Central utility plants are usually out of sight, out of mind on most college campuses. The University of Washington’s West Campus Utility Plant (UWCUP) is an exception. It’s “a magnet,” drawing visitors from around the area to showcase the work it does in powering the west campus expansion. Built at the center of the University’s west campus, the UWCUP is a unique illustration of the University’s environmental stewardship.
The UW was able to reduce the environmental impact of the new utility plant by installing efficient equipment and through the design of the UWCUP building itself, which features 19,000-sq.-ft. of the UniQuad translucent wall system by Kingspan Light + Air | CPI Daylighting.
With the ability to both daylight interiors and reflect heat and glare simultaneously, the UniQuad wall system is a sustainable feature for any building. At the UWCUP, the UniQuad system reduces equipment load by shielding it from direct sunlight.
Architects at Seattle’s The Miller Hull Partnership were originally looking at metal panels to shield the plant’s rooftop equipment but went with the UniQuad system because it provided the shield they desired and illuminated the building simultaneously for a unique building aesthetic.
“Once we chose polycarbonate, there were a lot of products out there,” said Architect Anton Dekom, AIA, ENV-SP, The Miller Hull Partnership, LLC, Seattle. “We went with the UniQuad because it’s an engineered system. The other polycarbonate products just give you the panels and an engineer has to put it together. With the UniQuad, we were able to develop our own system.”
The UW’s main campus utility plant has served the University for over 100 years, and campus architects were looking to get the same longevity out of the UWCUP. The Miller Hull team did extensive research on discoloration over time to find the most durable product on the market, comparing multiple polycarbonate products and existing product applications to each other. The UniQuad wall system ranked highest in its ability to withstand elements over time without yellowing.
“The UniQuad was a perfect fit because it makes the building feel lighter, with more translucency,” said Dekom. “We also like it because we were able to get really long panels – 47 or 48 feet tall – [which] allowed us to get a clean volume panel without a lot of joints. This feature allowed us to rely on the play of shadows to gain the interest of passersby.”
All About Sustainability
As the gateway to the UW’s west campus, the UWCUP orients students and visitors physically, while also telling the school’s sustainability story. At the building’s street level, LCD displays highlight University sustainability initiatives, UWCUP utilization statistics. The UWCUP is the first higher education building in the United States to be Envision Gold certified, similar to LEED certification, which is awarded by an independent third-party rating system dedicated to promoting sustainable infrastructure projects.
“The UW west campus is growing quickly,” said Dekom. “The University needed a plant to support the new development, [and] this site worked out well with the adjacent buildings and other tall distribution systems already on campus. The UniQuad has made the building a canvas that can be seen at night from across campus.”