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The Bullitt Center in Seattle is touted as the greenest and most energy-efficient building in the world, which it may well be, and is a natural selection for the Metal Architecture Design Awards winner in the Sustainability category. Designed by Seattle-based Miller Hull Partnerships, the 50,000-square-foot, six-story building is designed to meet the Living Building Challenge. This establishes rigorous requirements for energy consumption and other elements of green construction, creating a building that has a negligible impact on the environment.

Brian Court, AIA, LEED AP, is an associate architect at Miller Hull, where he has worked for 12 years and was the project architect on the Bullitt Center. Miller Hull has been a leading design firm in the Pacific Northwest since the late 70s, when it started building houses using passive design. Principals Dave Miler and Bob Hull have been pushing the sustainability envelope ever since. "I like to say that Miller Hull has been waiting for a project like this for 30 years," says Court. "We look for honest expression and unique opportunities and let them be evocative of the design. The Bullitt project was the perfect culmination of that."

The judges would argue that wait was worth it. "Every nut and bolt was looked at for sustainability purposes," says Ron van der Veen. "It's truly the most sustainable project in the country right now. … Metal was picked specifically for the highest and most sustainable approach to this project." The judges especially admired the difficulty of doing such a building in an urban setting and as an office building, pointing out that it is the first office building to meet the Living Building Challenge.

The building features 18,000 square feet of TLC-1 wall panels, manufactured by Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp., Louisville, Ky. They are 20-gauge Galvalume panels and run vertically between the glazing. Court says: "When it comes to cost-effective design, metal panels are one of our secret weapons. We get a top-notch aesthetic for a very reasonable price." He adds: "We like metal panels foremost for the clean, taut lines they bring to the architecture. But beyond the look, we go to metal panels for their durability, easy maintenance and ultimately, at the end of their service life, for their recyclability."

The building is topped with a large solar array that extends to the very edge of the sidewalk-six stories below. This need was driven in large part by the urban setting, which meant the building was wedged into a small site and needed six stories to be economical. That required a large solar array to meet the energy needs, forcing the hand on the roof design. "The urban site makes the problems much more complex," says Court. "Most net zero and LBC buildings have been one- or two-story buildings, so the roof ratio goes way up. On this building, there were no easy answers."

Just as importantly was the aesthetic expression of the building, which evokes many of the unique characteristics of Northwest vernacular architecture. "In the Northwest, because of all the rain," Court says, "large roof forms are part of the regional expression." So, while the roof met a specific energy requirement, it also matches an aesthetic, making this urban office building a great addition to the Seattle built environment.

It fulfills another characteristic of Seattle, and that is a hard-edged forward-looking sensibility. Miller Hull was thrilled to work on a project that was so aggressive in its environmental and sustainability goals for a very simple reason. "This one building can change the game for everybody," says Court.

Bullitt Center, Seattle

Completed: April 2013

Building Owner: Bullitt Foundation

Developer: Point32, Seattle

Architect: The Miller Hull Partnership LLC, Seattle,

General contractor: Schuchart, Seattle,

Metal panel installer: Northshore Sheet Metal Inc., Everett, Wash.,

Mechanical/electrical engineer: PAE Consulting Engineers, Seattle,

Photovoltaic designer: Solar Design Associates, Harvard, Mass.,

Structural engineer: DCI Engineers, Seattle,

Metal wall panels: Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp., Louisville, Ky.,

Operable windows: Schüco USA LP, Newington, Conn.,

Photovoltaics: SunPower Corp., San Jose, Calif.,