AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects

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Discovery Center at South Lake Union

The gangway ramps shown in this photo provide barrier-free accessibility to the building. The integrated hinged connections were designed to allow the ramps to adapt to the topography of future sites.
Photo credit: Lara Swimmer Photography


  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Building type(s): Commercial office, Community
  • New construction
  • 11,000 ft2 (1,020 m2)
  • Project scope: a single building
  • Urban setting
  • Completed March 2005

This modular "pavilion in the park" was designed to be demountable and transportable for future disassembly and reassembly at multiple future locations. Its first use was for an exhibit telling the story of Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood—its past, present, and future.

This project was chosen as an AIA Committee on the Environment Top Ten Green Project for 2008. It was submitted by The Miller|Hull Partnership in Seattle, Washington. Additional project team members are listed on the "Process" screen.

Environmental Aspects

The project sits on the eastern edge of a full-block urban park that has been gifted to the city until the site is developed to its maximum zoning potential. As a temporary building, the structure sits lightly on the land, suspended above the gently sloping terrain atop short concrete piers. The building edges are cantilevered, allowing the grade and vegetation to run uninterrupted beneath.

Four-sided steel frame bents, bolted together, provide the structure for the building and span the interior gallery and exhibit space. The metal-clad building envelope components are designed as shop-fabricated, modular assemblies. The service functions of the pavilion are housed in a linear component that faces the park. Its softer wood materials and colors harmonize with the adjacent park and open space.

Presentation centers for residential developments such as this one typically have very short lifespans, since they disappear after construction is complete and the units sold. The modular nature of the project will allow it to serve for a much longer period of time. The building separates at three integrated joints to break into four separate modules capable of being transported along surface streets, where the building may resume functioning in its current capacity or be reprogrammed for an entirely new use.

Owner & Occupancy

  • Owned by Vulcan, Inc.
  • Typically occupied by 10 people, 40 hours per person per week; and 415 visitors per week, 1 hour per visitor per week


Integrated team, Design charrette, Simulation, Green specifications, Transportation benefits, Open space preservation, Indigenous vegetation, Stormwater management, Water harvesting, Efficient fixtures and appliances, Drought-tolerant landscaping, Lighting control and daylight harvesting, Efficient lighting, Adaptable design, Durability, Recycled materials, C&D waste management, Connection to outdoors, Daylighting, Natural ventilation

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Last updated: 4/22/2008

Our thanks to the ENERGY STAR program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and to the U.S. Department of Energy, and to BuildingGreen, Inc. for hosting the submission and judging forms.

For more information about the AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Projects, contact AIA/COTE. For help on how to use this Web site, contact .

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