Washington State University’s Everett outpost has come a long way since it began offering classes on the campus of Everett Community College in 2012: Last year it opened its very own University Center, a 95,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building that greatly expands STEM education opportunities in the North Puget Sound region—and boasts an ultra-green design by SRG Partnership.

The center’s sustainable attributes are both hidden and in plain sight. On approach to the building, for instance, visitors can spot a large photovoltaic array that projects 10 feet from the façade. “We chose to celebrate WSU’s energy efficiency measures and integrate them into the architecture as a modern interpretation of a traditional cornice,” explains Tim Richey, a senior associate at SRG Partnership.

A grand atrium, dubbed the Innovation Forum, is a 20-foot-wide by 140-foot-long by four-story-high volume that serves as the central vertical-circulation zone as well as a gathering space bridging classrooms and labs to the east and faculty offices to the west. SRG specified a Kawneer curtainwall system here with PPG Solarban glass that transmits ample light and affords impressive views of the Cascade mountains while controlling solar heat gain. Other building-envelope strategies that ensure a comfortable and efficient environment include fixed external sunshades on the south-facing windows and additional shading by the deep overhang of the PV array. Thermal breaks, mineralwool insulation, a vapor-permeable membrane, and mechanical ventilation louvers can be operated when outside conditions are optimal. When all was said and done, the building envelope managed to perform 10 percent better than the Washington State Energy Code, which is already one of the most stringent in the country.

But perhaps the most striking green element—and an homage to Pacific Northwest industries—is the atrium’s cantilevered wood stair made by local craftspeople of regional materials including FSCcertified Douglas fir and bent and glued lamella. Says Richey, “WSU is a leading institution on wood materials and engineering research. The central stair reinforces that commitment and serves as a point of inspiration for what’s possible with wood.”