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Originally published March 15, 2013 at 4:28 PM | Page modified March 15, 2013 at 5:15 PM

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Editorial notebook: The Bullitt Center — sustainable or bust | Opinion Northwest

Editorial writer Thanh Tan recently went to Capitol Hill to see the greenest office building on earth.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE new Bullitt Center, with its sleek, gray facade and giant solar-paneled roof, aims to be the Prius of green building design. The structure certainly provokes those who walk through its doors to think about the environment and our consumption habits.

Foundation President Denis Hayessays the six-story project at 1501 E. Madison St. merges the values of a region shifting toward a digital, sustainable future.

“You can be exceedingly environmental without eating granola and living in a yurt,” he says, with a wry smile. “This is a highly productive building.”

From the ground floor up, the Bullitt Center is pure Northwest, built with nontoxic regional materials.

The carbon-neutral commercial space generates and stores its own energy using Seattle’s limited sunshine, while filters recycle the city’s signature rainfall into potable water.

The Bullitt Center “walks the talk.”

Parking? Nah. Only bike racks line the building’s garage.

Elevator? There’s one on-site, but using the stairs is expected. Along the way, natural light shines through the glass walls, exposing stunning views of the city.

Toilets? Definitely, except there’s no flushing and lots of foam. Waste flows to composters in the basement.

By the time Hayes walks us up to the foundation’s headquarters on the top floor, it is his seventh trek up the stairs that day.

I catch my breath then look around at the high ceilings, wall-length power windows and Douglas fir beams.

What did it take to create a space on the cutting-edge of the green movement?

The technology is so new that many lenders were not persuaded to underwrite the project. The Bullitt Foundation paid most of the construction costs.

“What succeeds here and what fails here will be a guide for others,” Hayes says.

And if all goes according to plan, the Bullitt Center will be around for 250 years — making it a dynamic symbol of what’s possible in Seattle.

Thanh Tan

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