• Bullitt Center

    Seattle, Washington

Bullitt Center

Seattle, Washington

Backed by its mission to protect the Pacific Northwest’s natural environment and promote healthy and sustainable ecosystems, the Bullitt Foundation wanted their new headquarters to be built to the highest level of sustainability. They also wanted the building to be a demonstration project that would set a new standard for developers, architects, engineers and contractors. The rigorous performance standard set forth by the Living Building Challenge was the perfect. 

The Bullitt Center is a six-story commercial office building in the Central Area of Seattle, WA. The Center is home to a number of commercial office tenants who are successfully operating their businesses, while working in a net-positive energy environment. The Bullitt Center aims to advance the awareness and adoption of high-performance building through ongoing educational efforts, and by demonstrating that performance-based design works in a market-rate commercial project.

The Center is powered by a 244 kW rooftop solar array, composed of 575 PV panels. All rainwater that falls on the site is collected in a cistern in the basement, treated to potable drinking standards, and supplies all water needs of the building. The building is a type-IV heavy timber structure, made of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified glulam beams and dimensional lumber. The building sits atop a ground-source heat exchange system made up of 26 wells, each reaching a depth 400 feet. All materials used in the building were screened for compliance with the Materials Red List to restrict toxic chemicals. The wide variety of performance-based attributes are shared with the public through a ongoing tour program, a public exhibition space, and a number of research projects all managed by the University of Washington’s Integrated Design Lab.

Creative Financing Opportunities:
The Bullitt Center pursued a number of local, state and federal incentive programs for water and energy conservation strategies. One primary financing mechanism came through the Federal 1603 program, which awarded grants in lieu of tax credits for the photovoltaic array and ground source heat pump systems installed at the Center. The City of Seattle's Office of Economic Development supported the project's overall financing package through an allocation of Recovery Zone Funding Bonds and New Market Tax Credits, specifically geared to support commercial development in target neighborhoods, and that simultaneously align with the City's criteria to grow its green economy.

Use the icons below to find out how this project approached each Petal of the Challenge.


© Nic Lehoux

Limits to Growth I-01

Site condition prior to project start: The previous development urban site included a 3,317 sf, one-story wood and brick building, and an asphalt parking lot that covered the remaining 6,750 sf of the lot.

Significant site information:
A small one-story bar and restaurant, along with a paved surface parking lot, formerly occupied the site of the Bullitt Center. Typically, developers are not allowed to remove pre-existing structures prior to issuance of a Master Use Permit. As a result, many existing structures are simply demolished in order to minimize impact on the overall project schedule and associated costs. The Bullitt Center team worked with City regulators to secure approval for deconstruction and material reuse well in advance of the final permit to integrate material recycling and salvage into the process.

Habitat Exchange I-03

Name of Habitat Exchange project: Hoh River
Location of Habitat Exchange project: Jefferson County, Washington
Name of participating Land Trust: Western Rivers Conservancy
Land Trust website: westernrivers.org

Car Free Living I-04

The Bullitt Center is equipped with a bike garage and showers to attract occupants to take alternate modes of transportation.


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Annual water use

Utility-supplied for potable use
due to regulatory requirement:
50,730 gallons

Systems fed: Potable water systems

Harvested onsite: Year End Cistern Level:
47,626 gallons

Collection strategies: Rainwater
collection on the building’s roof membrane
and diverted into a cistern in the basement.

Systems fed: All Potable & Non-potable systems

Grey water: 29,384 gallons of greywater treated onsite

Systems fed: Recirculating Gravel Filtration System & Green Roof


Black water: Approximately 7,200 gallons of leachate

Systems fed: compost to be used by King County

Estimated total water use per capita: approximately 470 gallons / year

Simulated/designed water use: 10,750 gallons / week

Sub-metering data: see water meter data (Imperative 6-3)

Design tool(s) and calculation method(s):
Hand Calculations by Engineer of Record

Potable Water
Although captured rainwater has long provided potable drinking water to homeowners in rural areas, it has not yet been approved for a commercial building. The Bullitt Center team worked directly with the Washington Department of Health and Seattle Public Utilities to meet national and local requirements for safe drinking water so that rainwater collected on the roof and stored in a below-grade cistern could ultimately meet all of the building’s needs. The building is being regulated under the Washington State Department of Health’s Group A water provided designation.

Prior to the Bullitt Center, there was no clear precedent for the permitting of an onsite
composting system and greywater treatment facility in Washington State. The Bullitt Center team worked with regulators from Washington State, King County and the City of Seattle to design
rainwater collection and onsite waste treatment systems that have not previously been permitted in an urban setting.

The Bullitt Center’s six-story composting toilet system creates a usable fertilizer at the end of its process. Because this fertilizer is from human origin, it must be treated as a bio-solid and processed at a secondary facility that meets the State Department of Ecology’s criteria. King County and the Bullitt Center have partnered to create a process by which the project can send its leachate to King County’s Carnation facility, where it will be filtered using natural processes and used to restore a native wetland.

The building’s greywater—which comes from sink and shower drains—will be filtered,
stored, and then treated in a constructed wetland (visible on the building’s second story
roof). Once treated and cleaned to City and State-approved standards that were established as a result of this project, water will infiltrate into a green planting strip, where it will replenish the natural aquifer. These systems are designed as a complement to the municipal infrastructure, and
provides a demonstration of how the demands of a growing population can be met with
sustainable innovation.

Learn more about the Bullitt Center's approach to permitting their water system in this case study.

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Type + size of renewable energy system(s) used:
244 kW Photovoltaic Array 


  Annual Energy Use
152,877 kWh / year
Simulated/designed: 231,000 kWh/year
Energy use intensity:
Annual electricity generated: 

Design tool(s) and calculation method(s):
Revit: to create the base building geometry. Trane Trace: to calculate the building heating and
cooling loads. eQuest: energy modeling. Bentley Tas: airflow analysis (natural ventilation and night flush strategy analysis). GLHEpro: designing the geo-exchange field. Autodesk Simulation 2012: CFD analysis to determine how additional conference rooms impacted cross ventilation. Grasshopper: PV analysis. Ecotect: to conduct daylight analysis.

Related regulatory appeals,:
The City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development created the Living Building Pilot Program in an effort to incentivize project developers to incorporate performance-based design
into new buildings and further the cities leadership in green building. This pilot program allowed for performance-based departures under the Land Use Code, including the ability to increase floor-to-floor heights to increase interior daylighting and reduce the dependence on electric lighting. The City will use the lessons learned from the Bullitt Center and a handful of other projects pursuing Living Building certification to evaluate and revise current codes to achieve higher building performance. The City of Seattle is the first municipality in the nation to develop a program to promote the Living Building Challenge.

Additional Energy Petal comments:
During its performance period, the Bullitt Center produced a surplus of 90,793 kWh of
electricity, and operated with an actual with an actual EUI of 10.

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The Bullitt Center design team placed occupant health at the forefront of project goals.Elements such as the ‘irresistible’ stair, a heavy-timber staircase enclosed in glass,encourages occupants to incorporate exercise into their daily routine in exchange for incredible views of the city skyline and Olympic Mountains beyond. Additionally, the flood of natural daylight and views that is available to every workstation in the building guarantees that tenants have a strong connection to the world beyond the walls of the building. Low VOC and zero VOC finishes selected during the construction of the project have positively contributed to the incredibly healthy air quality measured during preliminary indoor Air Quality tests on both occupied and unoccupied floors of the building during
its ‘lease-up’ phase.

Additional Health Petal comments:In an effort to help future project teams source healthy materials, the Bullitt Center has
published it’s “As Built” product list to the project website, Bullittcenter.org.

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Summary of Project Team’s approach to achieving the Materials Petal Prerequisites, including special considerations for each phase (design, construction, operation, end of life/ adaptive reuse):

The materials vetting process was a successful collaboration between the Developer, Contractor, and their sub-contractor team. The project team began pre-screening potential products that were recommended by the sub-contractors and installers. Manufacturers were contacted one-by-one and MSDS and product questionnaires were procured. The project team relied heavily on the Pharos Project chemical database to evaluate the chemical constituents identified through this process.

Successful Red List substitutions:

Original Product   Red List Item   Specified Manufacturer + Product Names

Pipe - 22 1000

  PVC   HDPE, Ductile Iron, ABS

No-Hub Couplings - 22 1400

  Neoprene   Mission EPDM Couplings
Liquid Applied Air Barrier - 07 2700   Phthalates   Prosoco Fastflash

Glulams - 06 1800

  Urea-Formaldehyde   Calvert Glulams w/Phenol Formaldehyde binder

Ball Valves - 21 1300

  Lead   Nibco Lead Free Valves
Casework - 06 4100   Formaldehyde    Columbia Forest Products Purebond Plywood

Summary of the biggest hurdles to achieving the Materials Petal (optional to
include Prerequisite Exceptions the team found particularly necessary or helpful):

Assembling documentation for complex products including “articles” and complex
equipment such as pumps and circuitry was very difficult. In most cases, despite the
manufacturer’s best effort, it was very hard to obtain written confirmation that the
product was in compliance with the Living Building Challenge “10% rule”. This is largely
due to the complex supply chains.

Notable regional products specified:

Product   Location    
Schuco Curtainwall System - 08 4400   Manufactured in Everett, WA    
Certainteed Type X Gypsum   Vancouver, BC    
Glulam Beams - 06 1800   Vancouver, WA    

Notable manufacturers who made "Proprietary Claims" when asked about product contents:

Manufacturer   Product Name    
Sherwin WIlliams - 06 0500   Misc Paints    
BASF - 03 3000   Misc Concrete Additives    

Sources for wood: FSC, Salvaged

Notable manufacturers of FSC certified wood products:

Manufacturer/Supplier   Product Name    
Potlatch - 06 1000   Dimensional Lumber    
Roseburg - 06 1600   Plywood
Columbia Forest Products - 06 4200   Purebond
Calvert - 06 1800   Glulams
Allweather Wood - 06 1600   Plywood
Matheus Lumber - 06 1600   Plywood, Dimensional Lumber
SierraPine - 06 4600   Mouldings, Plywood 
Rugby Architectural Products - 06 1600   Plywood
RedBuilt - 06 1000   LVLs

Brokers that assisted in sourcing salvaged materials: Rhine Demolition

Embodied carbon footprint (TCO2e): -3,000metric tons

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Summary of the influence of the Equity Imperatives and overarching intent of the
petal on the project and team:

The primary mission of the Bullitt Center is to “take a bold leap forward and demonstrate what is possible in a contemporary office building”. The Bullitt Center aims to advance the green building industry through ongoing community outreach, education, and public tours. The thousands of visitors who have made it a point to come to the Bullitt Center include government officials, developers, other designers, students of all ages and the general public–making it a vital resource for people to learn about green building and urban sustainability, ideally that can be replicated or built upon elsewhere.

An extension of this goal has been the ongoing effort to work with all levels of government to identify and lower barriers to entry for future high-performance structures. Groundbreaking policy such as Seattle DPD’s Living Building Pilot program, King County’s Zero-Discharge Capacity Charge legislation, and the Washington State Department of Health’s innovative policies to allow the project to pursue net-zero water,
are all examples of the project’s effort to advance green building policy for all projects.

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Project Website:

Tour information or website with current details listed:

Tours are led by the UW Center for Integrated Design, located on the ground floor of
the Bullitt Center (1501 E. Madison Street). Enter on the west side, adjacent to McGilvra
Place Park. The public tour starts at 4:00 PM and typically lasts about an hour. Tours
will be lead by volunteer docents from the CID, a collaborative between the University
of Washington Integrated Design Lab and the Bullitt Foundation.


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