Smart Building Spotlight: The Bullitt Center, Seattle

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Described as “The Greenest Commercial Building in the World,” the Bullitt Center in Seattle is designed with sustainability as a top priority, producing as much energy as it uses. In fact, the building was designed with a 250-year lifespan, which is more than six times the average lifespan for buildings.

According to its website, the goal of the Bullitt Center is:

“To drive change in the marketplace faster and further by showing what’s possible today. The era of harm reduction, half steps, and lesser evils is behind us. As a society, we need to be bold in ways that were once unimaginable.”

The Bullitt Center looks to find opportunities for sustainable solutions in every aspect of its design; some of it’s most notable features include:

 

Building neurology

The Building Management System (BMS) used in the Bullitt Center operates like the human brain, sensing internal and external conditions of the building, and reacting accordingly. For example, when the building needs to breathe, the windows are opened automatically. When the building needs shade from direct sunlight, the louvre system is deployed at the optimum angle for UV dissipation. In cold weather, the building goes into closed heating mode, shutting all the windows and activating the ground source heat pumps.

 

Walkability

In terms of location, the goal of the Bullitt Center was to select a central location, making the building accessible by foot, bike and public transport. The Bullitt Center is centrally located in a growing public transportation network, with more than 20 bus routes nearby. The building is also highly accessible for cyclists, with bike lanes and a new cycle track in the area. Furthermore, the building is within walking distance of downtown Seattle, and a number of shops and restaurants.

The building’s proximity to these features was intentional and aims to encourage tenants to travel by foot, bike or public transport, reducing carbon emissions further. Onsite, bike parking, showers, and locker rooms integrated into the restrooms on each floor support modes of active transportation.

 

Solar panels

Amazingly, the Bullitt Center produces as much electricity as it uses, which is achieved through the building’s 575 solar panels located on the roof. The panels create a 14,000 square-foot array, generating electricity, which is stored throughout the year. The panels are sensitive to the amount of daylight they receive, and so solar intensity and weather conditions impact the productivity of the panels. In the summer, the Bullitt Center will produce vastly more electricity than it uses, and in the winter it will produce less, and so electricity is stored during the summer to be used later in the year.

 

Irresistible stairs

One of the most celebrated features of the Bullitt Centre is the “irresistible stairs”, designed to encourage tenants to use the stairs as opposed to elevators. By focusing on design and tenant experience, the stairs are turned into the more desirable option, with beautifully crafted wood and steel-clad steps, surrounded by a light glass volume. Extended landings cantilever out over the sidewalk, and create opportunities for breaks or social interactions. Further adding to the appeal of the stairs is an amazing view of downtown Seattle. As with many other features, the irresistible stairs help the Bullitt Center conserve energy, whilst encouraging tenants to maintain a healthy lifestyle while at work.

 

Regenerative elevator

Despite the appeal of the irresistible stairs, some tenants may not be able to, or may not wish to use them, instead using the building’s elevator. However, even the elevator was designed with sustainability in mind and is fitted with technology to maximise energy efficiency. The elevator utilises a regenerative mechanism to capture energy as the elevator slows down. A motor at the top of the shaft takes the energy from stopping the elevator car and converts it into electrical energy, which can then be used elsewhere in the building. As a result, the elevator is said to be about 60% more efficient than standard elevators and careful placement that discourages its use only adds to this efficiency multiplier.

 

Windows and shades

The Bullitt Center’s natural lighting and ventilation are primarily controlled by the building’s windows and shading systems, which also help maintain a comfortable temperature throughout the building. The system is made up of a system of layers that are used in different combinations to achieve optimal thermal and daylight qualities. The outermost layer of the skin is the deployable stainless steel shades, which sit about 12 inches away from the windows. In the summer, when solar heat gain can be a challenge, the shades deploy to scatter direct rays before they hit the glass. In the winter, the shades are designed to maximise natural daylight in the office spaces, while still protecting against direct glare on workstations.

 

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To discover how Next Controls can help your commercial building minimise carbon output and save money on energy bills, get in touch.

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