Western to break ground on its first zero-energy building on May 20

When completed, Kaiser Borsari Hall will house WWU's electrical and computer engineering, energy science, and computer science programs

Western Washington University (WWU) will officially break ground on Kaiser Borsari Hall, WWU’s new electrical and computer engineering, energy science, and computer science building, significantly expanding capacity within the university’s electrical engineering and computer science programs and some of WWU’s fastest growing degree programs. The facility will be the first publicly funded zero-energy academic building on a university campus in Washington State.

Graphic of a completed Kaiser Borsari Hall

The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, May 20, 2023, at 3 p.m. on WWU’s Bellingham campus behind the Communications Facility. Parking will be available for attendees of the groundbreaking in the WWU South Campus C-lots.

Elected officials, leaders from the building’s design firm, Perkins&Will, and general contractor and construction manager, Mortenson, will join WWU leadership, alumni, media and members of the community to celebrate the official start of the new learning facility’s construction.

“We are thrilled to see this important project officially break ground. The science and engineering facility that will rise on this site will be a place for collaboration, connection, and innovation, nurturing areas of study which will be critical to the future needs of Washington state industries, employers, and communities,” said WWU President Sabah Randhawa. “Our deepest thanks and appreciation go to Fred Kaiser and Grace Borsari and to our wider community of generous supporters, as well as to the state, who have made this all possible.”

“The design of Kaiser Borsari Hall is a watershed moment for Washington State public facilities as the first all mass timber, zero-energy, and carbon neutral building on a university campus,” said Anthony Gianopoulos, principal-in-charge at Perkins&Will. “The inspirational new building will foster an immersive learning environment for the next generation of electrical engineering experts and teachers and carbon leaders.”

“It has been incredibly rewarding to be a part of our team's collective efforts to reduce embodied and operational carbon for this facility throughout design and construction,” said Jennifer Kim, Project Executive at Mortenson. “We can’t wait to get to work building this first-of-its-kind facility and are excited to tackle our personal sustainability efforts on site. Our team is looking forward to more sustainable, forward-thinking projects like this becoming the norm across the board!”

Sustainability Firsts

  • When complete, Kaiser Borsari Hall will be one of the first publicly funded zero-energy academic facilities in the region, among a handful in the nation, and will significantly advance WWU’s vision to become the region’s first zero-energy university campus.
  • The building will be a "smart building," exceeding LEED standards for energy use, carbon, and other environmental indicators, and will pursue certification through the International Living Future Institute.
  • Building materials will include sustainably harvested wood from the region that will look beautiful while reducing the building’s embodied carbon footprint.
  • The building is designed to be physically and culturally accessible, with classrooms, labs, and collaborative spaces designed to support people with diverse abilities and learning styles. The project team is targeting Living Building Challenge Energy Petal Certification.
  • All of Kaiser Borsari Hall’s electrical power comes from solar panels on the roof and offsite.

For updates on the project and to learn more about the new facility, visit the Kaiser Borsari project page and construction impact page.

Kaiser Borsari Hall

More about Kaiser Borsari Hall

Kaiser Borsari Hall is a public-private funding partnership, named for Fred Kaiser and Grace Borsari, longtime friends and champions of WWU, who have committed $10 million to the campaign to fund the project, alongside $53 million in state-appropriated funds. Perkins&Will is performing design consulting, and Mortenson is the general contractor and construction manager.

At approximately 54,000 square feet, it will provide state-of-the-art teaching spaces and experiential learning environments, along with teaching labs, learning research labs, active learning classrooms, collaborative space, and academic administrative space. It will be located east of the WWU Communications Facility and connected by a sky bridge to maximize program efficiencies and increase collaboration opportunities.

Construction will continue through 2024, with completion expected early in 2025.

About Western Washington University

Western Washington University offers more than 200 academic programs on its main campus located in Bellingham, and at additional sites in Anacortes, Bremerton, Everett, Kirkland, Port Angeles and Poulsbo. Western is recognized nationally for its successes, from being named the top master’s-granting institution in the Pacific Northwest for 23 years in a row by U.S. News & World Report, which also named WWU #2 among public universities in the Western U.S., #6 for veterans, and a Best Value School, to its recognition as one of the most sustainable, green campuses in the nation by the Sierra Club.

Western is also known for being a top producer of prestigious National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Scholars, Fulbright Scholars, and Peace Corps volunteers, and ranked as one of the top 10 baccalaureate institutions nationwide for graduates who go on to earn research doctorates.  The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Academic Workplace report named Western as one of the best colleges in the nation to work for, winning honors in two categories: teaching environment and tenure clarity and process.

About Perkins&Will

Perkins&Will, an interdisciplinary, research-based architecture and design firm, was founded in 1935 on the belief that design has the power to transform lives. Guided by its core values—design excellence, diversity and inclusion, living design, research, resilience, social purpose, sustainability, and well-being—the firm is committed to designing a better, more beautiful world. Metropolis named Perkins&Will “Firm of the Year” in 2022 for its industry leadership in advancing climate action and social justice. 

Fast Company named Perkins&Will one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in Architecture three times, and in 2021, it added the firm to its list of Brands That Matter—making Perkins&Will the only architecture practice in the world to earn the distinction. With an international team of more than 2,000 professionals, the firm has over 20 studios worldwide, providing integrated services in architecture, interior design, branded environments, urban design, and landscape architecture. Industry rankings consistently place the firm among the world’s top design practices. Partners include Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen; retail strategy and design consultancy Portland; sustainable transportation planning consultancy Nelson\Nygaard; and luxury hospitality design firm Pierre-Yves Rochon (PYR). For more information, visit www.perkinswill.com.

About Mortenson

Mortenson is a U.S.-based, top-20 builder, developer, and engineering services provider serving the commercial, institutional, and energy sectors. Mortenson’s expanding portfolio of integrated services helps its customers move their strategies forward, ensuring their investments result in high-performing assets. The result is a turnkey partner, fully invested in the business success of its customers.

Since establishing operations in Seattle over 40 years ago, Mortenson continues to lead and build complex, forward-thinking facilities in the Pacific Northwest. This list notably includes the intricate redevelopment of the Seattle Center Arena to create the world’s first carbon-zero sports facility–Climate Pledge Arena. Mortenson’s core commitments ensure that the built environment has a lasting positive impact on people, their communities, and the planet. The Puget Sound Business Journal recognized Mortenson on the 2022 Top Corporate Philanthropists list and awarded the Corporate Champion: Environment Award. Learn more at mortenson.com/seattle.

Media Contacts

Jonathan Higgins
Director of University Communications, Western Washington University Jonathan.Higgins@wwu.edu

Michelle Dallal
Account Executive, Allison+Partners for Perkins&Will

Siobhan Dowell
Senior Marketing Manager, Mortenson Construction