inside odegaard building
UW Odegaard Undergraduate Learning Center / SeattleWA
How do you completely renovate a facility that is accessible to students 24/7?

The University of Washington (UW) Odegaard Undergraduate Learning Center is the most active learning environment on the UW's Seattle campus. Open 24 hours a day and seven days a week, this massive library, serving 10,000 students a day, is an essential academic resource. However, it must keep pace with learning, technology, and energy use shifts. The UW engaged Mortenson to successfully renovate the 1970s building, creating a modern, student-centric learning environment. New active learning classrooms provide collaborative teaching and study environments, incorporating flexible spaces designed with group learning technologies.

Expanding the library's footprint was not an option, so we removed interior pieces to create space. Most notably, Mortenson removed the sizeable three-story main atrium stairs and reconfigured the atrium to become the building's functional and architectural nucleus. Overhead, a large new skylight adds light and an 'airiness' while enhancing the building's energy efficiency. Along the balcony edges, seating and counter workstations bring activity to the periphery of this new social "hub." In a nod to the prominent and well-known original staircase and efficient reuse of materials, the building's original oak stair railings were beautifully repurposed throughout the new atrium space.

At the atrium's perimeter, technology-rich Active Learning classrooms for daytime team-based learning can transform into flexible nighttime study spaces. To optimize the whole building as the "students' office on campus," all spaces are designed for dual use throughout the 24-hour cycle. In total, the renovated library includes more than 20 individual or small group study spaces, seven (7) new enclosed team spaces, and the isolation of the third floor to designate it as a "quiet study" space.

The library remained operational during construction to accommodate the UW student body. The UW, Miller Hull (architect), and Mortenson chartered a collaboration agreement encouraging partnership and integration of lean principles, which resulted in an expedited design and construction process. As a testament to our collective dedication and hard work, the first phase of the renovated library took twenty months to complete. Building space efficiency increased by 13%, and the reconfiguration of space provides a more operationally efficient 'one-stop shop' learning environment.

The project was challenged by a very aggressive schedule, with the necessity of getting the design done and permits issued for the extensive demolition and structural work the team could only do during the summer months. Everyone involved analyzed all design, permitting, procurement, and construction activities while accounting for the school calendar and the funding deadline. As a result, the team identified and committed to a path focused on an early demo/structural permit package. This strategy resulted in completing all required work during that first summer and a successful award-winning project for the University of Washington.

Facts And Figures

University of Washington

Completed May 2013


73,479 square feet

Delivery Methods

Construction Manager
General Contractor
...we have been very impressed with Mortenson’s professionalism and cheerfulness, in addition to their attention to all aspects of this challenging project. We have full confidence in their ability to come in on time, on budget, with a spectacular outcome.

The Team


AIA Seattle Honor Award, 2013

COAA Silver Project Leadership Award, 2013