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The Bullitt Foundation Announces Plans for the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction

The Bullitt Foundation is spearheading a visionary effort to develop the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction in Seattle's Central Area. The Center will be one of the nation’s first mid-rise commercial buildings to achieve “living building” status, a new benchmark for environmental sustainability.

The Bullitt Foundation is spearheading a visionary effort to develop the Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction in Seattle's Central Area. The Center will be one of the nation’s first mid-rise commercial buildings to achieve “living building” status, a new benchmark for environmental sustainability. The Foundation and its partners will use the project to promote innovative sustainable building technologies and practices in Seattle’s urban neighborhoods, the Northwest and around the world. As the first urban building of its kind, the Center will serve as a community resource for urban sustainability education and help reduce the environmental impact of building construction and operations.

Fulfilling the Mission of the Bullitt Foundation

Cascadia Center from the WestThe mission of the Bullitt Foundation is to safeguard the natural environment by promoting responsible human activities and sustainable communities in the Pacific Northwest. Programmatic priorities include promotion of progressive planning and smart growth, ecologically sensitive urban design, water conservation, and the efficient use of renewable energy. The creation of the Cascadia Center is a response to the impact of buildings, which currently account for an estimated 39% of carbon dioxide emissions, 65% of waste and 70% of electrical use in the United States. The development of the six-story, mixed-use building will set a new standard for performance-based design and increase the awareness of new approaches to sustainable design and construction. As an early contribution to the project, the Foundation purchased a highly visible property in the Madison-Miller neighborhood of Seattle’s Central Area, a target zone for economic development. This strategic location scores 98 of 100 on Walk Score, an index that reflects attributes such as mixed income, mixed use, density, access to public transportation, and proximity to schools, parks and local businesses.

Advancing Urban Sustainability

The goals for the Cascadia Center are ambitious and forward thinking. In addition to meeting LEED Platinum and the 2030 Challenge, more challenging is the intent to achieve the goals of The Living Building Challenge. The Challenge is performance-based and evaluated after one year of the building’s operation. It has 20 imperatives, including: responsible site selection; 100% on-site renewable energy generation; 100% of water needs provided by harvested rainwater; and on-site waste management. Interactive building ‘dashboards’ will provide a continual feedback loop to building occupants who will monitor energy generation and use on an annualized basis. Highly efficient electrical and mechanical systems, a photovoltaic array and an innovative wastewater management system will contribute to this objective and be visible educational features of the building. Building occupants will rely largely on public transportation and share a limited number of electric cars provided on-site. The building will be built to last 250 years, and designed to adapt to changing needs and emerging technologies. The approximately 50,000 square feet wood-framed building can serve as a model that is representative of the predominant new building type and scale in this region.

Serving the Central Area

The project site was chosen for its high visibility and accessibility, and offered an important commercial development opportunity in a neighborhood that is largely residential and striving for economic development. In fact, the Central Area Action Plan identified specific development goals for the Madison-Miller neighborhood that include: improved walkability; economic development that takes advantage of the strategic positioning of Madison Street as a neighborhood zone connector; sensitive infill development; and the creation of interesting urban spaces. The site’s proximity to McGilvra Place pocket park and the project’s ability to become a neighborhood resource has led to early discussions with City partners on how to create a vibrant public space adjacent to the Center and improve the pedestrian crossing of Madison Street to serve nearby retail businesses, schools and churches.

Support for the Center

The Cascadia Center is a collaborative vision of the Bullitt Foundation, a team of leading Northwest architects, engineers and contractors, the University of Washington College of Built Environments, and Cascadia, the Pacific Northwest-based chapter of the U.S. and Canada Green Building Councils. It is anticipated that the building will house both the Cascadia Region Green Building Council and the International Living Building Institute as a resource center for living building projects worldwide. The project team is forming alliances with many public and private partners. The Seattle City Council recently passed an Ordinance to establish a demonstration program in support of “living building” pilot projects. The program will be used to evaluate and potentially modify land use codes and standards that discourage sustainable building practices in the urban environment. Seattle’s electric utility, Seattle City Light, has contributed early funding to the building design effort.

Project Schedule

A concept design for the Center which tested the project’s ability to meet net zero energy and water goals is complete. Final design and permitting is ongoing. The Cascadia Center is targeted for completion in late 2012.

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