The ground has just been broken in Seattle for the world’s “greenest” office building. Workers are already digging the hole on Capitol Hill that will eventually house the much anticipated six-storey Bullitt Center.
This ultra-green new building boasts environmental objectives unparalleled by any other designs to date. It will produce as much energy as it consumes, provide all its own water, and process all its own sewage. It will also use only 1/3 as much energy as an average, similar-sized building – or half as much as a certified LEED platinum building.
How It Accomplishes Such High Green Standards
Every effort was made in the design phase to create a building that was as green as possible. Since the Bullitt Foundation is an organization focused on sustainability and conservation, founding director Denis Hayes wanted to push the envelope and “build the kind of building we’ve been encouraging everyone else to do.”
Building materials such as timber, steel, and concrete will all come from within a 300 mile radius to reduce the project’s carbon footprint in material transportation. The wood frame for the building will be derived only from certified sustainable forests.
To reduce its reliance on electricity from the grid, the building will feature an overstory of photovoltaic solar panels. These panels will generate enough extra power to the grid in the summer months to make up for the traditional electricity it uses in the winter.
In terms of water conservation, the building plans to collect rainwater and treat it for use in drinking fountains and showers. Furthermore, a large composting system will be implemented to transform natural sewage into compost, which will be transported off-site to be used as fertilizer.
Financing the Bullitt Center
One can imagine that financing such an ambitious project would require some serious dough.
With a price tag of $30 million, the building is about 1/3 more expensive than other similarly sized buildings. Getting a bank to agree to help finance the project was a bit of a challenge, as they usually measure a building profitability within a five or six year time span.
But since the Bullitt Centre is designed for a lifespan of a whopping 250 years, the Foundation realized it wouldn’t be seeing sizeable returns on its investment for about a decade. Even the solar panels would require about 8 – 10 years of operation before they would have paid themselves off.
But eventually the Bullitt Foundation did manage to borrow $15 million from U.S. Bank for the project.
Building For the Future
The Bullitt Centre is one of 12 buildings that is a part of Seattle’s “Living Building Challenge.” Creating a living building requires the fulfillment of strict environmental objectives which aim to take a building “off-the-grid.” That is, a living building is fully self-sufficient in terms of electricity and water, and has virtually no negative impacts on the environment.
Since the Bullitt Centre has proven that it is in fact possible for a building to achieve such high environmental standards, I think we will see more “living buildings” emerge around the world. And they don’t have to all be commercial buildings either – a lot of the innovations the Bullitt Centre has implemented can be directly translated to green homes or residences.
Not only are buildings like the Bullitt Centre ultra-sustainable, they are aesthetically pleasing and can save money in operating costs in the long run. Plus as technology improves, buildings can achieve even more ambitious environmental objectives in the future.
What are your thoughts on the Bullitt Centre? Will it encourage more green commercial buildings around the world?
Image: bullittcenter.org – Bullitt Center Building