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The Bullitt Center has drawn people from around the world to see its precedent-setting sustainability features, creating a sort of architectural “pilgrimage site” that proves the capabilities of regenerative architecture and the potential it has to lessen humanity’s environmental footprint. Although much of its technology has been built upon and revised, it remains a true marvel in the built environment and AEC industries, forever changing the way we build with its zero-energy footprint and its adherence to the Living Building Challenge, one of the most arduous and ambitious set of sustainability metrics in the industry.
An urban office building, the Bullitt Center is conceived as a replicable model to drive change in the marketplace, intending to demonstrate a commercially-viable structure that can be used again and again for a building of any function and purpose. Created to be the greenest commercial building in the world, the six-story Bullitt Center is the first to participate in the Living Building Pilot Program, and is designed to identify current barriers to sustainability and leverage learning for future building projects. As the first of the program, Bullitt Center is also the nation’s first urban mid-rise commercial project to meet the goals of the Living Building Challenge, revolutionizing codes and building practices.
The Bullitt Center achieves Net Zero energy using 100% on-site renewable energy generation from photovoltaic technology. Designed as a leasable Class A office building, Net Zero is also achieved using a 50,000-gallon rainwater cistern, efficient vacuum flush toilets, and an on-site constructed wetland to treat graywater prior to reinfiltration.
The Bullitt Center additionally takes its cues from nature and has been compared to a living organism incorporating simplicity and efficiency in its interconnected systems. Open concept floor plates with operable floor-to-ceiling windows maximize daylight and natural ventilation; and heavy-timber framing – which had not been used in a downtown Seattle office building since the 1920’s, was selected given its prominence as a renewable regional material offering strength, beauty and carbon sequestration. Including four stories of heavy timber-frame construction of a two-story podium, the frame is comprised of Douglas-fir glulam beams and columns, finished to an industrial appearance grade. The design team had expected to use a reinforced concrete frame for the thermal mass that was anticipated, but when they considered the embodied energy and carbon footprint of the concrete, timber promised to be a better environmental solution. To allow in as much natural light as possible, the design required high ceilings and tall windows. The architect chose 2x6 lumber set on edge and nailed in place to create relatively shallow solid wood floor panels, which helped to increase daylight penetration.
Serving as a living laboratory of environmental awareness since its opening, the Bullitt Center highlights the interconnectedness of sustainable design to architecture, energy use, materials sourcing, government policy, and financing; and will continue to be marveled at as a game-changing project for years to come.
Download the WoodWorks Technical Case Study on this project.
Nail-Laminated Timber (NLT), Glue-Laminated Timber (GLT or glulam)
Miller Hull Partnership
RDH Building Science
Building Enclosure Consultant