Skyscraper Now Officially Seattle's Second Tallest


After two years of construction, the Rainier Square Tower has officially become Seattle’s second tallest skyscraper in the city.

The $370 million tower is slated to top out later this month, totaling 850 feet.

About the Project

Although work on the project officially began in October 2017, designs for the Seattle tower project weren’t announced until January 2018. At the time, experts reported that Rainier Square’s design would be a new “proof of concept” tower and had the potential to change the game in buildings’ seismic and wind resistance.

When announced, the plan was to use a composite structural steel frame instead of the traditional steel frame around a reinforced concrete core, aiming to create an earthquake-resistant core. The composite steel frame is also reported to have a shear-wall core, which has a system of cross-tied steel-plate walls filled with concrete. The 58-story tower’s construction was slated to take 40% less time than a traditional design.

“This is going to be a watershed in terms of high-rise construction,” Shannon Testa, senior project manager for general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis, said at the time.

Developed by structural engineer Ron Klemencic, chairman and CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, the total time on the project was slated to take 31 months versus 40 months, and would allow for lower construction costs paired with an earlier revenue stream.

In May, the new core design was approved by a three-person peer-review panel, giving the innovation the green light from a design standpoint.

“On the basis of what we’ve seen, this is an excellent application [of the module], and it will be pioneering in its use in further high-rise construction,” said Michel Bruneau, a professor of engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a co-investigator for ongoing physical load tests at Purdue University. Bruneau also peer-reviewed the structure and praised the design, calling the system “so clever, I don’t understand why it hasn’t been done before.”

When studies surrounding the coupled composite steel plate shear walls system are complete, the American Institute of Steel Construction estimates that the system will be rated with an R Factor of R=8.

However, also in May, work on the building, in addition to another high-profile tower project, was halted by internet juggernaut Amazon. City Council was considering a “head tax”—an employee-hours tax on businesses grossing at least $20 million per year in the city. This would raise an estimated $75 million annually, and the council wants to use the money for low-income housing and helping its homeless population, which is reportedly among the largest in the nation.

The tax would cost Amazon about $20 million per year. As a result, the company threatened its occupancy of the towers—slated to occupy all 722,000 feet of office space in the Rainier tower, and the two tower projects are currently employing about 8,000 workers—in opposition of the new tax on large employers in the city.

In February of this year, Amazon officially announced that it would be withdrawing its occupancy in Rainier Square Tower.

Design Plans

Passing up Seattle’s previous second-tallest building, 1201 Third Avenue, which tops out at 772 feet, Rainier Square Tower continues to grow. However, once topped out, the structure will still be 87 feet shorter than the Columbia Center.

Not to be confused with neighboring Rainier Tower, the Rainier Square Tower encompasses 1.7 million square feet and is reported by The Stranger to include a mix of ground-floor retail, underground parking, office space and 200 of the highest luxury apartments in the city, slated to be located on the upper floors. The development will also have an adjacent 12-story, 150-room hotel.

Designed by NBBJ, a global architecture firm based in Seattle, the tower reveals an inverse reflection of the curved base of the Rainier Tower next door, having a wide base instead that curves after the fourth floor, creating a narrow angle as it climbs towards the sky.

The exterior of the building is covered in a nonstructural curtain wall that was designed, assembled and installed by Walters & Wolf, in collaboration with 3Diligent. Together, the companies produced 140 3D-printed aluminum nodes of varying dimensions for the tower’s cladding.

The structure is owned by the University of Washington and was developed by university-chosen Wright Runstad. When complete, the building will rank as the seventh tallest on the west coast.


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