New Seattle office building scores a global first on the DEI front

November 22, 2022

The under-construction Jack office building on Seattle’s waterfront is the world’s first to seek a new certification aimed at maximizing positive social impacts.

SEAM, which stands for Social Equity Assessment Method, is a nonprofit that two commercial real estate executives – Rainey Shane and Alex Demestihas, both of Jones Lang LaSalle (NYSE: JLL) in Atlanta — started discussing several years ago. That led to the founding of SEAM, the world’s first social impact certification, accreditation and membership program.

“We were trying to do more meaningful work in commercial real estate,” said Shane, who is JLL’s social sustainability director for the Americas. She said SEAM certification provides building owners and occupants a roadmap to maximize positive social impacts.

SEAM’s certification is gained by, among other things, removing any kind of modern-day slavery from the building supply chain and ensuring diversity among the development team.

Seattle-based Urban Visions is the developer of the eight-story Jack, which is named for its location on South Jackson Street. Todd Lee, executive vice president at Urban Visions, said the company learned of the program too late to enroll the development itself, but decided to seek certification for operations and maintenance.

Lee said the SEAM program aligns with Urban Visions’ guiding principles of developing buildings that promote health and wellness.

The company will procure services, such as cleaning, by casting a wider net for providers. As part of SEAM, Urban Vision already has surveyed neighbors to find out what kinds of amenities they would like to see and then perhaps offer them.

Lee said his company already strives to promote social equity. “Having some new sharpness of the blade will further the efforts,” he added.

Operations and management certification has to be re-certified annually, while buildings and interiors certification do not unless the property are certified at the gold or platinum levels.

As a SEAM pilot project, the Jack won’t have to pay for the certification, whose costs vary depending on level of certification.

SEAM’s reporting framework can plug directly into an organization’s ESG (environmental, social and governance), DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and CSR (corporate social responsibility) strategies, according to the nonprofit.

Urban Visions founder and CEO Greg Smith said no pre-leases have been signed for the 145,000-square-foot Jack. There’s some touring activity, but it’s slow due to the holidays, he said.

He expects activity will pick up as the building — the only new under-construction office building on the waterfront — takes shape. “People are visual and like to see the finished product,” Smith wrote in a text.

Olson Kundig designed the project, which JTM Construction is building. JLL brokers Lloyd Low, Joe Gowan and Charlie Hanafin are marketing the office space for lease.