My office had the opportunity to tour the Bullitt Center, the greenest commercial building in the world, as part of an educational experience for trainees in the program I manage. The building was incredible; such thoughtfulness went into each choice. Gentle readers may be familiar with the LEED certification for green buildings, which ranks building practices based on environmental impact, the Bullitt Center is a generation beyond LEED. Built with the Living Building Challenge in mind, the Bullitt Center seeks to integrate the building into the community around it.
Living Buildings have strong transit access and exist in dense, walkable neighborhoods. All the materials for the building had to be locally sourced and free of red list materials that are dangerous to workers and neighbors. And finally, the buildings have to be beautiful. I found the Bullitt Center’s organic modern design aesthetic to be consistent with the neighborhood and Seattle’s view of itself.
The building was designed to be a net zero energy building. The roof is covered with solar panels that fuel all the electricity in the building and even puts energy back into the public grid. The holes in the roof are designed to collect rain water that is captured and treated for use in the building. But, by far, the composting toilets created the most discussion. Similar in concept to the outhouses folks may have used in national parks, the toilets use gravity to convey waste to tanks where the it is compacted and composted. The toilet is cleaned using two tablespoons of water after each use. Compare that to the 3.5 gallons of a traditional toilet or even the 1.5 gallons of a low flush toilet and the water savings are remarkable!
I’m so proud of my city for being a leader in sustainable development. The technology clears exists for humans to reduce their impact on the environment around us, it is only the political and structural will and that prevents us.
The Bullitt Center offers one-hour public tours several times a week. $5, reservations required.