University of Washington, Life Sciences Building

Architect: Perkins&Will

Owner: University of Washington

Location: Seattle, Washington

Project site: Previously developed land

Building program type(s): Education - College/University (campus-level)

Ecotone diagram

More than one-third of all students at the University of Washington (UW) take courses in biology, the university’s largest department and the largest STEM program in the entire state. The Department of Biology needed a new facility to meet its growing demands while embodying the school’s core values of scientific discovery, innovation, collaboration, active learning, public education, and environmental sustainability. The completed state-of-the-art building elevates the Department of Biology and UW into the next generation of research, teaching, and environmental stewardship.

It's an impressive project, especially the memorable interiors and street presence. It’s out there and going for it. Struck by innovative use of vertical fins for solar. Stakeholder engagement process in the design phase was good; they looked beyond college-age students and included K-12 students and other constituents. - Jury comment

The Life Sciences Building (LSB) simulates an “ecotone”—the transition region between two biological communities. In both program and design, the technology behind LSB’s science and research intersects with the study of the natural world. At 207,000 square feet, LSB combines energy-efficient technologies with natural materials found in the Pacific Northwest, bringing the outside inward and placing education on display. To enhance the building’s relationship to the campus, students, faculty, and environment, LSB embraces three core concepts—science as a gateway, connections, and engagement.

With these concepts in mind, the design team planned open, flexible, and efficient teaching and research spaces, maximizing opportunities for collaboration. The central stair’s generous landings and breakout spaces create synergy between students, faculty, and researchers for sharing knowledge. A greenhouse located near Seattle’s largest pedestrian trail encourages the community to engage with the university and discover the science happening within. Innovative solar glass fins put science on display while generating enough electricity to light all offices year-round, helping achieve LEED Gold certification and meeting the AIA 2030 Challenge.

Much more than a building, LSB provides the foundation for innovative and collaborative cutting-edge research on climate change. It acts as a hub for student discovery, transforming the way we teach and how the next generation of scientists learn with sustainability at the core.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2016

Year of substantial project completion: 2018

Gross conditioned floor area: 207,000 sq ft

Number of stories: 7

Project climate zone: ASHRAE 4C

Annual hours of operation: 5,840

Site area: 106,906 sq ft

Project site context/setting: Urban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $146,000,000

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 485

Project team

Architect: Perkins&Will

Project Team: Anthony Gianopoulos (Managing Principal), Andy Clinch (Project Manager/Designer), Devin Kleiner (Project Architect), Shanni Hanein (Job Captain)  

Client Team: Major Capital Projects; College of Arts and Sciences; Department of Biology; Office of University Architect General

Contractor: Skanska USA

Electrical Contractor: VECA Electric

Engineer - Structural and Civil: Coughlin Porter Lundeen

Engineer - Mechanical and Electrical: Affiliated Engineers, Inc.

Landscape Architect: Gustafson Guthrie Nichol

Lighting Design: Blanca Lighting

Mechanical Contractor: McKinstry


Erica Cochran Hameen, Assoc. AIA, Carnegie Mellon University

Lynn Simon, FAIA, Google

Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, Marlon Blackwell Architects

Michelle Amt, AIA, VMDO Architects

Renee Cheng, FAIA, University of Washington

Image credits

Exterior of about six story campus building. There is a skinny vertical wooden section, a glass box section, and a floating opaque class section that is only on the upper two floors.

Kevin Scott

Side view of campus building showing the walkways around it and upper glass facades.

Kevin Scott

Showing the interior of the building, featuring a staircase and large wide windows. There are people walking around.

Nic LeHoux

University of Washington- Life Sciences Building-06

Kevin Scott

University of Washington- Life Sciences Building-17

Kevin Scott