The Greenest Building: How the Bullitt Center Changes the Urban Landscape


The Greenest Building: How the Bullitt Center Changes the Urban Landscape


The Greenest Building: How the Bullitt Center Changes the Urban Landscape takes readers on a private tour through the profoundly game-changing Bullitt Center, the world’s first Class A commercial office structure designed and engineered to meet the rigorous demands of the Living Building Challenge.

The book begins with Part I, the contextual backstory of the Bullitt Foundation and its transition from a family-based philanthropic organization to an influential ecological grant maker led by noted environmental pioneer Denis Hayes. Part II summarizes how designers, engineers, and builders engaged with forward-thinking regulators, lenders, and community members in a combined effort to create an extraordinary building that stands for what is possible in the urban built environment. Part III contains vivid details of how the project team approached and achieved the Imperatives of all seven Living Building Challenge Petals: Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. Part IV condenses the performance reports that earned the Bullitt Center its Living Building certification.

The Greenest Building goes deep inside the Bullitt Center and its numerous innovations, one performance area Petal at a time:

SITE: The Bullitt Center stands atop Seattle’s bustling Capitol Hill in close proximity to public transportation, residential neighborhoods, dining, and retail.  Its downward-facing orientation allows sweeping views of urban and natural vistas, along with superior solar access.

WATER: Rainwater provides all the necessary inventory for the building. Sophisticated treatment systems deliver potable water to taps and shower heads, grey water to constructed wetlands, and wastewater to on-site composters. The Bullitt Center’s composting foam-flush toilets are among the project’s most talked-about features.

ENERGY: The now-iconic solar array that proudly reaches atop the Bullitt Center gathers all the energy the building requires – and more. Superior daylighting strategies minimize the need for artificial lighting, while occupants commit to lower usage patterns.

HEALTH: Fresh air, daylight, and natural vistas contribute to the experience of visiting or occupying the Bullitt Center, while Irresistible Stairs turn exercise into an exhilarating journey.

MATERIALS: The Bullitt Center was constructed using only non-toxic materials carefully scrutinized to ensure their compliance with the Living Building Challenge Red List, and is directly responsible for several product reconfigurations now available industry-wide.

EQUITY: All things are equal at the Bullitt Center, where occupants and visitors share access to structural and environmental amenities, both inside and outside of the building.

BEAUTY: The building stands as a Living testament to the future of urban architecture, meant to inspire and educate for generations to come.

Part history, part case study, part collective project team reminiscence, The Greenest Building documents how sun, rain, talent, and perseverance brought this fully self-sustaining six-story urban marvel to life. Author Mary Adam Thomas interlaces descriptive narrative with candid insights from the people whose dedication made the Bullitt Center a reality, delivering an informative and instructive prospectus that will appeal to professional and lay audiences alike.

Additional information


Mary Adam Thomas

About the Author

Mary Adam Thomas is an independent writer who plays with words through her business, Thomas Communications. She is the collaborative author of Jason F. McLennan’s collection of essays, Zugunruhe: The Inner Migration to Profound Environmental Change and of The Web-Savvy Patient: An Insider’s Guide to Navigating the Internet When Facing Medical Crisis by Andrew Schorr. Mary's first "solo authorship" book showcases one of the earliest structures to accept the Living Building Challenge. Building in Bloom: The Making of the Sustainable Learning Center at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens combines job-specific details with reflections from the design and construction team responsible for creating this fully self-sustaining and naturally elegant building on the campus of one of the world’s greenest conservatories.

In addition, Mary contributed the introduction to McLennan’s follow-up essay collection, Transformational Thought: Radical Ideas to Remake the Built Environment. Her broad portfolio of written work includes essays and editorial pieces that have appeared in a wide variety of print and online publications catering to consumer and professional audiences. Mary lives in the Seattle area with her husband and their two children.


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