2005 Poplar – Irresistible Stairs

2005 Poplar Stairs

Completed in November 2020 the 2005 Poplar is Rowley Properties’ newest project. It is the second in the Rowley Center and Hyla Crossing Development Agreement with the City of Issaquah. As we began planning in late 2017, our team looked for ways to celebrate and engage the surrounding environment in a way that would make this building special. It was paramount that 2005 Poplar also resonate with Rowley’s Hyla Crossing brand, Let Your Nature Begin™. It was important this building make a statement that resonated for Issaquah – it was necessary and meaningful that we provide a warm welcome. The idea was that the glass staircase would be a beacon for the building and visible from I-90 as a testament to tenant health and collaboration within the building. While also serving as the main entry it is a wayfinding aspect that encourages stair use, which is different from a typical office building where tenants and users are directed to the elevators.  The stairs illuminate in the evening creating a lantern effect that glows and can be seen from I-90 and during the day, provide stunning views to Lake Sammamish and the surrounding area. To “surprise and delight” the public and the building’s users, the lighting color can be changed to respond to holidays, sports teams, etc.

The idea behind the feature stair was that the building would be able to have less elevator use, and encourage healthy behavior, as more tenants would be inclined to use the stair. It is larger than a typical stair and is designed as a building amenity and pleasant space. By keeping it on the exterior, it allows those on upper floors to enter and take the stair directly to their tenant space, without searching past the elevator.  We were able to arrange the lobby with primary entrance of the building’s frontage as well as from the parking lot.

Additional design goals of 2005 Poplar were to create a modern and timeless office building that honors the timber heritage of the Northwest and Issaquah, while incorporating the brick palette of other Rowley buildings at Hyla Crossing. Mass timber made perfect sense to utilize with its nod to sustainability and working forests.

The combination of using mass timber (CLT-cross laminated timber) and incorporation of a stairwell exterior to the building provided for some opportunities as well as constraints. There was an energy code benefit to keep the feature stair outside of the conditioned space of the building, this also meant that we could break the curtainwall with the canopy structural steel which allowed us to cantilever the canopy without any columns. Initially, there was concern for heat gain at the feature stair, but this was resolved through the use of a fan to provide semi-conditioned and circulated air. Little did we know at the time, this would also be a significant benefit. The stairs are semi conditioned, passively ventilated and acts as the building vestibule.

One of the challenges with the CLT wall at the feature stair is the penetration and routing of services. We worked with the contractor and subcontractors to neatly route the services needed to meet all of the Stairs functional aspects. With VIA Architecture’s (project architect) background in transit planning and development, the routing of services in exposed structural steel is a challenge that they frequently encounter.  Additionally, we worked with the structural engineer (CPL) in BIM to work through the details of the stairs at the feature stair given that it is all glass enclosed and elements would remain exposed. We used the CLT to meet the two-hour fire barrier requirement to make use of this feature stair as an exit stair, meeting all of the code requirements.

The intersection of the design elements at the feature stair posed a challenge, where we had the interaction of the building soffit to the stair enclosure. In the age of COVID this turned out to be a great alternative to using the elevator and with just four stories, it is a healthy alternative.

Lastly, the irresistible stairs serve as an informal break out or casual meeting space. We look forward to seeing the building occupied and its users enjoying this amenity.