Structure Type: built works - commercial buildings - office buildings

Designers: Arup, Ove, and Partners (firm); Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN), Landscape Architects (firm); Naramore, Bain, Brady, and Johanson, (NBBJ) (firm); Sellen Construction Company, Incorporated (firm); Ove Arup (structural engineer); William James Bain Jr. (architect); William James Bain Sr. (architect); Clifton J. Brady (architect); Kathryn Gustafson (landscape architect); Jennifer Guthrie (landscape architect); Steven McConnell (architect); Floyd Archibald Naramore (architect); Shannon Nichol (landscape architect); John Henry Sellen Sr. (building contractor/civil engineer)

Dates: constructed 2008-2011

6 stories, total floor area: 900,000 sq. ft.

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500 5th Avenue North
Seattle Center, Seattle, WA 98109

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Founded in 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focused on solving world health problems, utilizing the Microsoft co-founder's billions earned selling software. It purchased 12 acres set near the Seattle Center began construction in 2008 on a V-shaped set of office buildings to house managers supervising funding grants from around the world. The siting for a third V-shaped office building was included in the original master plan to accommodate growth, if needed.

Building History

By 2004, the Bill and Melinda Gates had decided that their eponymous charitable foundation had outgrown its current facilities; by 2007, the mammoth charity oversaw an endowment of $33.4 billion and required extensive office space to house its growing workforce of approximately 1,000 employees. (The endowment had grown to $37 billion in 2011, and to $60 billion when the bequest of Warren Buffett [b. 1930] was added.) The first building phase consisted of two, six-story, V-shaped office buildings (together containing 900,000 square feet), a parking garage, and a visitor's center. (Ralph Appelbaum Associates collaborated with NBBJ to design the visitor center museum.) A third office building was to be erected in a second phase, if conditions warranted it. Seattle architecture firm, NBBJ, obtained the commission for the office complex, producing several schemes before arriving at the V-shaped configuration. Steve McConnell served as NBBJ's Design Principal for the project. (Another Seattle firm, Olson Kundig, prepared the design for the Visitor's Center.) The City of Seattle sold a portion of its Seattle Center property to the Gates Foundation for $54 million, but put some of that money into constructing the parking garage. Emphasis was placed on green design for the office buildings by Melinda Gates, the Foundation's lead planner. KPFF Consulting Engineers acted as the civil and structural engineer, Arup served as mechanical and electrical engineer. Shannon Nichol, of the Seattle-based landscape architecture firm, Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN) was lead designer for the 12.5-acre campus. According to the Gates Foundation's Project Manager, Lynn M. Perkins, construction of the two office buildings was meticulous, with the general contractor, Sellen Construction, doing remarkable work. She indicated that all parties showed extraordinary commitment to the enterprise. The building was constructed to last 100 years, versus the 20-30-year life span that was typical. Groundbreaking occurred on 07/22/2008, with construction concluding in 06/2011.

Building Notes

The overall cost of the complex was to top $500 million, with $350 million of it met by the Gates Family. Bill and Melinda Gates emphasized their commitment to making their foundation headquarters as energy efficient as possible, and spent a considerable sum in up front costs to install energy-saving features. These included: "An under-floor air distribution system for ventilation, which conserves energy and facilitates future space modifications. A one million-gallon rainwater storage system used for irrigation, water features, and toilets. Several living roofs, which reduce runoff, moderate wide temperature swings, filter air, and provide a habitat for birds and insects." The office buildings achieved a LEED Gold rating, saving 34% in overall energy over a conventional facility. (See "Frequently Asked Questions About Our New Campus,"Accessed 01/29/2012.) In preparation to design the office complex, Melinda Gates traveled for inspiration: "Melinda Gates had taken the lead in planning the $500 million campus. For inspiration, she toured a host of notable buildings, from the Wellcome Trust charity in London to biotech giant Genzyme in Cambridge, Mass., and the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C." (See (See Kristi Heim, Seattle "The new Gates Foundation headquarters reflects charity's roots — and reach," published 05/21/2011,Accessed 01/29/2012.) In 2012, NBBJ's workplace practice division won Interior Design's "Best of the Year Award" in the Large Corporate Office category for its work on the Gates Foundation Campus. The Gates Foundation Campus was the April 2012 AIA Seattle/Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) Project of the Month.

IN 2006, the Gates Foundation had an endowment of $31.9 billion, with annual spending of $1.36 billion. Between its establishment in 2000 and 2006, the organization had dispensed $11 billion in grants. (See Kristi Heim, "Want to work for Gates?" Seattle Times, 10/17/2006, p. A10.) By the end of 2016, the Gates Foundation had a trust endowment of $40.3 billion; since 2000, it had given away $41.3 billion through the fourth quarter of 2016. (See Bill and Melinda Gates, "Foundation Fact Sheet," accessed 04/19/2018)

PCAD id: 9792