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PHOTO Bullitt Foundation president Denis Hayes on the solar panel–covered roof of the Bullitt Center
PHOTOGRAPHY Tom Reese/FotoDocument
The Emerald City is about to get a whole lot greener this Earth Day as the Bullitt Center officially opens today, April 22, 2013, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood near downtown Seattle. The commercial office building, which will be home to the environmentally focused nonprofit Bullitt Foundation and other tenants, is already being called the greenest in the world for its unprecedented innovations in environmentally friendly construction and design.
Built to meet the very strict standards of the Living Building Challenge certification program, the Bullitt Center is designed to be a completely carbon-neutral ‘living building’ with a lifespan of 250 years (the typical lifespan of an office building is 40 years).
The building itself is made with locally sourced and nontoxic materials free of commonly used but hazardous materials, including PVC, cadmium, lead, mercury, and hormone-mimicking substances. Rooftop solar panels will generate enough energy to cover the building’s usage (yes, even in often-cloudy Seattle!), and a groundbreaking rainwater collection program will allow the building to provide and treat its own water. Large, operable windows will offer tenants natural light and fresh air, while a glass-enclosed main stairway will treat those who skip the elevators to impressive views of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle. To encourage alternatives to commuting by car, the Bullitt Foundation chose to build in a pedestrian-friendly area that is well served by public transit, and also included a special garage and showers for bicycle commuters.
Because this building is so unique, the developers had to overcome several roadblocks along the way as they challenged the conventional building model, but their efforts will help pave the way for future green building projects in the area and around the world.
Of the planning process, Bullitt Foundation president Denis Hayes said, “If we could establish the proper precedents, it would be much easier for others to construct living buildings. The goals in this building are thought by many to be impossible. But if we achieve them, disbelief will no longer be an option. I’ve always subscribed to the slogan, ‘If you don’t believe it can be done, get out of the way of those of us who are doing it.’”