Urban Landscapes Update – Seattle Building Designed to be Autonomous and Green for 250 Years

Creating “living buildings” requires a new approach to design and construction that recognizes the need to reduce our energy footprint. With this in mind the designers of  the Bullitt Center, a 6-storey headquarters for the Bullitt Foundation, intend to create a sustainable office building that minimizes its environmental footprint.

The new building being constructed in downtown Seattle, and opening in late 2012, uses 1/3 of the energy normally consumed by a standard office building of equal size. The building generates its own electricity using solar arrays, collects rainwater for internal consumption, and treats sewage and wastewater on site. Although still connected to the electrical grid the building systems send power back to the grid when producing beyond the needs of its tenants resulting in net zero electricity usage from utilities.

The builders estimate costs at 33% higher than traditional construction but expect their creation to endure for 250 years. Compare that to the average office building lasting 40 years, more than justifying the extra investment in initial construction.

Located in Seattle, Washington, the Bullitt Center is a commercial building with a net-zero environmental footprint. Source: Metal Construction News

The Bullitt Center will be the largest net-zero office building in the United States. To meet the net-zero challenge the Center includes:

  • Roof solar panels extending over the sides of the building and efficient enough to generate power even in a cloudy environment like Seattle
  • 26 geothermal water wells, each 400 feet deep in earth to main a constant temperature of  12 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit) for heating and cooling.
  • A 56,000 gallon cistern for collecting rainwater from the roof through a special membrane  and ultra filtration and ultraviolet light treatment for purification.
  • 10 basement composters for treating sewage which will then be turned into fertilizer offsite.
  • Use of timber frames certified as sustainable wood.

The Bullitt Center is one of a few select buildings that are changing the face of the urban landscape to meet sustainability challenges.


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...

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