Denis Hayes had hoped that his Seattle foundation’s building, the world-renowned Bullitt Center, would have inspired local real estate developers to build similar projects.

While that hasn’t happened yet, Hayes is taking satisfaction knowing that the Bullitt Center, which has been judged the world’s greenest office building, is inspiring what will be one of the best-known new buildings, the Obama presidential library in Chicago.

In an interview Friday, Hayes, CEO of the Seattle-based sustainability grant-making foundation, talked about the performance of the six-story office building on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Last spring, it became the world’s first office building to be certified as “living.” That means the building – with its solar panels, rainwater-collecting cisterns and conservation-minded occupants – uses less energy and water than it collects. A group called the International Living Future Institute certifies living buildings.

Designed by the Miller Hull Partnership, the Bullitt Center in 2014, produced 60 percent more energy than it used, and it uses significantly less water than other buildings. A typical office building uses about 25 gallons of water per square foot per year. The Bullitt Center uses about a gallon per square foot a year. Hayes said credit goes to the building’s composting toilets that use foam, gravity and just half a cup of water per flush.

“Where I thought we would cut city (water consumption) by about two-thirds or three-quarters, I never dreamed we would take it down by 96 percent,” Hayes said.

He said the Bullitt Center hasn’t had as much influence on the design of new buildings in Seattle as the foundation had hoped, but added the foundation can claim credit for Santa Monica, California making its new city hall into a living building and Georgia Tech deciding to make a new classroom facility into a living building.

Hayes said the “great crescendo” came when the Obama Foundation last year sent out an email asking interested architecture firms to show why they’re qualified to design the Obama Presidential Center.

The email talked about how environmental stewardship is a big part of the project, and that the center should mimic nature.

“An outstanding example is the Bullitt Center in Seattle,” states the email, which features a photo of the Bullitt Foundation. “It was intentionally designed to mimic the Douglas fir forest that previously occupied the land upon which it stands.”

The Obama Foundation has named seven architecture firms as finalists for the project. They’re named in this Chicago Tribune article.

-Marc Stiles covers real estate for the Puget Sound Business Journal.

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