When it comes to business practices, the pendulum often swings one way before it swings the other, and since the beginning of the industrial revolution, commerce has tended to lean towards the pursuit of profit at the expense of the environment. Luckily, it seems as though we are entering a new era, one in which businesses are not only concerned about sustainability, but they’ve discovered that they can often save money even as they cut their carbon footprint. Of course, there are certainly companies out there that are willing to go above and beyond in order to pave the way for their peers in the business world. But although they’ll pay a hefty price for innovation, they gain the bragging rights associated with their eco-friendly efforts, along with the satisfaction of knowing that they are setting an example for other businesses and encouraging them to behave in a similarly responsible manner. And the Bullitt Foundation is one such organization.
In fact, they are focused on regaining the natural beauty and “biological capital” inherent to an area of the northwestern United States and southwestern corner of Canada known as Cascadia. And in order to put their money where their mouth is they’ve set out to create the “greenest, most energy efficient commercial building in the world” in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. With six stories containing 50,000 square feet of office space you might be skeptical about their ability to live up to their green ideals, but their goal is not merely a lark. They’ve got the science and technology to back them up in their pursuit of perfection and the building plans tell the story of a structure that is designed to be both energy- and carbon-neutral, meaning that it will produce no carbon footprint and generate all of its electricity off the grid.
Clearly, a lot of thought went into the planning process, and the green efforts of the Bullitt Foundation are evident at every turn. The oversized windows that scale the sides of the building are not just for looks: they are intended to provide more than 80% of the light in the building, drastically reducing the call for electrical illumination (at least during the day). But another architectural feature stands out even more. Atop the roof is an array of solar panels that extend so far beyond the edge of the building that they had to get a special permit for them. Of course, it’s well worth it for the power these panels will provide.
In addition there is a 50,000 gallon cistern situated underneath the building that is set to collect rainwater, which will then be treated by a built-in biofiltration system so that it can be used throughout the building in lieu of fresh water from other sources (a great idea considering the rampant rainfall in Seattle). And a geothermal heating system will help to regulate the temperature inside the building, along with windows set to open and close automatically to help maintain the climate.
This impressive structure is designed to uphold the eco-friendly ideals of the company that will use it as a base of operations, but the Bullitt Foundation is also looking to find common ground with the global sustainability movement and gain some recognition in the process. For this reason they’re aiming to meet the standards set forth by the Living Building Challenge. In order to earn the title of “Living Building” (and the green cred that comes with it) the structure must be self-sufficient on both the water and energy fronts for at least a year straight, as well as meeting standards in other areas. But it doesn’t look like this thoughtfully designed building will have any trouble there. The center is set to open its doors on Earth Day this year (April 22), so we can reasonably expect the Bullitt Center to be dubbed a Living Building by the end of April 2014.