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Originally published Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 8:02 PM

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Ultragreen building is ready for challenge

The Bullitt Center is topping its energy goals and ready to implement its own water system and human-waste composting. Also, Bristol-Myers Squibb is building a biotech factory in Bothell. And coffee companies say higher-priced lattes would help out the growers of the beans.

By Seattle Times business staff

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According to the article "the building did need to purchase electricity from Seattle City Light during the dark months... MORE


Denis Hayes, guiding spirit of the supergreen Bullitt Center office building on Capitol Hill, is pleased to report that in its first year the six-story structure has yielded some unanticipated benefits: Since using what he calls the “irresistible stairway” in the building for the past 12 months, he’s had to tighten his belt by three notches.

However, other results may be of wider significance for those monitoring the building’s environmental impact.

The center — equipped with a 56,000-gallon water reservoir, 575 solar panels on the roof and 10 bright blue human-waste composters in the basement — has exceeded its energy performance goals for its first year.

The 50,000-square-foot office building at 1501 E. Madison St. was designed and built to meet the rigorous requirements of the “Living Building Challenge,” the most demanding green-building standard on the planet.

With 85 percent of the space occupied, the clock started ticking on Jan. 1, 2014, to beat the yearlong challenge of using less energy than the building produces over that time.

In the last 12 months, the building used 147,260 kilowatt-hours of energy, while the solar panels — even in rainy Seattle — produced 252,560 kilowatt-hours.

Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, is confident the building will exceed the goal of achieving zero net energy for the year — even if a tenant takes the still-empty third-floor space.

“Until it is up and operating you are never sure,” said Hayes, who also organized the first Earth Day in 1970. “But now that after one year we are outperforming in terms of energy, it has outperformed our wildest hopes.”

Because this is Seattle, the building did need to purchase electricity from Seattle City Light during the dark months from November through February, he said. But the excess energy from the solar panels during the rest of the year more than made up for it.

“We’ve been saying for years you could do this even in Seattle,” Hayes said. “We built the building to prove it.”

The building is also designed to provide its own water by collecting rainwater in the cistern in the basement, which Hayes hopes to start doing in the fall.

Currently it is using city water while overcoming a few remaining regulatory hurdles. The filtration system is built and in place, and Hayes says once approved, the building will be its own independent water district within the city.

The first compost extraction from the blue containers collecting human waste in the basement will not be required for another six months, Hayes estimates. For now, the building manager continues to churn the compost every two weeks. When emptied, the compost will be mixed with other compost from King County.

“It’s really not that different from composting in your yard,” Hayes said. But the technology is more advanced “so there are no smells.”

— Coral Garnick:

$37M biotech factory for ZymoGenetics

ZymoGenetics, probably Seattle’s most visible biotech company, thanks to its vintage Steam Plant building between Interstate 5 and Lake Union, has lost almost half its staff since being acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb in 2011.

But worries that Zymo will shrivel further may be assuaged by a previously undisclosed manufacturing plant under construction in Bothell.

Bristol-Myers is investing $37 million to build the plant, which will make biotech drugs in quantities sufficient to supply ZymoGenetics’ clinical trials, says Frederick Egenolf, Bristol-Myers’ director of corporate communications.

The plant will have about 25 new, full-time employees when it’s completed at the end of this year, he says.

The new facility is at 3450 Monte Villa Parkway, where Zymo last spring leased about 50,000 square feet from Biomed Realty Trust, according to county records.

ZymoGenetics had almost 300 employees when its board agreed to sell to Bristol-Myers. The New York-based pharmaceutical giant promised it would keep a presence here “at least through 2011,” but didn’t commit to a number.

In November, tech blog Xconomy reported that 20 Zymo researchers were among 75 being laid off in a companywide R&D restructuring; it’s not clear when the other staff cuts occurred.

Egenolf says ZymoGenetics now has “about 150” staffers.

The company is not disclosing what the Bothell plant will produce, and Egenolf said no one from Zymo was available to comment on the unit’s activities. The Bristol-Myers website says Zymo currently focuses on “discovery and advancement of therapeutic proteins with potential applications in immune-oncology diseases and fibrosis.”

It won’t be alone in running bioreactors in Bothell. CMC Biologics does contract manufacturing at a site originally built by Icos and doubled in size by CMC in 2011. Amgen also has a Bothell plant that came with its Immunex acquisition in 2002.

— Rami Grunbaum:

Coffee’s future cloudy and bright

Some people still balk at paying $3.50 for a latte at a fancy coffee shop. But the head of America’s largest specialty coffee trade organization thinks that latte may not be pricey enough.

At the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s annual symposium, held this past week in Seattle, SCAA executive director Ric Rhinehart said that coffee drinkers should start valuing fine coffee in the same way wine connoisseurs approach a storied bottle of wine.

At stake are the livelihoods of more than 100 million people around the developing world whose livelihoods depend on coffee exports, Rhinehart says. According to his calculations, green-coffee exports might be worth $20 billion in 2014, yielding a paltry 54 cents a day per person.

So the solution is for America’s specialty-coffee peddlers, which so far have focused their efforts on defining what better coffee is, to “sell coffee better,” Rhinehart says. That is — to upsell.

“If we can increase the value of a beverage to the consumer,” there will be more money to send back upstream to farmers, Rhinehart says.

That might be a tricky proposition, especially in these economically uncertain times; the last financial crisis showed that Starbucks runs were among the first things to go when consumers’ pockets are pinched.

But then again, Starbucks came roaring back — and a new generation of even fancier, so-called “third-wave” coffeehouses such as Stumptown and Intelligentsia, many of which deal directly with high-quality coffee farmers, have taken root.

While even more expensive coffee beverages may be a hard sell to old-timers who fondly remember the 50-cent cup of joe, millennials may be an easier target, says Tracy Ging, director of sustainability at S&D Coffee and Tea, who also spoke at the gathering.

She says that fully a quarter of these younger consumers count themselves as “foodies,” start drinking coffee earlier, and engage in multiple caffeine runs a day.

They are “poised to be our best generation of coffee drinkers yet,” she says.

Ángel González:

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