Growing Together through Project Collaboration

Unclear scope overlap areas and shrinking project budgets can cause tension between A&E project team members - architects, landscape architects and civil engineers. When there is true collaboration, however, that is where magic happens. In our Seattle Office, this looks like respect - where great value is placed on the powerful aspect of strong and cohesive design between both civil engineering and landscape architecture.

AHBL’s office in Seattle is working as an integrated design team (civil engineering and landscape architecture) on an innovative project for the Shoreline School District. Kellogg Middle School is a new 150,888 sf school with the capacity to serve 1,071 students. The architect is Mahlum Architects, and contractor is Hoffman Construction for this $106M project. 

As the project kicked off in early 2017, the AHBL Seattle team needed to get everyone thinking of the right solutions. They held design charettes and this was just the opportunity they needed to efficiently and effectively coordinate between disciplines. Craig Skipton said, “For the Kellogg Middle School project, the inhouse charrette helped generated five design options, gave the needed opportunity for us to coordinate our work with the civil team, and everyone had the ability to share their ideas.” These design charettes brought diverse expertise to the design phase, helped build consensus and ultimately narrowed the five design options to one that the team was able to implement. 

As the design progressed through preliminary design, final design and finally construction, our team found itself leaning on one another even more. During each stage in the process, new findings emerge, and unforeseen situations evolve. “You can’t underestimate the power of having a team with open communication and trust, said Doug Tapp, we’re in the business of solving very complex and technically challenging problems with lofty goals. There’s a lot of coordination that is happening and things to keep track of that affect other teammates, having both disciplines in-house is a huge advantage for our office to quickly connect and problem solve.”

As we look to create sustainable design solutions, the value of landscape architecture becomes more emphasized for its ability to not only enhance aesthetics, through the integration of native and native-adapted plants, but to also create pathways to capture and filter stormwater, reduce irrigation needs, reduce heat island effects, support ecological function for both plants and animals, and reduce energy bills. 

Some of the guiding principles of this project, as defined by the school district and taken to heart by the design team, were to have the final product showcase our ability to be good stewards of our environment and create a global connection through the students that will walk the halls and learn within its walls.

When asked to describe the AHBL way, Craig Skipton shared, “I see it as a seamless process that enables us to collaborate continuously. It encourages lively conversations and strong relationships. The process and outcomes are very fluid. All these facets help our teams collaborate, solve problems, and generate meaningful solutions on the fly.”

The experience with Mahlum Architects on Kellogg Middle School has led to other opportunities to work as a team and provide civil and landscape architecture for more Seattle-area projects. As COVID-19 pointedly accentuated, our need for nature to balance the demands of life, are intrinsic. We continue to learn more about each other, our communities and how to serve the evolving needs of our communities to create spaces that reflect the community’s value of unity and equal access to the natural environment through our cooperative design processes.

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