PULLMAN – At a major building industry conference in San Francisco this month, WSU’s Olympia Avenue student housing project earned a PCBC Gold Nugget Grand Award.

According to the judge’s statement, the Olympia Avenue building “sets a new standard of quality for the student campus experience.” Designed by Mithun Architects in Seattle and built by Graham Construction and Management, the building opened to students in fall 2009.

Originally known as the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, PCBC is a professional organization of builders, manufacturers, building scientists, architects, landscape designers and engineers focused on community, sustainability, innovation, design and urban living.
The competition welcomed entries from the 14 western states and well as international projects. More than 440 projects were entered in the competition and grand award and merit awards were presented in 47 categories. The Olympia Avenue project won the top award for best campus housing project.
“This is really, I would say, a Cadillac compared to what’s being built out there,” said lead architect Ronald van der Veen in a telephone call this week. The Gold Nugget judges called out several of the building’s sustainability features–including geothermal heating and cooling, storm water collection and reuse irrigation, and low-flow plumbing features.
Van der Veen said one of his favorite features is the abundance of natural lighting. “We wanted every space to have daylight,” he said, “even the hallways.”
Another unique feature, he said, is that every floor offers a variety of living options and gathering spaces, from shared rooms to single rooms and from quiet spaces to community rooms. In making design decisions, he said, the team tried to be very conscious of how students would use the different spaces.
“The amazing thing about this building is that it was designed in five months,” van der Veen said. “It’s unheard of and it’s almost a miracle.” The team had to make fast decisions, definitive decisions and good decisions, he said.
“You get this kind of recognition because of a collaboration that happens,” he said. In this case, the architects, the builders and WSU formed a great partnership, he said.

Van der Veen said he’s scheduled to talk about the Olympia Avenue building at the Western Association of College and University Housing Officials meeting at Stanford University on Tuesday, June 22.