Biting the Bullitt Center
SI: How do adaptive design strategies allow for collaborative decision making, and what impact has that had on the Bullitt Center project?
KH: The Bullitt Center is a great example of the solutions that can be developed when all disciplines are included throughout the building design. This adaptive and collaborative approach is essential when trying to push the limits of green building design. The performance of these buildings cannot be maximized – they can only be optimized. When you push the design to do one thing, it inevitably creates trade-offs in other areas.
As an example, the Bullitt Center does not have a green roof; although there are small terraced sections of green roof, the main roof is not planted. This was a conscious choice since the only way to make the building self-sustaining for energy was to dedicate the roof to solar panels. This choice had consequences. A planted roof would have provided some benefits – but there would be adverse consequences associated with relying on the grid for power.
It is a difficult task to sort through those consequences to find the solutions that best optimize outcomes. From what I have seen of the building and based on our very preliminary assessment, the team did an amazing job of finding optimal solutions.
SI: How do you make the case to mainstream commercial developers that these types of marquee projects in progressive cities should be more commonplace?
KH: We need buildings like the Bullitt Center if we are going to create sustainable cities. However, if we want more buildings like the Bullitt Center, they will need to make clear financial sense to developers. That means not only do we need to bring the costs of such buildings down, which will happen as the technologies and materials become more mainstream, but we need to better identify and capture the financial benefits such buildings can provide.
This is ultimately one of the ways ecosystem services can help. Since not everyone has the luxury of a 20 year return on investment period, we need to be identifying meaningful quantifiable benefits that can be aggregated to reduce the ROI periods of these buildings.
SI: How does the Bullitt Center incorporate human health considerations, and can these actually be measured?
KH: Human health is a key component of the Living Building Challenge, and the Bullitt Center certainly incorporates important human health elements into its design.