Student sitting in campus building
How diverse & healthy teams achieved goals on Milgard Hall

The 54,000 square foot interdisciplinary Milgard Hall at the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) is located in Tacoma, Washington, about 30 miles south of Seattle. Home to STEM and business programs, Milgard Hall is a place where local history and design innovation meet to strengthen the campus and community. Andersen Construction and Architecture Research Office completed this design-build project. 

UWT is an “urban-serving university,” meaning that building strong communities and improving the health of a diverse population are part of its mission. Milgard embodies this mission in all facets, including by responding to the need for STEM programming in the South Puget Sound region and by supporting innovation in design thinking. New labs, a machine shop, an outdoor science court, and flexible spaces and classrooms nurture cross-collaboration among the three main programs in the building: the Milgard School of Business, the School of Engineering & Technology, and the Global Innovation & Design Lab. In addition to serving staff and students, UWT’s goals for the project included creating an accessible space for community groups and supporting entrepreneurship and the economic development of the region. These goals informed all decisions throughout the project. 


Building Design & Materiality

The design of Milgard Hall is heavily influenced by Tacoma’s industry, including its historic connection to lumber trades as the end of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Exterior materials of brick and metal balance the varied surrounding context: the historic warehouse structures nearby, the modern urban context of downtown Tacoma and the UWT campus. 

A primary goal for UWT was to use mass timber for the building structure. While mass timber is becoming more economical, there was a cost premium for this structure type. The team created and followed mass timber “rules of the road” to significantly reduce this premium to get a mass timber structure to pencil. Examples included using specific panel sizes based on manufacturer standards to reduce cutting and waste, detailing connections to work with machinery tolerances, and bringing the mass timber supplier onto the team at the appropriate time.


Progressive Design-Build Delivery Method

As progressive design-build (PDB) is being embraced by the building industry, the University of Washington (UW) has been a pioneer in the evolution of this method. The owner’s decision to use a PDB delivery method was integral to the success of the project.

At the heart of the design-build process was an intentional focus on team health. Partnering workshops were held quarterly and included participation from the owner and the design-build team, including field representation to serve as a platform for continuous improvement. There was an intentional focus on supporting a healthy team dynamic throughout all phases of the project. Example strategies included DISC assessments, a team book club, on-site safety barbecues, psychological safety surveys, and plus/delta lunches to elicit feedback from craft workers.

The team co-located to enhance team integration. (This was achieved virtually during portions of the project due to COVID-19.) Weekly “big room” meetings provided a forum for all team members to exchange ideas where the best ideas were pursued regardless of the proposer’s role or title. Trade partners provided input on pricing and constructability throughout the design process to understand market drivers and relative costs.

The owner also implemented a risk/reward structure to incentivize all partners to spend project funds responsibly. During pre-design, the team used target value design to determine a target cost-per-square-foot per system based on benchmarks. The team toured these benchmarks together to establish clear expectations, and then the target values were used to guide design and budget updates through the remainder of the project. The risk/reward partners’ fee was at risk, whereas upon successful completion of the project within budget, those partners benefited from an incentive pool.


Team Formation & Procurement Process

In December 2019, the UW started a request for quote (RFQ) and request for proposal (RFP) process for the design-builder. Three contractors interviewed, and Andersen was awarded in February 2020. UW and Andersen worked together to hire Architecture Research Office (ARO) as the architect shortly after. For architect selection, 31 firms submitted letters of interest, 14 firms were invited to submit statements of qualification (SOQs), five firms were invited for office visits, and three interviewed with the University of Washington Architectural Commission. Evaluation was based on relevant experience, specific team members and chemistry, design process, business equity and design excellence; ARO was awarded in April 2020. 

Key consultants and trade partners were brought onto the team with a similar but abbreviated approach and through the same evaluation criteria. The civil engineer, structural engineer, code consultant, and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineers were selected in June 2020. The landscape architect, sustainability consultant and MEP trade partners were selected in August 2020. For these partners, two to four firms were typically invited to participate. Fee proposals were considered secondarily and were negotiated where responsible, but were not the primary decider for selection. 


Remaining design consultants were added at the discretion of ARO, with UW and Andersen input factored as applicable. Remaining trade partners were selected in waves based on planned design packages. The design-build team established a procurement schedule during pre-design, and then ARO prepared focused design packages throughout design. Elevator and fire protection were selected at 25% design. Envelope partners were selected in March 2021 at approximately 40% design, followed by site and structure partners in April. All remaining scopes were brought on based on the final target cost (GMP) set in July 2021, roughly 90% design. Site work began in July 2021.


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

The Milgard Hall project proved that a healthy team leads to a successful project, and diversity was a primary component of this. The variety in perspectives of the diverse team improved individuals’ daily morale, indicating that all are welcome, and enhanced creative solutions for the building. For example, the women-owned mechanical and plumbing trade partner proposed sheet metal trays as an economical way to hide unsightly refrigerant line set distribution; the cost of these trays was entirely offset due to the additional productivity gained by avoiding the impossible task of clean installation of this piping. They also improved perceived aesthetics and provided easier access for long-term maintenance. 

Diversity and inclusion were targeted at both the business level and the individual level. UW provided a goal that 20% of the contract value be awarded to minority-, women- or veteran-owned businesses, or small businesses with 15% specifically going to minority- or women-owned. Partners were pursued through phone calls to solicit interest, outreach events and the breakdown of work packages into manageable pieces. Through this focus and hard work, the project team achieved 50% participation, with 31% specific to minority- or women-owned. The design-build project team mirrored the end users, the diverse students of UWT. 

At the individual level, DEI training was provided to all craft workers at multiple points: Andersen’s online orientation; the on-site, site-specific orientation; toolbox talks at Monday morning safety meetings; and through respectful workplace training. The team also worked with workforce development programs such as ANEW, a pre-apprenticeship program based in Seattle, that helps train women and transgender people who are interested in the construction trades.The result of this intentional focus on representation throughout the project is that Milgard Hall embodies UWT’s urban-serving mission. The building opened for classes in January 2023. 

Project Name: University of Washington Tacoma Milgard Hall

Client: University of Washington

Design-Builder: Andersen Construction

Architect: Architecture Research Office

Project Start: February 2020

Construction Start: July 2021

Building Opening: January 2023

Construction Cost: $41.6 million

Location: Tacoma, Washington






*Image courtesy of Jeremy Bitterman Photography