Inspiring ZGF Clients: Sharon Coleman, Vulcan Real Estate

During Women’s History Month, ZGF is spotlighting outstanding female clients who inspire us to challenge ourselves and raise the bar for design excellence. This week, we feature Sharon Coleman of Vulcan Real Estate.

In elementary school, Sharon aspired to be a nun. That may come as a surprise to those following her career at Vulcan, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most prominent developers of commercial and biotech projects.

Sharon’s journey would lead her to a different calling: initially to architecture, and eventually to Vulcan Real Estate as one of its first employees. As the senior director for real estate development, Sharon is among the visionaries behind the transformation of downtown Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood into of an innovation hub.

She spoke to us recently about her journey.

What was your dream job as a kid and why? Does it relate to what you do today?
Growing up I wanted to be a nun. The book jackets for each of my text books at St. Francis Elementary School said, “Jesus is calling you to be a priest or a nun.” Reading that 20 times a day starts to sink in.  But then—this is so cliché—I read the Fountainhead, and then my dream was to be an architect.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
I have one of the best jobs in Seattle. I get to help change the landscape of this incredible city, with the help of an amazing, knowledgeable and collaborative team at Vulcan, while working alongside the best of the best architects, consultants and contractors. Considering what SLU was like 16 years ago, I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished.

What’s the best leadership lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Get the brightest people to work with, give them lots of rope, and let them grow into leaders.

Who is your role model and why?
Wow, that’s a hard one. When I was very young, I have to say that I adored Katherine Hepburn—independent, opinionated … gorgeous.  But there have been so many women (and men) along the way who have influenced me, it’s hard to pick one.

What advice do you have for the next generation of women in your industry? 
Believe in yourself.  Listen to all sides, get all of the facts. And don’t be afraid to make decisions.

Inspiring ZGF Clients: Karen Weylandt, Providence Health and Services

In celebration of Women’s History Month, ZGF is highlighting a few of our outstanding female clients who inspire us to continuously challenge ourselves and raise the bar of design excellence.

Karen Weylandt, Chief Design and Construction Officer at Providence Health and Services, has been a client of ZGF for 28 years. From helping patients heal as a registered nurse to directing planning and designs for healthcare facilities in five states, Karen brings a unique perspective to the design team with an in-depth knowledge of healthcare facility planning and design. She has collaborated with ZGF on more than 50 projects to improve a network of educational facilities, outpatient clinics, surgery centers and acute care facilities, including, most recently, the Providence Portland Medical Center East Expansion.

We spoke with Karen about her trailblazing career in healthcare design, including her inspiration and lessons learned:


“My dream job was to be a singer but that wasn’t going to happen as you have to be able to carry a tune! So, it was either be a nurse or a physical education teacher and I chose nursing. At 16 I got a job in a hospital as a messenger and I really saw the care and compassion nurses were delivering and making a difference in people’s lives, and that’s what I wanted to do. For me, nursing was my career path and healthcare my calling. I’m fortunate it led me to other opportunities to serve.”


“I’ve always said that I learn from the school of hard knocks, but here are a few lessons I’ve learned over the years:

Know your own strengths and weaknesses; Lead with intention, be authentic and listen to the good and sometimes the not so good; Delegate and empower others to have confidence in their skills and ability to do the work; Know the team and make a connection to the team and celebrate the successes; It’s not necessarily what you say, but how you say it.”


“I don’t think I have just one role model, but the woman who influenced my career early on was the director of nursing in the hospital where I spent the first 19 years of my career. To me she was the epitome of a nurse in her dress, her stature and presence, as well as a respected woman leader who was truly an advocate for the delivery of excellent patient care by all disciplines.”

“What I do admire is women of strength who overcome disadvantaged upbringings and/or other obstacles that life threw their way but pursued their hopes and dreams and can now give back to others to make the world a better place.”


“There are so many more opportunities for women in the business world today than when I started out. But I think mentoring today needs to focus on talent, knowledge, competence and confidence in that women are equal colleagues in the business community.”

Presenting an Innovative NICU Model

The Annual Gravens Conference on the Environment of Care for High Risk Newborns brings together leading experts to discuss research, innovation and inspiration on how the environment of care impacts outcomes on preterm babies.

Aligning with the 2018 theme “the emotional environment of babies, families and staff,” ZGF Principal, Sue Ann Barton, along with Dr. Robert White, MD and Director of Pediatric Services Jen Tonkovich, presented a new neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) design for Beacon Children’s Hospital.

In the session, the group discussed how research informed the ZGF designed NICU room prototype at Beacon Children’s Hospital, including findings on the importance of parental holding and mother-baby connection in the NICU; and the shift to designing spaces that move from the open-ward to the single-family room model. Called the NIC2 room, the innovative prototype incorporates concepts such as Kangaroo Care, where the baby is skin-to-skin with mother (or father), and Couplet Care, which supports putting mothers and babies together as soon as possible after birth. The result, as attendees learned, is a NICU that not only provides the crucial parent-baby connection but also provides the flexibility and space to accommodate multiple care scenarios that can’t be accomplished in a standard NICU single family room.

Watch the entire presentation here.


ZGF Speaks! Where to Find Us in March 2018

The 31st Annual Gravens Conference Environment of Care for High Risk Newborns, Clearwater Beach, FL

March 1st: Sue Ann Barton will present, “New Unit Design: Memorial Hospital in South Bend, IN”


SpArc Conference, Fort Worth, TX

March 5th: Melissa Balestri, Associate, is speaking on “Transparency in Materials


AIA Grassroots 2018, San Diego, CA

March 13th: Paddy Tillet, will present “My AIA Story” at the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team breakout session.


University of Hartford Architecture Lecture Series, Hartford, CT

March 14th: Christopher Locke will present “Tone. Space. Atmosphere. Presence. Equity. Accessibility. Evocation


WASLA Annual Conference, Seattle, WA

March 16th: Tom Bennett, Associate Partner, will present “Global, Smart, Livable: Lessons from Singapore and the Middle East


USC School of Architecture, Los Angeles, CA

March 27th: Shara Castillo, Associate Partner, will guest lecture on “Sustainability and Water Conservation.”


PDC Summit 2018, Nashville, TN

March 28th: Karl Sonnenberg, will present “Without Interruption: Rebuilding an Occupied 482-Bed Patient Tower

GB&D Magazine Features ZGF’s Circadian Lighting Approach

In the March/April 2018 issue of Green Building & Design magazine, ZGF project architect Marty Brennan describes the role of circadian lighting as a healthy complement to natural daylight in buildings.

Marty traces his interest in circadian lighting to his graduate school studies at the University of Washington, and explains how ZGF incorporated circadian lighting at Swedish Medical Center-Ballard’s Medical Behavioral Health Unit to maximize patient wellness.

Transforming Downtown Seattle’s Public Realm

Amid an employment boom and an influx of new residents, Seattleites are shifting their trip choices away from drive-alone commuting to public transit, walking, cycling and carpooling.

As a result, the impetus for vibrant, inviting and safe downtown pedestrian experiences has never been greater. In the Feb. 22 issue of the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, ZGF urban planners Heidi Bullinga and Brian McCarter share their vision for enlivening downtown’s Pike-Pine corridor alongside the City of Seattle, Waterfront Seattle and the Downtown Seattle Association.

Construction of these Pike Pine Renaissance: Act One public realm improvements could begin in 2020.

VIDEO: PSBJ Highlights ZGF’s Approach to Circadian Lighting

This week, the Puget Sound Business Journal features ZGF architect Marty Brennan as its Innovator of the Month. In the below video profile, Marty describes how circadian lighting can have positive health and performance impacts in a variety of indoor settings to supplement daylight.

As Marty describes in the video, patients and staff in the ZGF-design Swedish Medical Center Ballard Medical Behavioral Health Unit are benefitting from circadian lighting.

ZGF Presents at AIA Seattle’s Medical Design Forum

At this month’s 2018 AIA Seattle Medical Design Forum, ZGF Architects’ Kari Thorsen, Tammy Felker, and Marty Brennan shared the inspiration behind the design of Swedish Medical Center-Ballard’s 22-bed Medical Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).

Central to ZGF’s approach was balancing safety requirements with therapeutic elements to break the stigma of a traditional BHU while instilling patients with a sense of control and normalcy.

The BHU’s spaces are composed of private zones for bedrooms, social activity spaces, intermediate zones for group and individual counseling, and staff areas. As patients move through the inpatient environment they encounter lighting, patterns, and materiality evoking elements in nature.

In addition to these soothing biophilic elements, tunable circadian lighting in common areas helps synchronize patients’ natural sleep-wake rhythms, marking the passage of time and providing a sense of calm as the day winds down.

The collection of furniture balances the need for patient and staff safety with designs that feel less institutional and more home-like, key elements in this transformative space for healing.

An exercise room featuring a stationary bicycle, yoga mat, and exercise ball is helpful in combatting depression and foundational to overall health and wellness. In the BHU’s quiet meditative spaces, patients can set the color of the lighting, a personal choice that can be both calming and impart a sense of safety.

These quiet spaces were also designed to help patients deescalate, meditate, and practice breathing exercises — part of the skills patients can develop in the inpatient environment to manage symptoms after they’ve been discharged.

USGBC Podcast Series Features ZGF’s Kathy Berg

In the third installment of the U.S. Green Building Council’s podcast series, “Built for Health,” ZGF Partner Kathy Berg and Matthew Trowbridge, associate professor and researcher of emergency medicine and public health at University of Virginia, talk about how to design spaces that encourage healthier behaviors.

Their episode, “Built for Health: Fitness and Motion,” is focused on the impact the built environment has on how much we move. With reference to data from recent projects including the Rocky Mountain Institute Innovation Center and Clif Bar’s Headquarters, Berg and Trowbridge discuss the need for collaboration across various disciplines to establish a culture of movement.

Listen to their podcast here for a deeper understanding of the many factors that play a role in spaces that support more productive and active lifestyles.