Lessons learned from our winners

August 11, 2010

Two thousand five was a banner year for BD&C's Building Team Project Awards. Our distinguished panel of judges culled 16 of the best projects from among 103 entries on the basis of excellence in design, engineering, and construction and superiority in collaborative teamwork.

Key trends among the winners:

Interest in sustainability. Clearly, green building is de rigueur with the most advanced firms. Energy conservation, water reclamation, IEQ improvements, vegetated roofs—if it's green, Building Teams are doing it. Take a look at the Seattle Central Library (p. 36), the University of Oregon's Lillis Business Complex (p. 54), and the Regenstein Center for African Apes (p. 52) as representative of the trend.

Evaluating end-user needs. Innovative firms are going beyond the charrette and experimenting with "gaming" and "imagineering" techniques to get hard-to-extract information from tenants, owners, neighborhood residents, even fans. Petco Park's "California Dreaming" (p. 49) and the James H. Clark Center's simulation initiative (p. 32) are excellent examples.

Challenging the unbeautiful. A couple of this year's winners could have turned into real dogs in lesser hands, but their Building Teams transformed them into Westminster best-of-shows. The Elati Light Rail Maintenance Facility (p. 44) might easily have been just another maintenance barn. Instead, the Building Team figured out how to introduce lots of day-lighting and ventilation, the locker areas are bright and cheerful, and the lunchrooms and lobbies are handsomely designed. It's a real "people" facility.

Hats off, too, to Castcon Stone Inc. (p. 58), a family-run business that converted a dirty, messy factory into a healthy workplace employees are proud of. Projects like these prove that you don't have to be building a cathedral to produce excellent work.

Help owners and users visualize. Building lab-module mockups has long been standard practice in the laboratory design field. Now, smart Building Teams are using mockups for non-lab projects.

The Building Team for the National Museum of the American Indian (p. 22) built a mockup of its complex exterior wall system, as did the Petco Park team for its intricate cleft sandstone tile wall. In both cases, the teams were able to learn from the mockups and prove the value of their concepts to stake-holders. Money and time well spent.

The no-guts-no-glory factor. Frankly, some of our winners should never have been built. Kudos to the Seattle library board for approving OMA's bold design, and to the contractors and structural engineers who pieced it together. Ditto the National Association of Realtors for converting an eyesore into a civic asset (Realtor Building, p. 56).

But nobody tops the Building Team for the Georgia Tech Campus Recreation Center (p. 40). Talk about harebrained ideas—inserting an entire floor between an Olympic pool and a 120-foot-high ceiling! No wonder other teams said it couldn't be done. But this team did it.

Which is what makes it fun for these Building Teams to go to work every day, and for us to tell you about them.


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