Living Building Challenge - The Bullit Center

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A seminar by Steve Doub, Associate and Specifier with Miller Hull Partnership in Seattle, WA, presented at the CSI NW & WEST Bi-Region Conference in Seattle on 18 May 2017.

As reported by Wally Holmen, RA, FCSI, CDT, Member Emeritus

The Bullit Center was built in Seattle 4 years ago as an automated, performance designed, 5-story, timber-framed office building with a 25-year life cycle component. Steve Doub focused his session on the “Living Building Challenge” – both through a post occupancy evaluation of the Bullit Center and also by design strategies that are currently being developed for a new LBC classroom and laboratory at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

The Bullit Center was designed with a small carbon footprint and a NET POSITIVE use of energy and water, a healthy and beautiful building of human scale. The roof extends over the street to allow maximum area for PV cells, with gaps for skylights and rainwater collection to a basement cistern, which is alarmed for overflow correction. Greywater is recycled to roof “wetlands” and to site water table. Blackwater (waste) is collected with no “P-traps”for composting devices similar to RV’s; the system had to be installed during construction, due to its large size.

Electricity use is monitored at each work station with a motion sensor at each desk. Existing electrical use creates a 10% surplus. Windows automatically open for natural ventilation and extend floor to ceiling for maximum daylighting. Automatic blinds provide shading from glare when necessary.

HVAC is provided by geothermal wells and heat pumps, the system currently not meeting design calculations; but it is balanced by  the electric system performing better that expected. The overall actual performance is 25% greater than expectations. A potable water system is currently being tested, and not yet approved by local authorities.

An LBC “Red List” contains 15 products that are prohibited in a Living Building (asbestos, lead, PVC, etc.) and a list of 362 chemicals also that are restricted. It is understandable that only 3 buildings in North America and one in New Zealand meet LBC standards.

Original construction costs were 20% over material “market prices” at the time, even considering standard construction methods. Contemporary technical advances to date may have improved  return to cost ratios. However, the energy cost savings and savings to the environment should be considered when evaluating the life cycle costs of the building.

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