Seattle Architects Break the Law in Design for Super Green Office Building

When the new headquarters for the Bullitt Foundation opens this April in Seattle, it will be among the first to meet the Living Building Challenge - "the most stringent green standard around." But getting there isn't easy, and may be illegal.
January 25, 2013, 10am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Designed by Miller Hull, the Bullitt Center is anticipated to become the first U.S. office building without a carbon footprint. To meet the stringent requirements of the Living Building Challenge, it will need to meet 100 percent of its energy needs with on-site renewables, 100 percent of its water needs with on-site rainwater collection, and have complete on-site waste management. "But if the architects succeed," writes Lamar Anderson, "they may run afoul of the law."

"'If you really want to build a green building today in any city in the United States, you’ll find yourself in violation of maybe two dozen regulations and laws,' Bullitt Foundation president Denis Hayes quips in a video about the building." For example, notes Anderson, "[i]n Washington, it’s illegal to take what is arguably Seattle’s most abundant renewable resource—rain—and filter it for drinking."

"The Bullitt Center will use its treated rainwater for graywater until that law changes, at which point the building’s cistern would begin pumping collected rainwater through a green roof and into an ultraviolet filtration system for disinfecting, then finally to sinks, water fountains, and about a hundred Klean Kanteens."

“Our whole purpose is to be an instrument of change, ” says Hayes, “and to use this building not just to influence developers and architects, but also the bankers who finance all of these things, the city governments that set up the codes that make living buildings illegal almost every place in the world—all of the people who are involved in making these kinds of decisions.”

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