Courtesy of Magda Biernat
Aegis Living is a 73,000-square-foot assisted living community in Seattle, Washington. The electrified building features the rowing history of the area through imagery and integrated designs.

Ankrom Moisan Designs Aegis Living to Meet Living Building Challenge Certification

July 7, 2023
This building is poised to be the world’s first assisted living community to earn certification.

Imagine looking out your bedroom window with views of the water and city skyline before walking down the halls, decorated with rowing elements, to hang out with friends and family in the community room. This is how retirement looks for residents at Aegis Living Lake Union.

Seattle, Washington, is home to the first assisted living community built to meet the Living Building Challenge certification. It seeks to keep residents connected to their surrounding community while still meeting the most rigorous global sustainability standards. Offering assisted living, memory care and respite care for residents, Aegis Living seeks to create communities within residential areas, so people can continue to thrive as they age.

Design Inspiration

Aegis Living, a national leader in senior assisted living and memory care communities, enlisted Ankrom Moisan Architects to construct Aegis Living Lake Union in the Eastlake neighborhood of Seattle. When presenting the project, Aegis Living shared The Boys in the Boat, a nonfiction novel published in 2013 about the University of Washington rowing team’s quest for Olympic gold in 1936, as the design inspiration. Aegis Living’s leadership was inspired by the novel’s coverage of the local history and the site that is featured in the book, so they presented the story to Ankrom Moisan Architects. The aesthetics and environmentalism of the building feature references to the historic rowing clubs and culture.

“We really found the craftsmanship and efficiency that goes into creating a rowing shell to be a good analogy for the type of building we were creating,” said Kristel Knight, project manager at Ankrom Moisan Architects.

Throughout the property, there are references to the rowing culture from a herringbone pattern made with oars and an original Pocock rowing shell suspended from the wood ceiling in the main entry. Images of the 1936 University of Washington men’s rowing team are also on display in the lobby, which was the result of a partnership between the two entities to search rowing archives. The 1936 men’s team won gold at the Berlin Olympics. The university property is across the lake from Aegis Living Lake Union.

Inside, the building features 79 units, including a mix of studio and one-bedroom options and apartments dedicated to memory care. Residents also have access to amenities like a spa and wellness center with a salon, massage suite and fitness center. There are various communal spaces for residents to interact with other residents, family, friends and neighbors, which include an on-site cinema and sky lounge terrace with views of Lake Union. Some units also have views of the Space Needle.

Energy Usage

Aegis Living Lake Union is built to be emission-free. The use of electricity in lieu of gas operates the entire 73,437-square-foot building’s heating commercial dryers, domestic hot water and kitchen equipment, from induction stoves to electric heat wells.

“That was one of the biggest risks this project took,” she said. “The senior assisted living community must provide three meals a day. There is a commercial kitchen on site, and we had to find equipment to support 86 residents having three meals a day. We found that the technology had improved enough to start investing in that.”

Biophilic principles are visible throughout the property. The surrounding landscape features native plants and a watercourse. The main water feature is an artistic interpretation of a basalt rock wall. The thoughtful and calm environment is accentuated by natural lighting that illuminates the interior space through skylights and large windows. The interior design from the lighting fixtures and carpet to the artwork further the natural patterns and aesthetics.

Another challenge with Aegis Living Lake Union was the increased energy usage compared to a multi-family residence. To combat this, the space relies on more daylight than artificial lighting than typical for senior living communities, with a focus to reduce the impacts of the amenity spaces. Those areas feature skylights to maximize natural light. The daylight-sensored LED fixtures were chosen for function and user experience, rather than more general atmospheric lighting. There is also no exterior uplighting to minimize the demand on the building, which had the added benefit of reducing night-sky light pollution.

Other energy saving measures include an on-site solar array, in addition to improved exterior insulation, triple pane window glazing, heat recovery ventilation, heat pump heating and cooling, and LED lighting and sensors to monitor the use of appliances.

The onsite 78 kW solar array reduces energy usage by 10%. The site’s target EUI is 37, a 25% reduction from typical buildings in the market. Since the property cannot reach full net zero, as required by the Living Building Challenge, there is an off-site solar array at a warehouse funded by Aegis to offset the Lake Union project. The on-site and off-site solar arrays generate 1.7 million kWh, and the solar energy and other energy reduction measures offsets 105% of the building’s total energy demand.

The Living Building Challenge is organized into seven performance petals: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty. Aegis Lake Union is registered for Living Building Challenge 3.1 Petal Certification for energy, place and beauty. However, the building’s performance evaluation will not begin until it reaches full occupancy.

The commercial laundry uses a mix of electric dryers and heat pump dryers to eliminate the use of natural gas. The heat exhaust from the commercial laundry is collected and placed into a heat exchanger to capture for later use to heat the building. Also, engineers developed a system for a heat pump boiler that flows into two smaller electric heater backup systems to recirculate the water, so it doesn’t lose heat.

One of the innovative processes designed during the project was the gray water treatment system, for use in toilet flushing and irrigation. The collected rain and spent shower water goes through a prefiltration to get rid of solids before passing through a textile filter where microbes live and finally through UV disinfection and an ozone recirculation system. While designed for only non-potable uses, the water is treated to nearly drinking water standard.

A challenge with the gray water system is the potential health risk to residents with cognitive conditions. Those residents cannot use gray water in those units, and units that provide memory care services are served with traditional plumbing fixtures.

At the heart of the Emerald City in Eastlake, the Aegis Living Lake Union property not only seeks to offer residents the bluest water views, but also meet the rigorous sustainability building standards to become a green community.

About the Author

Lauren Brant | Buildings Editor

Lauren Brant is the editor of Buildings. She is an award-winning editor and reporter whose work appeared in daily and weekly newspapers. In 2020, the weekly newspaper won the Rhoades Family Weekly Print Sweepstakes  — the division winner across the state's weekly newspapers. Lauren was also awarded the top feature photo across Class A papers. She holds a B.A. in journalism and media communications from Colorado State University - Fort Collins and a M.S. in organizational management from Chadron State College.

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