I read an interesting article in the New York Times about the Bullitt Center, a 50,000 square foot office building in Seattle billed as the, “Greenest Commercial Building in the World.” In order to learn more, I interviewed Dr. Arbol Abrazo, Dean of Environmental Studies at Sequoia University in San Francisco, who worked on the project.
PP: Dr. Abrazo, where do I begin? This is quite a building. 50,000 square feet and $30 million or $600 per square foot to build. Rents are at market, $28 to $30 per square foot. Will the Bullitt Center ever make money?
Abrazo: No, but that’s not the point. There is a bigger picture here: saving the planet.
PP: Understood. Let’s talk about some of the building’s features. The roof is unusual – the rooftop array of photovoltaic panels extend beyond the building walls. Isn’t that potentially an encroachment on the air rights of neighboring properties?
Abrazo: Of course, but because the Bullitt Center is a morally superior building, the neighbors are expected to donate their rights. If they don’t they will never be able to show their faces in Starbucks again. And they can forget getting a decent table at the next PETA fundraiser.
PP: Uh huh. There have been a number of enthusiastic “early adopter” tenants who have already signed leases. The New York Times describes them as human “guinea pigs.” Any truth to that?
Abrazo: Not really, we tested a scale model of the building on lab rats to see how things would work.
PP: And the results?
Abrazo: Well, the rats liked the “irresistible stairway” that rewards climbers with panoramic views of downtown and Puget Sound. As you know, the elevator was purposefully placed in an inconvenient location and required key card access to discourage use.
PP: So the rats did not use the elevator?
Abrazo: Actually, to our surprise the rats learned how to use key cards. Didn’t think they could do that without thumbs, but they adapted.
PP: Let’s talk about the other systems. Every tenant will be expected have to abide by strict energy usage budgets or pay for overages. How did the rats deal with that?
Abrazo: Of course rats don’t have money, so we used cheese instead.
PP: And how did the rats behave?
Abrazo: Some paid the cheese. Others devised a way to get power from an adjacent building. Another fascinating adaptation. Rats are way smarter than I ever thought. I mean, a couple of them could probably work as electricians.
PP: Moving on. The water for the building will be collected rainwater that will be treated on site and the wastewater will be composted on site. How did the rats deal with that?
Abrazo: They did their business at home. Even rats can’t deal with anything that disgusting.