The Bullitt Center -- 'The Greenest Office Building in the World' Opening on Earth Day -- Heralds A New Era of High Performance Building Design

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Landmark prototype sustainable building designed by The Miller Hull Partnership answers the question ‘what happens to the appearance, aesthetics and composition of architecture when designing to high performance goals?’

We happily found that designing to high-performance targets actually opened up numerous formal design opportunities.

The Bullitt Center opening on Earth Day—the first urban building of its kind and commonly regarded as ‘the greenest office building in the world’—not only represents the level of sustainability possible in a city setting, it signifies a shift in the actual process of how buildings are designed and demonstrates the range of opportunities for inventiveness and creativity that are possible when integrated design teams target aggressive efficiency goals.

“The attention-getting elements of the Bullitt Center—100% onsite renewable energy, water and waste management, as well as a safe, naturally day-lit and ventilated work environment built to last 250 years—follow from an equally exciting integrated design process that enabled us to move beyond the traditionally linear design, engineering and construction process to orchestrate a diverse team targeting the seemingly impossible together, right from the start,” said Craig Curtis, design partner with The Miller Hull Partnership. “In considering first and foremost how to design a building with essentially no environmental footprint, it was energizing to identify imaginative and elegant ways to beautifully express the building’s core performance functions through design strategies using a mix of existing and new technologies, systems, and materials. While in one sense we had to do more with less, we happily found that designing to high-performance targets actually opened up numerous formal design opportunities.”

The Bullitt Center takes cues from nature and has been compared to a living organism incorporating simplicity and efficiency in its interconnected systems. Design moves which visually contribute to overall sustainable design goals include open concept floor plates with operable floor-to-ceiling windows for maximum daylighting and access to fresh air; heavy-timber framing—which has not been used in a downtown Seattle office building since the 1920’s and was selected given its prominence as a renewable regional material offering strength, beauty and carbon sequestration; an ‘irresistible stair’—a transparent glass stairwell located on an outside wall of the building offering stunning views to the Seattle skyline to encourage occupants to walk among floors vs. taking an energy drawing elevator inconvenienced by keycard access; highly efficient windows and fully automated exterior blinds which provide an interesting, layered façade while adjusting throughout the day; and most visibly, the overhanging photovoltaic panel array on the roof which provides all power for the building with a nod to Northwest regional design vernacular. While the building is state-of-the-art at the moment, the building technology, building envelope and supporting structure are designed as separate components that can easily be updated to meet the needs of the next generation of users as advancements are made in coming years without seriously impacting other key aspects of the building.

About the Bullitt Center
The new headquarters of the environmentally-oriented Bullitt Foundation, the six-story, 50,000 sf Bullitt Center satisfies all of its own energy, water and waste needs, and is the largest and first commercial building to target Living Building certification—the most ambitious benchmark of sustainable design in the built environment. Designed as a leasable Class A office building, the Bullitt Center also serves as a living laboratory to elevate environmental awareness and to visibly convey the benefits and interconnectedness of sustainable design with regard to architecture, energy use, materials sourcing, government policy and financing. As a regional headquarters for urban sustainability and education, lessons learned in the design process and the results of the building’s dashboard tracking performance will be shared to encourage the green building community to meet and advance deep-green sustainability goals.

Building Snapshot
Building Type: Commercial office building
Size: 50,000sf
Location: at the intersection of Seattle’s Capitol Hill and Central District neighborhoods

Sustainable Design Goals & Building Elements

  •     Pursuing Living Building Status

The Bullitt Center essentially functions as its own power, water and waste treatment plant.

  •     Net Zero Energy Features

o    Energy efficiency 83% greater than a typical Seattle office building
o    Predicted EUI rating of 16kbtu/sf/yr
o    242kW photovoltaic array
o    Ground source geothermal heat exchange system
o    Radiant floor heating and cooling system
o    Retractable external blinds to block heat before it warms the building
o    Reduced plug loads

  •     Net Zero Water

o    Water efficiency 80% greater than a typical Seattle office building
o    56,000 gallon rainwater collection cistern
o    Greywater reclamation
o    Composting foam flush toilets (save 96% more water than traditional flush toilets)
o    Rainwater filtration for potable uses
o    Green roof and constructed wetland

  •     No toxic materials (checked against the ‘Red List’ of materials forbidden by the Living    

        Building Challenge)

  •     Community Green Space and Plaza

o    Renovated McGilvra Park just south of the building

The Miller Hull Partnership led an integrated design team handpicked by the Bullitt Foundation which sidestepped the traditional RFP process to vet firms recommended by peers as the best suited to create a Living Building. Design and development team members include: Point 32, Schuchart Corporation and PAE Consulting Engineers.

The highly anticipated opening of the Bullitt Center appropriately takes place on Earth Day with a civic celebration headlined by Denis Hayes, president and CEO of the environmentally-minded Bullitt Foundation and co-founder of the original Earth Day, and which also includes public officials including Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

About The Miller Hull Partnership
Founded thirty-five years ago by partners with defining background in the Peace Corps, The Miller Hull Partnership is an award-winning firm recognized for simple, ingenious and uplifting sustainably-based designs rooted in the modernist tradition that deliver enduring value and harmony with nature through an integrated, performance-based design process. Capabilities include architecture, master planning, interior design and space planning. By continually exploring the boundaries of current thought to leverage the latest in technology, materials and cultural context, the firm is widely recognized for timeless designs that elevate the ordinary and provide lasting value for public buildings, educational environments and private residences. The Miller Hull Partnership is among a select group of design firms to receive the AIA Firm Award, the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. architectural community. Based in Seattle, and with an office in San Diego, California, The Miller Hull Partnership is currently involved with projects throughout the U.S. For more information, visit

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Wendy Abeel
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