“Any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad.” - Anne Geddes
by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
“Just look around. There’s no ‘new building smell’ like that ‘new car smell’ which is just toxins being released. It’s bright and spacious and comfortable.”
That’s what Bullitt Foundation CEO Denis Hayes noticed as he sat at a desk on the sixth floor of the new Bullitt Center, which stands where Madison Street meets 15th Avenue. The Foundation recently moved from its long-time home on Minor Avenue to the state-of-the-art facility brought about by Bullitt funds and vision. Set to open at an 11 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony followed by tours on April 22, the Bullitt Center is Seattle’s first structure to succeed in the Living Building Challenge, the highest standard for sustainable development in modern architecture. Hayes and his staff hope it’s far from the last.
In the spring of 2012 when the Bullitt Center was little more than a foundation, a frame, and some utility infrastructure, the most generous estimate had it opening its doors in November of that year, though aiming for as far out as February of 2013. A series of small delays for mundane details pushed the opening back to April, but all of the center’s key features are in place.
Achieving Living Building standards is no mean feat. As described by its creators in the Cascadia chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and the International Living Future Institute, the Challenge is “A philosophy, advocacy platform and certification program” for sustainable development. It has many criteria focusing on everything from energy independence to low-impact siting and the use of environmentally friendly building materials.
The Bullitt Center meets the Living Building standard in a variety of ways; it collects rain and recycles water through its own capture and filtration system, implements a solar array on the roof and large windows for unprecedented energy efficiency, and uses sustainably farmed wood, just to name a few.
Today, crews are still putting the finishing touches on some of the spaces at the Bullitt center, but much of it is a functional office building sporting an open floor plan and walls of glass. On the day the Capitol Hill Times visited, there was still some wet paint and freshly installed wood floor panels, but as Denis Hayes said, no “new building smell.” The day before the building opens to the public, the entire crew and their families will gather for a celebratory survey of their work. The center will also host a fundraiser for the Partnership for Urban Ecology, a collaboration between organizations the USGBC, International Living Future, and the Bullitt Foundation for sustainability education and outreach.
Most of the Bullitt Center is already tenanted with organizations that have a lot in common with the Bullitt Foundation’s sustainability-driven ideals. Only the third floor of the building is fully vacant at this time. The Foundation itself has its offices on the sixth floor. An invention/design firm called Intentional Futures occupies the fifth floor. Half of the second floor is home to the Integrated Design Lab of the University of Washington with classrooms for the program on the first floor. The Integrated Design Lab is part of UW’s education and consulting program for sustainable architecture and energy efficiency.
Opposite the IDL classrooms are the offices of the Cascadia chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and International Living Future Institute. The two organizations also share space on the first floor with the Bullitt Foundation to be used for the purposes of the Partnership for Urban Ecology.
The most unconventional use of space in the Bullitt Center offices is on the fourth floor, leased by Point32, the real estate firm that developed the Center. Point32 has decided to use the floor as the Suite 400 Co-Work, a desk sublet space for organizations that need offices but sometimes no more than one or two desks. Desk subletting is popular in large urban areas like New York City and Toronto where office real estate can be too pricy for small operations and freelancers. Suite 400 will offer 12-to-24-month leases with dedicated workstations and wireless Internet access.
One piece of the Bullitt Center that is still heavily under construction is the plaza park in front of the building on Madison. It is currently in the process of being shaped, seeded, and planted with local vegetation. It is expected to be ready for the Center’s opening in April and it will be a fully public green space.
“I think this is going to be the sort of place that really will bring change,” says Denis Hayes, not just of the Bullitt Center’s sustainability features but the philosophy of its design. “It also fits in with the way businesses are developing. There tends to be much more collaboration, creativity. The things which would stop much more conventional firms coming in, I don’t think will be any hindrance at all to these sorts of buildings in the future… overall, in every aspect, I’m just delighted with it.”
Click HERE for our magazine feature on the Bullitt Center.