-efficiency light fixtures improved lighting and reduced energy usage.

• Construction debris was sorted to maximize recycling.

• Wood from a portion of felled trees was salvaged, refinished, and used in new benches.

• All rooms within the daylight zone of the building feature occupancy sensors to dim or turn off lighting, depending on whether or not the room is in use.

• No- and low-VOC materials and finishes were used for improving interior air quality.

• Highly energy-efficient chilled beams were used for some classrooms and laboratory spaces.

• Roof rain runoff is collected, transferred to a runnel adjacent to the building, taken through a sculptural water feature, and conveyed to an adjacent wetland.

• An east-west-oriented building layout optimizes daylighting and ventilation, while controlling heat gain.

• Continued use of the chilled water plant and infrastructure, rather than provide a new chiller in the building.

• A sustainability dashboard featuring energy and resource smart metering created opportunities for data-driven studies of campus sustainability initiatives, as well as measuring and providing transparency for the building’s sustainability success.

• The project incorporated water-conserving plumbing fixtures.

• The project’s landscaping utilized native, native-adaptive, and drought-tolerant plantings.

For its excellence in project management, The University of Washington was selected as the winner of COAA’s 2014 Project Leadership Silver Award for the Bothell campus’ Discovery Hall. For more information on this project, visit