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Can a Seattle building save the world?

An artist rendering of the Bullitt Center currently under construction in Seattle.
An artist rendering of the Bullitt Center currently under construction in Seattle.

Seattle’s greenest building – on paper, since it is still under construction – jumps back into the news with this headline from MSNBC:

Could this $30 million green tower be the future of world cities?

“Currently rising from a pit in downtown Seattle, the $30 million, six-story ‘living building’ is being spearheaded by Denis Hayes and Jason McLennan, who believe they can save the world one building at a time by reducing the massive energy appetites of modern cities.”

Hayes is the president and chief executive of the Bullitt Foundation, which is constructing the building, and a national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970. He told MSNBC that none of the massive cities in the world have been designed for sustainability.

And, with 82 percent of Americans and more than half the population of the world living in cities, creating a super green building could at the very least have a positive impact on the globe.

Building promises

The new building, called the Bullitt Center, will carry a solar array that will generate as much electricity as the building uses and collect enough rain to supply the water it needs, with all wastewater treated onsite.

New York Times wrote in October that when completed near the end of 2012, the building may be the greenest commercial structure in the world.

“The story is that this building is pushing the boundaries of performance in all categories, not just in one or two,” Jason McLennan told the NYT. He is the chief executive of both the certifying institute and the Cascadia Green Building Council, a chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council that administers the better-known LEED rating system.

“For this building type and this scale, it’s the first in the world to go this far.”

By the Numbers (from Bullitt):

  • 50,000 square feet: Building gross interior area
  • 70 kBtu / sq. ft. / year (1,077,000 KWH / year): Total energy use by typical existing Seattle office building
  • 16 kBtu / sq. ft. / year (230,000 KWH / year): Total energy use in the Bullitt Center
  • 16 kBtu / sq. ft. / year (230,000 KWH / year): Total energy generation by onsite 242 KW photovoltaic (PV) array
  • 14,303 square feet: Area of 242 KW PV array on the roof of the Bullitt Center
  • 44,752 square feet: Area of PV array needed for a conventional building built to Seattle’s current code
  • 82 percent: Amount of the building that is naturally day-lit
  • 100 percent: Amount of the building perimeter spaces that can be ventilated or cooled with operable windows
  • 400 feet: Depth of geothermal wells used to heat and cool the building
  • 56,000 gallons: Size of the cistern in the basement to capture rainwater
  • 362: Number of common hazardous “Red List” materials avoided in the Bullitt Center
  • 21: Number of bus routes within ½ mile
  • 24: Number of Zipcars within ½ mile
  • 98 of 100: Walk Score ( for 1501 E. Madison Street, where the Bullitt Center is located
  • 300 miles: Radius for purchasing all steel, concrete, and other heavy materials
  • 600 miles: Radius for purchasing all wood
  • 160: Approximate number of construction jobs created
  • $30 million: Total project cost