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Bullitt Center Value

In early September, a report was released that found that six of Seattle's Bullitt Center's green features will produce up to $18.5 million in benefits to society over the building's life. a 50,000-square-foot commercial building in Seattle, the Bullitt Center is designed to be the world's greenest office building. Owned by the Bullitt Foundation, it is in the midst of pursuing Living Building certification. We've written about the Bullitt Center here, here and here.

Titled Optimizing Urban Ecosystem Services: The Bullitt Center Case Study, the study is the first time the building's ecosystem service values have been calculated. Ecosystem services are benefits provided by natural systems to support all life on earth. These benefits accrue broadly to society rather than directly to building owners or tenants, and currently, regulatory and financial systems don't fully account for them.

In this research, values for public benefits, such as energy efficiency, solar energy, walkability, rainwater capture and use, composting toilets and enhanced carbon storage in the forest from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, were all calculated. Although other public benefits, such as low-cost housing, pollution reduction and sanitation, are subsidized or required as part of doing business, investments in sustainability are currently voluntary charitable acts by developers, which places sustainable buildings at a commercial disadvantage to conventional buildings.

"Society provides enormous annual subsidies to residential and commercial real estate, many of which promote sprawl," said Denis Hayes, CEO of the Bullitt Foundation, which owns the Bullitt Center. "But society does not acknowledge the benefits that deep green buildings provide to the general public. By ignoring the benefits such investments provide to society at large, we penalize the best buildings and reward the worst."

The value of public benefits can vary based on factors such as the price attributed to carbon emissions and the discount rate applied to benefits received in future years. The research team calculated the following benefits over the life of the Bullitt Center:

Site transportation benefits

$2,930,000

Rainwater capture and reuse

$910,000

Composting toilet

$680,000

Energy efficiency

$10,270,000

Solar array

$3,280,000

FSC wood

$370,000

Research focused on six widely accepted public services to evaluate the scale of readily quantifiable benefits they provide in green building projects. Additionally, the team also provided a qualitative assessment of an additional dozen ecosystem services benefits. According to the press release, if these could be accurately quantified, they would add significant value to the Bullitt Center's documented value.

Stormwater mitigation is an example that can be extremely expensive for cities to address. Recently, Seattle spent more than $1 billion to address part of the stormwater challenge it faces and the Bullitt Center has no stormwater runoff. The press release notes that the magnitude of the benefit demonstrates the need to begin incorporating public benefits into regulatory and financial frameworks.

"I am delighted that Bullitt Foundation has not only endorsed the logic of green construction in their new building, but that they have measured and valued its expected social and environmental impacts," said Pavan Sukhdev, a global leader in valuing the benefits of nature. "This is the kind of responsible forward thinking that the entire construction sector needs to engage for any real transition towards a Green Economy."

The research was conducted by a team from Autopoiesis LLC and Ecotrust, and was funded by the Bullitt Foundation. The full report can be downloaded here.

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