Taking Sustainability to New Heights

Taking Sustainability to New Heights

This piece was originally published in the March 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.

By Ron Rochon, Managing Partner, The Miller Hull Partnership

Photo by Chi Krneta for The Miller Hull Partnership
Photo by Chi Krneta for The Miller Hull Partnership

A building like the Bullitt Center in Seattle, Washington, is not “deep green” merely as a stylistic preference, like Art Deco or Brutalism. The decision to generate power with rooftop solar panels is not akin to selecting granite countertops.

Buildings account for an estimated 39 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, 65 percent of waste, and 70 percent of electrical use in the United States. In the Pacific Northwest, a changing climate is already shifting our use of water, energy, and other natural resources. To address this reality, the Bullitt Center is demonstrating what is possible today and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders to go even farther.

As the first urban structure of its kind, the Bullitt Center is about learning and discovery. From the building design and interactive resource center to the new community green space, the Bullitt Center is a place for people to gather and learn about green building and urban sustainability. It serves as a highly visible example of what’s possible when a team of people come together to advance uncommon wisdom. It has been called the greenest building in the world.

Features shaping the Bullitt Center include the following:

  • Living Building: The six-story, 50,000 sq.-ft. building is the nation’s first urban mid-rise commercial project to attempt the rigorous goals of the Living Building Challenge, the most ambitious benchmark of sustainability in the built environment.
  • Teaching Building: The lower floor of the building, facing 15th Avenue and the new park at McGilvra Place, houses the Center for Integrated Design. Programmed by the University of Washington’s Integrated Design Lab, it features an open classroom, exhibition space, and a research laboratory dedicated to training pioneers who will lead the green economy.
  • Innovative green technology: Net-zero energy use with 100-percent onsite renewable energy generation from the latest photovoltaic (PV) technology; water needs provided by harvested rainwater; onsite waste management; a safe, naturally day-lit and ventilated work environment for all workers; and built to last 250 years.

The building is performing beyond expectations. This is due in part to extreme building efficiency as well as highly efficient occupant behavior. On a recent visit on a particularly cloudy day, the Bullitt Foundation office was lit only by daylight. The staff actually prefers to keep the lights off and enjoy plenty of ambient light provided by windows and skylights—resulting in huge savings in electricity costs.

Learn more about sustainable buildings at www.bullittcenter.org.

The Miller Hull Partnership is the sustainably oriented, modernist architecture firm that designed the Bullitt Center.

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