The era of harm reduction, half steps and lesser evils is behind us. As a society, we need to be bold in ways that were once unimaginable. Luckily in the building sector, we now can imagine where we need to go. In fact, we don’t need to just imagine it. We can touch, experience, learn from, and replicate it.Denis Hayes
The six-story, 52,000 sf Bullitt Center satisfies all of its own energy, water and waste needs, and is the largest and first commercial building to achieve Living Building certification—the most ambitious benchmark of sustainable design in the built environment. Designed as a leasable Class A office building, the Bullitt Center also serves as a living laboratory of environmental awareness highlighting the interconnectedness of sustainable design to architecture, energy use, materials sourcing, government policy and financing.
The attention-getting elements of the Bullitt Center—100% onsite renewable energy, water and waste management, as well as a safe, naturally day-lit and ventilated work environment built to last 250 years—follow from an equally exciting integrated design process that enabled us to move beyond the traditionally linear design, engineering and construction process. In considering first and foremost how to design a building with essentially no environmental footprint, it was energizing to identify imaginative and elegant ways to beautifully express the building’s core performance functions through design strategies using a mix of existing and new technologies, systems, and materials. While in one sense we had to do more with less, as an integrated design team, we happily found that designing to high-performance targets actually opened up numerous formal design opportunities. Currently state-of-the-art, the building technology, envelope and supporting structure are designed as separate components that can easily be updated to meet needs of the next generation users as advancements are made in coming years without seriously impacting other key aspects of the building.
The Bullitt Center takes cues from nature and has been compared to a living organism incorporating simplicity and efficiency in its interconnected systems. Open concept floor plates with operable floor-to-ceiling windows maximize daylight and natural ventilation; heavy-timber framing—which has not been used in a downtown Seattle office building since the 1920’s was selected given its prominence as a renewable regional material offering strength, beauty and carbon sequestration; a required exit stair, normally buried in the center of a floor plate is brought to the perimeter and named the ‘irresistible stair’—because of the stunning views to the Seattle skyline that encourage occupants to take the stairs instead of the elevator; highly efficient windows and fully automated exterior blinds which provide an interesting, layered façade while adjusting throughout the day; and most visibly, the overhanging photo voltaic panel array on the roof which provides all power for the building with a nod to Northwest regional design vernacular. The building has been operating on a net positive basis since it open in 2013.