Theo Chocolate Factory

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Year: 2005
  • Client: Joe Whinney
  • Architect: H+dlT Collaborative
  • Photos: William Wright Photography

Converting the Seattle Landmark Trolley Barn from its most recent use as a brewery into a chocolate processing facility was not as simple as it sounds. The biggest hurdle proved to be the budget – which more than once nearly derailed the project. Rafn researched numerous options to find the most cost effective solutions for every portion of the work. The budget was cut in half, yet the fundamental scope had to remain the same. No scope of work was left untouched. The new floor went from epoxy to a concrete topping slab. The seismic upgrades were redesigned. Wall layouts were revised; the shear walls were left exposed.

Rafn’s project team had to educate themselves on the chocolate production process in order to find cost saving solutions that would not compromise the needs of the owner. We had to understand the entire process from when the cocoa beans arrive to when the finished products are loaded for delivery. Each step had different system requirements.
For example, the roasting of the beans creates a dry, dusty environment. Once they are roasted and the cocoa is extracted, they pass through a door and into a completely different situation — a clean, wet food processing environment where other ingredients are blended with the cocoa to create the treats. Finally, they enter a packaging room that is required to meet stringent “clean room” requirements.

To combine these different environments under one roof required attention to detail, down to the type of caulking at the walls separating the rooms. Even the concrete sealer had to be taken into consideration to ensure the fumes would not contaminate ingredients that were already on site. In the end, the client was thrilled with the results.

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