Eco-Laboratory Concept Living Building

Eco-Laboratory View from NE

This could just be one of the most innovative sustainable designs you’ll see all year.  Here’s the background: a team from Weber Thompson designed this building for the Cascadia Natural Talent Design Competition put on by the Emerging Green Builders of the USGBC.  They won the Cascadia competition and moved on to compete against about 15 other regional winners from around the country.   They won there, too, and "Eco-Laboratory" was announced as the winner of the 2008 Natural Talent Design Competition at Greenbuild.  Eco-Laboratory is a theoretical design set in Seattle with affordable and market-rate residential housing, a job training center, homeless shelter, hygiene station, and public farmer’s market. 

Diagram_energy_cycle Diagram_ventilation Diagram_water_cycle

Aesthetically speaking, Eco-Laboratory is quite slick, but the innovative symbiosis of the systems, I believe, earned them a grand prize at Greenbuild.  You can enlarge the models above to see the energy (left), ventilation (center), and water (right) systems specifics. 

Eco-Laboratory includes a rainwater collection system; hydroponic garden to grown food for the community; biological wastewater treatment system to convert black water to greywater and potable water; earth tubes to funnel clean, natural air into the building through underground ducts; vertical axis wind turbines and solar panels for on-site green energy; and hydrogen fuel cells powered by methane, a byproduct of the wastewater treatment system.

Eco-Laboratory Main View

Eco-Laboratory Main View

Eco-Laboratory Main Entrance

Eco-Laboratory was designed by Myer Harrell, LEED AP; landscape designer Dan Albert, LEED AP; and former Weber Thompson staff members Brian Geller, LEED AP (now Sustainability Specialist with Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects); and Chris Dukehart. 

Congratulations to the entire team for a fantastic and thoughtful design!

Image credits: Weber Thompson. 

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  • Emmett

    Very cool

  • vanessa

    the future is now! cheers to those spearheading the change!

  • Aurora

    Aurora’s thoughts:

    This is about as integrated as building concepts get right now. There are two small living roof panels, living machine processing vegetation and some integrated urban agriculture yet notice the homogeneous vegetation and basically impoverished natural environment that’s being offered forth.

    Bringing the value of nature forward is one obvious place where advocates for those without can truly bring leadership to the field of green building and urban renewal – putting real green in buildings and collars!

    I say “those without” as a reference to “have nots” and to those on the exterior of societal priviledge. Although there is a homeless people shelter integrated into the Eco-Lab concept, there is no consciously provided place for the homeless bees, birds, frogs and butterflies.

    Homeless people are akin to wild creatures and if the natural world were healthy – homelessness would be far less of a problem. I recognize that I am touching on deeper issues of conformity and the possibility for self-sufficiency within a society dominated by class divisions in a basically unethical economy. I want to bring these issues to light, to talk about freedom, the right to life and the pursuit of happiness within the multiplicity of all life – all species and all forms of individual happiness…

    • Dan Albert & Myer Harrell


      Thank you for your comments.

      Eco-Laboratory seeks to mimic natural systems and achieve social, economic, and ecological sustainability. Each aspect of the building and site is intercommoned and essential to the project. Unfortunately the representation of some specific elements proves difficult to convey in a few images and diagrams. Internally we have been critical of the representation of the landscape, and presented our intention in text and labels not found on this blog. Our goal was not a landscape of homogeneous vegetation but a richly textured community garden with a small grove of fruit trees. Currently the community garden (aka P-Patch here in Seattle) arranges 10’x10’ plots for local residents to cultivate food. The existing garden was the inspiration for much of the urban agriculture component and an amenity that we expanded across the lower portion of the site. I assure you the landscape would be as ecologically diverse as the community who cultivates the land, providing ample area for a pesticide-free and petrochemical-free respite for all species from the surrounding urban context.

      Additionally the building contains a biological wastewater treatment system in which each stage of the process supports its own diverse ecological community. The treated wastewater finds its way into a large indoor wetland system that would further increase biodiversity and accommodate fauna as well as flora. Lastly the plant materials grown in the hydroponic systems would be seasonally and spatially varied; some building spaces are 20’ tall to accommodate larger plants and vines.

      We are pleased that you opened up a dialog about the future of living buildings.

  • Bob

    You need to be careful to imply that this technology will apply universally around the country and the world. You should provide a means of determining which climates will work successfully with this system installation. For example this may work in Seattle where there are two times the design heating degree days as cooling degree days. We should not recommend this in Florida where there are nearly 70 times as many cooling degree days as heating degree days. This could make a significant difference in the indoor humidity levels of the building.

  • Scott Lowe

    Good point. Everyone should be aware that sustainability is not in the modernist universal solution vein but rather intensely site specific. The issues that the architect addresses will be influenced buy the client, budget, maintenance, community needs and climate. It is important to understand what works for each project and to try to push the limits for each new project. Lots of technical information to produce a seemingly simple or obvious outcome.

  • Uncle B

    Communal, clustered and convenient. Humanured sewage, collective heating, cooling, collective gardening, a few worker-bees going outside the hive for new resources, totally connected by internet to other communities, solar, wind, wave powered, Aquacultured protein, train, bus or maglev connected, population controlled, A new way for mankind in the 21st century!


    its a best design concept

  • Faisal Arisandi

    Wow, how much budget for that fantastic lab building?
    : >

  • Green Global Travel

    This is really interesting! Hopefully this influences people to build more buildings with these eco-friendly features. Ifrah Khan @GreenGlobalTrvl:disqus

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