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World’s Greenest Building, Bullitt Center, Opens on Earth Day in Seattle

Leon Kaye | Wednesday January 16th, 2013 | 3 Comments
Bullitt Center, Seattle, green building, downtown Seattle, Madison-Miller neighborhood, Capitol Hill, solar, rainwater harvesting, grey water, Living Building Challenge, Madison Street, Leon Kaye, LEED, Bullitt Foundation,

The Bullitt Center opens April 22, Earth Day

Nestled between downtown Seattle and the Capitol Hill district, the Bullitt Center will open on Earth Day, April 22. Builders of the six-story, 50,000 square-foot building claim it will be the “greenest” office building on the planet. Ground broke in August 2011, and since then few green building details have been left unturned, from water efficiency, renewable energy and choice of construction materials. If anything close to a zero-impact office building exists, the Bullitt Center is it.

Inside, tenants will benefit from abundant natural light, plenty of fresh air and overall a healthier environment than can be found in most commercial buildings. The builders bypassed the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification in favor of the strenuous Living Building Challenge standards.

The Bullitt Center’s approach towards environmental sustainability starts with the design of the site. Cisterns will store rainwater, and “grey water” from sinks and showers will funnel through the building’s green roof. Perched on Madison Street, the Bullitt Center will be flanked by a planting strip that will make the approaching sidewalk more pleasant for local workers and residents. Solar arrays will provide as much electricity as the building requires. Medium-height sidewalk plantings will also create a physical separation between pedestrians and vehicle traffic. The building’s planners chose the transitional Madison-Miller neighborhood for the opportunity to add more commercial space to a mostly residential area; Madison Street’s role as a link to several neighborhoods in Seattle also factored in the building’s location.

In tune with the ideals behind the Living Building Challenge, the Bullitt Center takes inspiration from nature and creates a work environment that is practical, yet also healthy for its inhabitants. Architectural details that are aesthetically pleasing yet practical include higher ceilings (eliminating an additional floor possible under local building codes) and a central glass-enclosed staircase that encourages tenants to use the stairs instead of the elevator. Exposed wood, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, is a reflection of the local Pacific Northwest natural environment.

Tenants include the University of Washington’s Integrated Design Lab, the Cascadia Green Building Council and, of course, the Bullitt Foundation. In a phone conversation with spokesperson Brad Kahn, he explained that currently the building has leased out 40 percent of its space and negotiations are underway with prospective tenants and the Bullitt Center feels very optimistic about leasing the entire space. Suites ranging from 2,000 to 8,000 square feet are available: larger offices include a kitchen and a shower for those who will commute by bicycle. Should a cleaner and healthier built environment indeed evolve after the Bullitt Center’s opening, watch for architects and developers around the world to take notice.

Read more about 3p’s coverage of green building and construction.

Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable BrandsInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost). He will explore children’s health issues in India next month with the International Reporting Project.

Image credit: BullittCenter.org and John Stamets, photographer


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  • Aubrey

    Sounds like a wonderful initiative; what are the economic considerations? How readily can this be replicated?

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.haverlock Robert Haverlock

    Don’t forget that they are using composting toilets as well. A big energy and water saver! And @ Aubrey, yes I think this could be replicated. When you look at the cost of a 250 year building keeping tenants for long periods of time, health of employees, and far cheaper energy bills, is more productive and sustainable then not.

    Plus they will publish the non “Red-list” materials. A first! The building will not contain any “Red List” hazardous materials, including PVC, cadmium, lead, mercury and hormone-mimicking substances, all of which are commonly found in building components, which makes people sick, which takes away from your companies bottom line.

  • brad

    As a small builder for the last too many years (but i still love it) i am ALWAYS appalled to see the isocyanates and other foam boards listed as green. Any petrochemical product labeled green should just be labeled greed.

    If one takes a wooden stud and measures it’s total energy impact from forest to dimensional lumber and labels that as the baseline “one”, then fiberglass insulation rates about a 15, blown cellulose as a 2 to 5 depending on location, mfgrs, transpo, etc. Petro? Exploration, fees, buying off congress to steal America’s minerals for personal profit, refining, transportation, manufacturing product, shipping, blah, blah. NOT GREEN!