Green construction has spread across the nation in recent years, digging roots into major cities and sprouting environmentally friendly buildings of all shapes and sizes. But no place can compete with our very own Bullitt Center.
You might not notice it, walking through Capitol Hill. The Bullitt Center sits on the corner 15th and Madison, away from most of the Capitol Hill action. It doesn’t have the same flash as the nearby bars or restaurants or shows. What it does have? Sustainability. Record-setting sustainability.
The Bullitt Center brands itself as “The Greenest Commercial Building in the World,” and it has the facts to back it up.
No non-local or “Red List” (hazardous) materials went into the Bullitt Center. Every piece was locally sourced from within a 500-mile radius. And much of that locally sourced material was timber. Seattle has seen only a handful of timber-based mid-rise buildings since the 1920s, but the Bullitt Center is one of them. The building’s heavy timber frame will sequester 545 metric tons of carbon for the building’s 250-year lifespan.
575 rooftop solar panels power the Bullitt Center. The building produces more energy than it uses during the summer months and consumes slightly more energy than it produces during the winter, but the net result is zero-impact. The Bullitt Center powers itself. Even in cloudy Seattle, green energy wins.
Zero-Impact Water Collection
The Bullitt Center collects all its own water. The roof catches rainwater and stores the harvest in a 56,000-gallon basement cistern, and then, at a rate of 500 gallons per day, a combination of three ceramic filers, ultraviolet light, and charcoal make that rainwater drinkable.
Natural Water Disposal
A constructed wetland returns greywater safety to the natural water table. There is a green roof on the third floor, where horsetail and aerated layers of gravel and soil clean the building’s greywater before returning it to the environment. This process mimics the natural action of a Douglas fir forest.
You can find the world’s only six-story system of composting toilets in the Bullitt Center. These toilets use only two tablespoons of water per flush. And no, you can rest assured: they don’t smell bad.
The Bullitt Center encourages an active, environmentally friendly lifestyle. To that extent, there is no parking on site. Instead, the building has a large bike garage and showers on every floor, and it is located near multiple bus lines, the coming streetcar line, and future light rail stops. Additionally, the Bullitt Center relegates its elevator to a hidden corner of the building, and as a more sustainable alternative, it prominently displays its “Irresistible Staircase.” This staircase is the building’s central feature, offering stunning views of Seattle and the Puget Sound through giant triple-pane windows.
The Bullitt Center goes quite a few steps beyond LEED certification. It is a candidate for certification as a Living Building, which means besides not harming the environment, it “actually helps restore the natural environment.”
The Bullitt Center has a lifespan of 250 years, which is good news for Seattle. But although we have the world’s greenest commercial building right now, hopefully, by the end of that 250-year lifespan, the Bullitt Center will have influenced other developers and other building projects. Hopefully, the Bullitt Center will be no different than any other building. Green. Sustainable. Healthy.
Photos by Joe Mabel