Powered by the sun and a sustainable ‘revolution,’ the Bullitt Center opens at 15th and Madison

8672328287_bd9925c0f2_bThe Bullitt Foundation’s CEO was adamant as he introduced his new headquarters above the redesigned McGilvra Park on this Earth Day morning.

“Is it a one-off?” Dennis Hayes asked the crowd assembled for the ribbon cutting on the energy efficient Bullitt Center, billed as the greenest commercial building in the world. “Resoundingly no. It is the start of a revolution.”

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

The building, already filled to 80% of capacity with tenants on its six floors of commercial office space, was celebrated Monday with tours, DJs and dignitaries. Governor Jay Inslee said it was “the perfect Washington day” as the state had once again lead the way in making the “exotic” become “commonplace.” There will be more Bullitt Centers in our future, Inslee — “the greenest governor” in the United States, quipped Hayes — said.

To help foster more sustainable development on Capitol Hill, an effort is underway to create an ecodistrict here with incentives and regulations related to green development.

Harriett Bullitt, daughter of founder Dorothy Stimson Bullitt, was also on hand Monday. She spoke at the 2011 groundbreaking and will turn 90 this summer. The celebration of sustainability along 15th Ave continues through the day, by the way. Environmental Works is celebrating its 43rd birthday this Earthy Day with ice cream and a parklet.

A history of our coverage of the project starting in spring 2010 is outlined below. As it opens, the $18.5 million Bullitt Center weighs in at just “a bit more” expensive than standard commercial construction, Point32, the developers behind the project said. The center has been built to last 250 years, the developers say, and has been built to the standards of the Living Building Challenge.

Harriett Bullitt, Jay Inslee and Denis Hayes (left to right -- Image: CHS)

Harriett Bullitt, Jay Inslee and Denis Hayes (left to right — Image: CHS)

IMG_9029IMG_9086Its solar photovoltaic system will produce enough energy to power the building for roughly eight months of the year. For another four, the building will draw from the grid. It will eventually collect rainwater for drinking and contains no toxic materials — even the data cabling does not use the typical PVC covering.

Designed by the Miller-Hull Partnership, the heavy-timber building rises from the upward slope of E Madison above where Capitol Hill old-timers might remember the old CC’s gay bar used to stand. A huge array of solar paneling crowns the glass and steel exterior.

Its greenest features are mostly in its infrastructure — a minimal need for artificial light, the solar array, the rainwater catchment, composting plumbing, timbers, steel — and not new-fangled, strictly technological solutions. It is also about measurement. Not only is the building one of the greenest in the world, it is also one of the most measured and metered, its creators say. Energy monitors will be track usage down to the outlet in some cases. Reporting for the building will be continually monitored and used to adjust and optimize the building’s consumption. Soon, a web site will be live where the analytics will be publicly available.

The rest of the Bullitt’s green magic is about the lifestyle and changing the way things are done. In fact, many of the efficiencies found in the Bullitt like being sensitive to information technology energy use could be realized by tenants in a non-Living Building, said Paul Schwer, president of PAE, the energy consultant on the project and an early tenant of the building. Consider it inspiration for your office space this Earth Day.

[mappress mapid=”43″]Also inspiring — Hayes’ improved physique. Now resident on the building’s 6th floor, the CEO said he finds himself climbing the “irresistible staircase” six or seven times per day. “My wife has commented that I’m feeling a bit more fit,” Hayes joked.

One more green feature of the Bullitt should be noted: lack of red tape. Mayor Mike Mcginn took his turn at the mic to thank the effort from city departments ranging from DPD to SPU to clear a path to help make the environmental advancements that are part of the new center possible. “Thank you to all city departments for their work to help make sustainability legal in Seattle,” the mayor’s account tweeted during the celebration.

The prime move behind the project, the Bullitt Foundation now joins Capitol Hill with its new super green headquarters. The foundation, powered by wealth accumulated by the family’s media ventures, was created more than 60 years ago to help carry out Dorothy Bullitt’s philanthropic projects in the region. Today it is dedicated to “protecting and restoring the environment of the Pacific Northwest.”

CHS Bullitt Coverage

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