Grantmaker Embeds Green Values in New Building—with Critical Help from City Hall

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August 27, 2011; Source: Seattle Times | Seattle’s Bullitt Foundation, known for its environmentally focused grantmaking throughout the Pacific Northwest, will soon have a new home that, in the words of CEO Denis Hayes, will be “the greenest office building—by far—in the world.” The new Bullitt Center will reflect the foundation’s intentional shift in 2008 toward urban sustainability. In selecting the building’s location, size, energy technology, and materials, the foundation aims to create a replicable model for what it calls a “new era of intelligent, sustainable urban design.” The City of Seattle has been a critical partner in the project, granting waivers on parking requirements and building height in order to make key sustainability features feasible.

With 21 bus routes in a one-mile radius, 24 shared cars from Zipcar within a half-mile, and sizeable on-site bicycle parking and showering facilities, the foundation chose its building location to eliminate the need for private autos. There is no off-street parking associated with the development.

In terms of scale, the Bullitt Center is intentionally sized to be typical of what is most demanded in office buildings in urban Seattle: 45,000 square feet in six stories. Already, two-thirds of the square footage is spoken for.

The Center will use one-third the energy of an average similarly sized building. Ceilings are high to capture more natural light. There is on-site water collection and sewage processing. And even in cloudy Seattle, the building will be able to generate as much energy with solar panels as its occupants consume.

In terms of material use, the core elements of the building are made of materials with at least a 250-year lifespan, designed to match the building’s overall projected lifespan. Framing timber will come from certified sustainable forests. All heavy materials are being sourced from within a 300-mile radius.

Finally, the Bullitt Center is intended to be financially sustainable. The Bullitt Foundation will occupy less than one-tenth of the building’s 45,000 square feet; it will lease out the remaining space to generate income to service a $15 million mortgage.

With a sticker price of $30 million, constructing the Bullitt Center will cost roughly one-third more than similarly sized buildings. The Bullitt Foundation, however, sees this as a normal cost of market prototyping that will generate long-term financial and non-financial returns in support of its mission.—Kathi Jaworski


  • hbk

    This is fantastic news. Really a new type of “program-related investment.” Great to see a grantmaker living their values to the maximum. Thanks for the story.