The Bullitt Center

by Harrison Chotzen

In 2015, the Urban Land Institute wrote a comprehensive case study examining the notably sustainable features of the Bullitt Center, a recently completed office building and environmental demonstration project located just outside of downtown Seattle, Washington. The endeavor was initiated in 2007 by the Bullitt Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization with a focus on conservation, as they set out to build a new workspace that was both pragmatic for housing their business headquarters and highly sustainable. The foundation was looking to set a new bar in ecofriendly architecture, with a bold goal to meet the rigorous requirements of the Living Building Challenge (LBC), which at the time was the most intense green building certification program in the world. The standards required net-zero energy (the building must not use more energy than it can produce), net-zero water (all water used on site must be collected from rainwater, and all wastewater and gray-water must be managed and treated on site), net-zero waste (plans to reduce or eliminate waste throughout the project’s life cycle, including construction), green construction (construction free of any materials or chemicals on the LBC Red List and only including wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and locally sourced materials), operable windows to provide fresh air and daylight for every tenant, and a high standard of indoor air quality.

The criteria were intimidating and success was uncertain, but the Bullitt Foundation persevered, choosing an exceptional development team and breaking ground in the world of sustainable architecture. The Miller Hull partnership, an architecture firm with an extensive background in sustainable construction and design, working alongside green project management firm Point32, integrated sustainability and design, creating a final product that is both aesthetically pleasing and satisfies the criteria of the LBC. In 2014, the Bullitt Center was gauged to produce 60 percent more electricity from the sun than it used. Joe David, a Point32 project manager who worked extensively on the building, described the project as “a quantum leap forward for the regional, national, and global green building industry”. In addition to the innovative architecture, the culture that the building promotes also has a clear environmental focus. While the building provides no vehicle parking for its tenants, there is abundant space in the basement for bicycle storage, as well as showers on nearly every floor for such commuters. And while this type of environment is well aligned with the mission of the project, the facility clearly is not an appropriate work place for all businesses. For example, the lack of vehicle parking is a likely deal breaker for firms that have frequent visitation or whose work has heavy energy requirements that would exceed the building’s energy allowance. However, PAE Engineers, the consulting engineering team working on the project, proved that it is possible for some firms to make substantial energy cuts over a short period of time. In order to set the tone for future tenants, before moving their practice into the building PAE implemented a series of changes to their own practices and were able to cut energy consumption per employee by 72%. Furthermore, the goal of the Bullitt Center is not only to provide an ecofriendly workspace for the Bullitt Foundation and its other tenants, but also to encourage other firms to follow in their footsteps. In the primary stages of project planning, some claimed that the bar for the project had been set too high and that the criteria of the LBC were insurmountable for a building of its size; these people were proved wrong. The building is complete and has proved its self-sustainability.

“Bullitt Center | ULI Case Studies.” ULI Case Studies Bullitt Center Comments. Allen Matkins, 24 Feb. 2015. Web. 06 Feb. 2016. http://casestudies.uli.org/bullitt-center/

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