Pb Elemental is on Fire

But will they go down in flames?

Based on their web portfolio, the design/build firm has yet to produce a building more than three stories tall. Yet within the past month they have unveiled plans for a 440-foot residential tower, as well as the 24-story hotel/condo project shown in the rendering above.

As for midrise, this 20-unit mixed use project at 151 12th Ave in the Central District will be the firm’s first (early design guidance was in January). A second midrise is also on the boards, rendering below:

Meanwhile, the firm continues to crank out smaller-scale projects — there are 18 listed on their web site that are either in the design phase or under construction. Six of these are “live-work,” which is still a relatively unproven building type in Seattle — the City’s live-work ordinance was passed just five years ago. The live-work typology has great potential for improving neighborhood vitality and sustainability, and it’s commendable that Pb Elemental is willing to take the risk. Their “9th Avenue” live-work project is rendered below.

Nearly all of Pb Elemental’s projects have striking form, and as such stand out from most other new architecture in Seattle. And this is creating a distinct marketing identity.

So who is Pb Elemental? Their two founders are in their early thirties. The firm has grown from 2 to 50 employees in just four years. They have brought on a new President and CFO who was formerly the CFO of Lorig Associates. They are currently building a new company headquarters. They won an AIA honor award in 2007. Both the Seattle PI and The Stranger have praised them.

It all sounds so dot-com.

Clearly the latest development cycle has peaked. Has Pb Elemental overextended itself? It wouldn’t be the first or the last development and/or architecture firm to do so.

Or, will their burn just keep getting hotter? For the sake of Seattle architecture, here’s to hoping it’s the latter.

14 Responses to “Pb Elemental is on Fire”

  1. Joshua

    I sincerely hope that Pb Elemenatal continues in Seattle, and that more development/design firms fill in to create more “un-Seattle” architecture. I’m continually surprised at how many unimaginative buildings there are around Seattle. Here’s to a hotter burning flame!

  2. Futzbutton

    It’s up to the developers to demand better design. I’m sure most architects would be more than happy to continue on the path that pb Elemental is proposing to do – I’ll bet that none of their high or midrise “concept” designs ever get built.

    P.S. …and by “in their early thirties”, I’m guessing you actually meant to say, “in their early forties”…

  3. Dell

    The stranger article that just came out says the principals are 29 and 30. I think Seattle appreciates progressive design like this and I hope they do get built. If Pb is developing them they probably will.

  4. durtay

    Pb elemental are a bunch of amateurs….each and every building they design/build are strikingly similar….I am sick of seeing their buildings all across town. Compositions of cedar rainscreen facades and cement board boxes with industrial details and garage doors for windows….it’s been done, over and over again. How about something creative now??

    On top of that, they are totally overextending themselves….I will laugh quite loud when the townhouse /condo market collapses in Seattle and they are forced to turn their $250/sf properties into “high-end” apartments. I’ve seen it time and time again. Pb elemental is a group of young republicans dressed in hippy wear trying to come off as if they care about the communities they develop in….they are a cheap, profit-driven facade of a design firm. They are one of the main forces behind the gentrification of many neighborhoods in Seattle. It is a shame that they can operate in the manner that they do. No one is going to pay $18 million to live on the top of a flagpole that will sway with the slightest shift of the earth. In 5 years Pb Elemental will be out of business…mark my word

  5. danb

    durtay: What firms in Seattle are designing multifamily housing that you like?

  6. Dell

    Wow Durtay, you sound like a very disgruntled person. Could there be any chance you are either an out of work “amateur” architect or maybe even a former employee of Pb who was let go because of lack of ability? Hmmm makes me wonder. I agree Pb has a distinct style (as does every practing architecture firm. If they have only been existance for four years I would assume all of the current projects where designed during the same period, the images above at least to me seem like they have moved past “Compositions of cedar rainscreen facades and cement board boxes” but would you rather see the 2000 viynl clad faux craftsman that have plauged our City for the past twenty years?

    As far as the main force behind gentrification…. Wow you give these guys a ton of credit (and have absolutly no idea of what your taking about…. suprised you know how to use a computer) How many projects have they built 10, 20? How about the forty 4000 sqft crafstman mcmansions behind my house in the central district all selling for above 900k. My house is probably 300k if that. But we live in a City, it is ever changing and thats what is endearing and vibrant about it. Maybe take your negativity and use it for good. Go volenteer with habitat for humanity, I do, and would love to discuss these issues with you.

  7. Jesse

    Well i have to say as a man that has worked on many of Pb’s job sites.I beleive there one of the best out there if not the best,Yes it maybe that thay are young,but ive seen this firm make nice progress to becoming a major developer.Mark my words thay wiil be around long time.

  8. SoDo Mojo Risin | hugeasscity

    […] Up at 4th Ave and S. Washington St, Pb Elemental has proposed a 24-story mixed-use project with a 144-key hotel, 105 condo units, retail, and 140 above-grade parking stalls (as noted here). The bus/light rail tunnel is below the site, which is why the parking must be above-grade. The current zoning at this site allows a max building height of 120 feet, and the proposed upzone is for 240 feet — this project could not happen without the upzone. […]

  9. Spencer


    You got it. It’s incredible to see they have a spec house in Columbia City for $1.2 million. That’s four times the average house value! Thanks for upping property values im the last affordable/close in neighborhood. Jack-asses.

  10. Spencer


    Good luck with that.

  11. foxgarden

    They’re young guys, but I think their success so far makes them more than amateurs.

    They do have a bit of a signature style so far, and I’ll admit that I personally don’t want to live in a concrete loft, but it’s working for them and growing their business. Yes they’re profit-minded, which doesn’t usually seem like much of a criticism to me, since most people who pour their lives into work are in fact trying to make a profit. They seem to be pretty committed to the ideals of city infill (as opposed to developing new land) and incorporating green/sustainable strategies into the residences they build. (You could argue, though, that that’s a profit-driven strategy in today’s upscale markets.)

  12. Pb Micro-Ghost Towns | hugeasscity

    […] Pb Elemental cranked out a remarkable number of progressive projects like this one with the big orange wall on 23rd Ave.   Alas, their timing was just a wee bit off.  The three Central District projects in these photos were looking pretty lonely last time I checked.  It’s too bad, cause Pb pushed design innovation much further than most in Seattle, particularly with the creative use of site.  But now that the recession is over, perhaps these bad boys will start filling up. […]

  13. Sara White

    Usually I’m elsewhere on the net, but I’m happy I found this post. My lunch was just that much better!

  14. Jalisa Alfred

    Pretty decent post. I just stumbled upon your site and wanted to say that I have in reality enjoyed reading your web site posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

Leave a Reply