By Jack Stubbs
The Puget Sounds region is often thought of as forward-thinking when it comes to the implementation of sustainable design strategies into commercial development projects. Sustainability initiatives like LEED and Living Building Challenge have in recent years gained more transaction among the architecture/engineering/construction (AEC) community—and certain current and in-the-works projects indicate that progress continues to be made.
However, the implementation of sustainability strategies in projects does not come without its associated challenges: rising construction costs and the difficulties in navigating city- and state-implemented code requirements and legislation mean that there are challenges in harnessing regional leadership and scaling these green building strategies across Seattle and the wider region.
“I think that before the Bullitt Center was built, the perception that the Living Building Challenge was only possible for off-the-grid environmental learning centers and not commercially viable buildings at the scale of five or six stories. The Bullitt Center was a partnership where the Bullitt Foundation wanted to walk the talk in terms of what they stand for and support in our region,” said Amanda Sturgeon, CEO of the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), an organization that spearheads sustainability programs including the Living Building Challenge (LBC) initiative that promotes greener building strategies in the built environment.
The Bullitt Center, located at 1501 E. Madison St. in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, is a 5-story, 52,000 square-foot building that is widely recognized as the greenest commercial building in the world. It features energy-efficient heating and cooling system (comprised of 26 closed-loop hydronic radiant tubes embedded in the building’s concrete floor plates); electricity generated through 575 photovoltaic solar panels comprising 14,000 square feet on the roof of the building and adaptive reuse of wastewater, which is stored and recycled into a 500-gallon grey water tank in the basement of the building. Additionally, the Bullitt Center is predominantly constructed with heavy timber framing, 100 percent of which is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, meaning that it is sourced from a responsibly-managed forests.