Have you visited the Bullitt Center yet?

Seattle is lucky to house the greenest building in the world.

via the Bullitt Center

For an Interior Design class project, we toured the Bullitt Center. If you haven’t seen it yet, take a tour.

I feel like the Bullitt Center’s sustainability gives it great opportunities for unique, modern, and fresh design ideas. The foundation concrete slab is an extremely effective way to maintain temperature in the building. It also is quite visually appealing, especially contrasted with the metal beams.

Laying the radiant flooring under the concrete slab – via the Bullitt Center

Unique ways that this building is sustainable

The most striking sustainable feature of the Bullitt Center struck me as I walked up outside. There was a sort of steel bridge expanding across a thick of horsetail plants and gravel, and I could immediately discern that it was for runoff. They designed the building to have its own wetland draining bio swales. Apparently the grey water is transported to the 3rd floor garden for its first drainage through the horsetail plants and gravel, then the garden witnessed outside is the 2nd phase of the draining system.

Bio swales are in the green thickets right in front of the building – via the Bullitt Center

I have never seen a composting toilet outside of a National Forest. To have several floors of office bathrooms that were composting toilets is pretty spectacular. Our guide told us that the maintenance engineers have to rake the “deposits” – she specifically said it’s not “waste” – weekly and the end result is a bag of compost that we can use on our gardens. I actually touched the compost. It was a little surreal.

Management of composting toilets – via the Bullitt Center


On the Saturday tour, we were only able to see the lobby, the basement and the stairwell. We could only peer into the windows to see the furnishings of the offices. In the main lobby, there were a few plywood tables.

Bullitt Center lobby – via the Bullitt Center

It was a grey day, so we could not witness the living window coverings that cover the glass based on the time of day and amount of heat that’s pouring through the windows. It would have been nice to see those, and I assume they are also constructed with sustainable materials.

Window coverings on timers – via the Bullitt Center

The lobby floor is a giant slab of concrete. The tour guide mentioned that the cement used to for the floor slab was formulated slightly differently than typical cement to ensure strict adherence to sustainable practices in the construction.

The lobby – via the Bullitt Center

Design addressing the neighborhood

This building within the surrounding Capitol Hill neighborhood is astounding. It’s a beautifully, gleaming structure of glass and metal, mixed in with the brick of 19th century buildings, and the stone of a quiet synagogue next door. Not only does the Bullitt Center fit in aesthetically to the neighborhood, especially since there are few glass and metal high rises cropping up, but it also blends with the community by not stealing any natural resources. This building is a net positive to the electricity grid.

Blending into the surrounding neighborhood – via the Bullitt Center

I would love to work here

If I didn’t want to go into business for myself, I would definitely want to work here. I’ve worked in buildings where you just feel like the building is “sick.” The flu went around at rampant speeds, more so than any other place I worked. I was always tired in the building and just couldn’t wait to get out for a walk at lunch or off for the day. That’s a horrible situation to work in day in and day out. So if I didn’t work out of my own home, I would certainly love to work there.

Not to mention, it would be great working on projects that helped to educate builders and city planners on how to design more buildings like this.

Ways I would make it better

One problem with the Bullitt Center was that if the power goes out for longer than, I think she said 11 days, then the fans on the composting toilets would crap out (pun intended). It is indeed amazing that the Bullitt Center is net positive on the electric grid, but the conspiracy theorist in me has a sneaking suspicion that in the not so distant future (less than the 250 years that the building was designed to stay intact), that we may have a massive power outage. I would love to address the toilet fan issue so that people could remain in the building safely without the noxious bathroom fumes flowing back up.

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