Photo by Benjamin Benschneider

Washington State University Brelsford Visitor Center, Pullman, Wash.

Tasked with creating a new "front door" to the western side of Washington State University's Pullman campus, the project team credits collaboration efforts for a large part of the project's success.

The 4,224-sq-ft center is a signature building that includes an indoor/outdoor reception area and a 40-ft-tall tower sculpture.

The design-build project's less than $2-million budget and its schedule were the biggest challenges, the general contractor says. But the team collaborated to find "best value" options that included using the building's design features as structural elements as well.

For example, the project included three 15-ft-tall concrete "WSU" letters. The team designed the "U" to also serve as support for the building's overhanging roof that rests above a glass pavilion.

The letters required exceptional coordination between the design and construction teams; the "W" alone weighs 40,000 lb and required a detailed rigging plan. On the other side of the structure, the steel-plate tower sculpture supports that end of the roof.

To meet the tight schedule, the team began the permitting process and work before the final design. It credits the design-build delivery method with allowing it the flexibility to make changes "on the fly." To mitigate work impacts, construction took place during the summer, when classes were not in session.

The building, which is aiming for LEED Silver under the U.S. Green Building Council's certification program, includes sustainability features such as landscaping and irrigation systems that can reduce water usage by nearly 60%. More than half of the wood used on the project was regionally sourced.

The team also worked with the university's Composite Materials Engineering Center to develop some of the materials used on the project. This included use of cross-laminated timbers used to build the 3,800-sq-ft roof.

Key Players

Owner/Developer Washington State University

General Contractor Sellen Construction

Lead Design Firm Olson Kundig Architects

Structural/Civil Engineer KPFF Consulting Engineers

Landscape Design The Berger Partnership

Mechanical and Electrical Subcontractor McKinstry

Structural Steel Subcontractor Yakima Steel

Drywall & Painting Subcontractor Performance Contracting Inc.

Roofing Subcontractor Royal Roofing & Siding

Casework Subcontractor Pacific Cabinets

Sustainability Sellen Sustainability


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