Green Cities

Living Buildings: The Bullit Center

Author: Max Rogers, EDN Intern – Buildings that eat, breathe, and sleep don’t just belong in storybooks anymore. A new generation of building is here: the “living building.” These buildings are self-sufficient entities that mimic nature’s processes and generate all of their own energy from renewable sources, capture and treat all of their water, operate efficiently, and provide a healthier and happier experience to the people inside.  The Bullitt Center, located near Seattle’s Capitol Hill, is recognized as one of the most elite examples of this new type of green construction. Earth Day Network had the opportunity to connect with Bullitt’s lead engineer, Corey Riley, who talked us through what makes this building so special—and so alive.  The first and most noticeable attribute that Riley pointed out is the center’s roof:  the Bullitt’s roof is covered almost entirely by solar panels that provide energy to the entire structure.  These panels are so effective that they generate 60% more energy than they actually use, allowing tenants to sell the energy back to the grid. Instead of paying electricity bills, Bullitt gets money back.  Bullitt lowers its energy use even more by using Venetian blinds, floor to ceiling doors and windows for ventilation, and geothermal wells to moderate the temperature. Bullitt has countless other small yet methodical components that work in unison, much like cells and muscles of a living organism. For instance, the building has a composting system in the basement that converts all toilet waste into reusable fertilizer that they then give to community farmers. The water filtration system purifies excess water and reintroduces it back to the watershed. The building does not just take in resources; it also generates them in the shape of energy, fertilizer, or clean water. The Bullitt proves that sustainable design is both financially feasible as well as a community asset. Bullitt has been recognized officially as one of the greenest buildings in the world.  Its self-sustaining qualities set it apart. Cities have begun to pass legislation to welcome developments like Bullitt, such as the bill recently passed in Seattle that requires all new city buildings over 5,000 square feet to meet new LEED ratings. Building off the Bullitt’s success, living buildings are anticipated to revolutionize the architectural sphere and become the new norm.