BEHIND THE SCENES | ENTREPRENEURS WHO MAKE GREAT THINGS HAPPEN

The Greenest Office Building in the World

A look at the innovations inside the Bullitt Center, a new office building in Seattle that produces its own water and electricity. The Bullitt Center, a 50,000-square-foot Seattle office space that opened in April, can generate its own water and electricity. Because of this and the building's other innovative features--sustainable materials, energy-efficient technology, and composting toilets--it has been dubbed the world's greenest office building. It took 16 months to construct the $30 million building, which was funded by the Bullitt Foundation, a local environmental organization. But the idea has been in the works since 2008. Roll over the numbers below to take a closer look.

Composting Toilets

After a flush, waste travels down to 10 composting units in the basement, where it is mixed with wood shavings and eventually turned into fertilizer. (The units are emptied once a month.) This is the first time composting toilets have been used in a commercial office building of this size.

image © miller hull partnership

Timber-Frame Construction

The building's frame is primarily made from sustainable wood sourced from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It's the first office space in the country that is FSC certified, a designation given by the international nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible management of the world's forests.

image © miller hull partnership

The Materials

When choosing building materials, developers vetted more than 1,300 products to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals. The liquid-applied air barrier, for example, which keeps warm air in and cold air out in the winter, was reformulated by the manufacturer to be phthalate free.

image © miller hull partnership

Automated Windows

An automated system opens the windows in the evenings and lowers shades in the mornings to help cool the building. The triple-pane windows open straight out--parallel to the building--which helps create a tighter seal when they're closed.

image © miller hull partnership

Solar-Paneled Rooftop

Some 14,000 square feet of photovoltaic panels cover the roof (and beyond). Though the Bullitt Center is wired to the grid, the panels can generate 240,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, more than the building uses. One of the project's most ambitious goals? Meeting the tough standards of the Living Building Challenge, which requires that a structure be effectively energy self-sufficient for 12 continuous months.

image © miller hull partnership

Rainwater Cistern

Rainwater drains from the roof into a 56,000-gallon cistern in the building's basement. The rainwater, which is intended to eventually be the building's primary water source, goes through an elaborate process to make it potable: It is ultrafiltered, passed under ultraviolet light, mixed with a small amount of chlorine, and then filtered again through charcoal. The capture of rainwater for potable use isn't legal in a commercial setting. (Lawmakers are working on that.)

image © miller hull partnership

Glass-Walled Stairway

Instead of an elevator bank, an attractive glass-enclosed stairway greets employees when they enter the lobby of the six-story building. The light-filled stairwell offers incredible views of Puget Sound--an attempt to make the climb more enjoyable and cut down on the energy needed to operate the building's one elevator.

image © miller hull partnership

The Shape

The idea behind the narrow structure, which places every worker no more than 30 feet from the oversize windows, was to maximize natural light and reduce the need for electrical lighting.

image © miller hull partnership
Advertisement
From the July/August 2013 issue of Inc. magazine




Register on Inc.com today to get full access to:
All articles  |  Magazine archives | Livestream events | Comments
EMAIL
PASSWORD
EMAIL
FIRST NAME
LAST NAME
EMAIL
PASSWORD

Or sign up using: