Skip to content

Passivhaus Could Have Made Bullitt Foundation Living Building 35% More Energy Intelligent

2011 May 21
by Rob Harrison

< Rendering of the Bullitt Foundation's Cascadia Living Building; image courtesy of The Miller Hull Partnership --- click to enlarge >

If the Bullitt Foundation’s Cascadia Center Living Building had been designed to meet Passivhaus, it would have needed only two-thirds of the on-site-generated energy of the current design to reach net-zero. In other words, a much smaller photovoltaic array.

The Cascadia Center for Sustainable Design and Construction (website for the building) is likely to be the second building in Seattle to meet the Cascadia Green Building Council’s rigorous Living Building Challenge. Designed by Seattle starchitects Miller|Hull, with mechanical engineering by Portland’s PAE Consulting Engineers with input from the Integrated Design Lab, the building is a marvel of sophisticated active technology and expressed greenness. Motorized windows open automatically to provide cooling. Computer-controlled shades raise and lower to help maintain optimum lighting levels. Deep borings below the building tap geothermal warmth. A prominent stair with spectacular views encourages tenants to skip the elevators. There is no parking garage! (But there is bicycle parking!) A (very) large, controversial photovoltaic “hat” tops the building. (Some call it the “comb-over.”) As stated on the building’s website, the Bullitt Foundation expects it to be the most energy-efficient commercial building in the world.

But will it be?

I was curious about how Cascadia Center might compare with Passivhaus, in terms of its energy intelligence. After the public presentation of the building at Benaroya Hall I emailed Scott Wolf of Miller|Hull and Denis Hayes, asking if I might have information on the building necessary to make a comparison with Passivhaus. Denis responded that he would be delighted to cooperate, and Scott put me in touch with Brian Court, the project architect, and Jim Hanford, sustainability lead, both of Miller|Hull. I am grateful to each of them for facilitating this conversation and supplying the area take-offs and EUI for the current design. Before we get into the numbers, if you aren’t familiar with Passivhaus, you might want to click over to the introduction to Passivhaus on my website and back.

Basis of the Calculation

  • The gross square footage of the building is 52,000 SF.
  • The Treated Floor Area (based on the German DIN 277-2 method) is 39,050 SF, or 75% of the gross area. Treated Floor Area (TFA) is used in calculating energy use allowed in a Passivhaus building.
  • The Energy Use Index (EUI) of Cascadia Center is 16. EUI is total annual energy use divided by gross square footage.
  • The limit in Passivhaus for Primary (Source) Energy is 38 kBTU/SF/year.
  • In Passivhaus, an energy factor is applied to various forms of energy to account for generation and transmission losses. For electricity, this factor is 2.7.

Solving for an EUI that would meet Passivhaus:
38 kBTU/SF/yr ÷ 2.7 = 14.07 kBTU/SF/yr. (This gives us an annual Primary Energy usage target, taking the electrical energy factor into account.)

39,050 SF (TFA) x 14.07 = 549,434 kBTU/SF/yr (This gives us the site annual energy usage using TFA for a building that met Passivhaus.)

549,434 kBTU/SF/yr ÷ 52,000 (GSF) = 10.57 (This gives us the EUI target for a building that meets Passivhaus.)

The current EUI of Cascadia Center is 16. To meet Passivhaus, the EUI would have to be 10.57.

10.57 ÷ 16 = .66

A building that met Passivhaus would use 66% of the energy of the Cascadia Center as currently designed. Had the building been designed to meet Passivhaus, the photovoltaic array could have been two-thirds its current size. This has dramatic implications for future buildings seeking to meet the Living Building Challenge.

Or, looking at it the other way:
52,000 GSF x 16 (current EUI) = 832,000 kBTU/yr (total annual Primary Energy usage)

Solve for kBTU/SF/yr using TFA.

832,000 kBTU/yr ÷ 39,050 SF (TFA) = 21.3 kBTU/SF/yr

Multiply that by 2.7 (the energy factor for electricity) to get the primary (source) energy usage.

21.3 kBTU/SF/yr x 2.7 = 57.52 kBTU/SF/yr

Passivhaus requires an annual primary energy usage (source energy) of 38 kBTU/SF/yr.

57.52 ÷ 38 = 1.51

The building as designed exceeds the Passivhaus standard for Primary Energy by a bit over 50%. That’s worse than my Passivhaus colleague Mike Eliason of brute force collaborative calculated using guesstimates of TFA from the permit documents filed with DPD.

< Passivhaus Office Building and Workshops fa Biotop, Weidling; image: Architekturburo Reinberg >

We know that it is possible to reach Passivhaus with this building type, because there are many examples of similar buildings in Europe that meet Passivhaus (see image above), all of which would have a lower EUI than Cascadia Center if you don’t count the energy generated on site by the photovoltaic array. Therefore, it appears the Cascadia Center will not be the most energy efficient building in the world.

I suspect we may see something interesting if we look closely at the air leakage, and compare Miller|Hull’s target with Passivhaus’s 0.6 ACH@50 Pascal. Proportionally the ventilation and pump energies seem high, but once all other loads are reduced, those loads might pop out more, and utilizing on-site water (to meet Living Building Challenge) requires pumping. If they were starting from scratch, it may be that by concentrating first on the siting, building massing, envelope assemblies and air-tightness (as one does in the Passivhaus design process) they would have been able to eliminate the need for some of the mechanical systems. With the internal heat gain of a typical office building, and an appropriate wall assembly, air tightness and glazing, heating load ought to go to zero, and with proper shading (as they’ve done already) cooling load should get to close to zero as well.

Ironically the featured stair, intended to encourage walking over using the elevator, contributes to the building missing the Passivhaus mark. As circulation space, it is not counted in the Treated Floor Area, so has the effect of reducing the total kBTU available for use annually while still meeting Passivhaus.

Despite not meeting Passivhaus, Cacadia Center is a brilliant, important building. That it will be possible to better it with simpler, less expensive, less complicated and more durable means is encouraging. Since we already see dramatically lower energy use with existing Passivhaus buildings, it is clear that Passivhaus is a proven and better way to meet the “Energy Petal” of the Living Building Challenge than the active technologies employed in the design of the Cascadia Center.


Rob Harrison, AIA, is a Seattle architect and Certified Passive House™ Consultant. This article originally appeared in the Harrison Architects blog.

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    June 3, 2011

    Great post Rob!

  2. Vince Lyons permalink
    September 11, 2011

    Good point on the Bullitt Living Building project on 15th and Madison. It should also be noted that 40 % of the projects’s PV panels are not on the site, but over the ROW’s of Madison and 15th. The project was granted an extra 10 feet in height by the City ostensibly to allow taller floor to floor heights to allow more natural daylignting in the interiors of the office floors. This added height and the lack of any significant modifications to its height, bulk and scale has successfully blocked the windows of the west facade of the existing abutting 5 story apartment aabutting the Bullitt project on the East….thus making this structure permanently un-green and un-sustainable. While there are many good measures included in the design, especially treatment of on-site water, this project has way to much mass and height. The lesson from this project is to find a larger site and develop a smaller structure that honors the existing context of the neighbors.

  3. February 28, 2012

    Do you have any information about the energy design strategies that were used in the German Office Building you picture by Architekturburo Reinberg? It looks like the building is split in two long-ways for solar gain on one frontage and solar screening on the other. How do they handle all those windows at night during the winter or day during the summer?

  4. February 28, 2012

    Hi Juliet,

    I believe the split in the building is programmatic, but also dovetails with energy strategies. (I don’t read German, so I’m relying on Google translate!) With Passivhaus typically multiple strategies are employed. Sometimes it is the sum of the parts rather than one large idea. Summer shading may come from adjacent trees or buildings. Windows are triple-glazed, and much higher performance than those normally spec’d for office buildings here.

    A little more information about the envelope:
    walls: R-31
    floors: R-30
    roof: R-51
    windows: U=0.18

    Here is the link to the project on the architect’s website:

    This Prezi I created (with help from Passivhaus colleagues Mike Eliason, Hayden Robinson, Dan Whitmore et al) as an introduction to Passivhaus for last fall’s Passive House Northwest conference contains other images of Passivhaus commercial projects from Europe:

  5. February 28, 2012

    Thanks. I love the passive house tutorial! Clear and informative.

  6. Hydro Power permalink
    August 16, 2013

    Your conversion factor makes no sense in an area where most of the electricity comes from HYDOPOWER!!!!!!

  7. July 23, 2014

    Some services provide yoou the option of blocking cell phone numbers at a minimal
    monthly fee. Focus on the Othger Person When yoou start your cold calpls bby talking about your product
    or service, most people “shut down” right away.
    To provide more cojforts to the users various web siites also give complete and up-to-date information on such cards.
    There’s a feww calling rules in thaat situation too though.
    This is something that many women have struggled with.
    Practice with any of our RedHunter coyote howlers, open reed
    calls and closed reed calls until your calls sound as close to the mp3 predator calling files as possible.
    In most cases lendees want to work with borrowers, and while they will rightfully expect you to make up missed payments and late
    fees, so long as you do your bet to get these payments to them, and
    stay in contaact wiuth them to repokrt changes in inccome or
    other hardships, you can expct the phone calls to decrease, or even stop altogether.
    Can you see that your sales focus actually destroys thee possibility for a genuine, trustiing conversation?

    There are different cards for each country and you have to buy calling
    card according to it. To cwll the ducks tto the hide where you will be staying requires the use of a duck call.
    The good thing is, there are alternate options that make it possible
    for you to stay away from those ridiculous rate and as an alternafive make cheap international calls.
    The prefix number needs to be dialled and without ppin number or credit card details sfart talking to youjr near and dear once.
    I empathized with Julie, and then I asked her two simple questions.
    Your guy has limited bandwidth.

    There are a few things a woman can do that will make her utterly irresistible in tthe eyes of her guy.
    Other Mediums for Follow-up You can also send a thank you npte or letter to
    all the interviewers. There has to be some kiund of mistake.
    Then there are other options such as three way conference calling whereby people can iinvite
    a large number of calldrs to join in. Thedre are many toll frdee conference calling services available in the market, so befoore settling on one, do
    some research and create a shortlist oof which companies yyou fihd
    most appealing. The company responded to my email in about an hour and said, “We will be glad to honor your request to be removed from our phone list.” That wass a week ago, and
    I haven’t recekved any calls from the offending
    numbedr since. The National Do Not Calll Registry cannot stop calls on the behalf of Political organizations, charities, and telephone surveyors.

    Today international calls are very common and everyone can enjoy making cheap international calls.
    Are you getting anxious? Take 2 minutes to
    read the next page annd you’ll discoverr a stuning trick which will show you- How too Captivate a Man, Make Him Fall in Lovee with
    You — and Give You The World. Yet here, your ex is still trying tto keep tthe lines of communication open. Men pay close attention to when women call them
    and they’ll make assumptikons about you based on that. If Ireceive
    additional calls from Omaha Steaks, I’ll be sure to update this post.

    Also when calling 911, the first thing out of your mouth should never bbe “How are you doing?” If
    you are calling 911, yours or someone else’s life and/or property should
    be in grave danger; a roaring blaze should be consuming everything in sight;
    or you or someone else should be in agonizing pain, unable to breathe, and/orclose to death.
    Don’t let this happen to you. Usually the consumers aask foor time when the call center agents tapp them.

    This is the time to really accomplish them.
    The surest way to be removed from the list of a charity that uses telephone solicitors is to ask for
    a financial statement showing how thhe donations are
    dispersed. Immediate treatment must be starged once the condition is confirmed.
    Range of worldwide calling cards are masde available by the companies rangin from lower to superior price tag selection.

    It can plug directly into your etnernet copnnection orr you have the option of using it with your computer- like other dependant voip devices(such as Magic Jack).
    This happens when your girlfriend breaks up with you but pretends like she’d still like to stay friends witgh you.
    The thing about men andd women is that they communicate
    differently and often times they don’t understand each other.

    also: Me annd You, Doctor Blue, Little Boy Blue; simply because it rhymes.
    And the second thing is learn how to find out information on that specific number.
    Mommy sid now that I’m 34, I can live onn my own.” “Umm ok Jake, so would you like to know
    more on our product?” “Why?” “Because you might like it, just like (the billions of
    non-existential people I already sold it to).” “Why?” “Because if you like it, I could give it to you for an irresistible
    offer.” “Please hold, I’d like to talk about this with my Horty, my pet elephant.” (Sid should have realozed by now that this call is not going to go anywhere and he should quit. Or, even worse, he answers but hhe doesn’t sound too pleased to hear from you.

    Now one of these thigs happens. Since video calls can be done even while one is in motion, you need not worry about power interruption or techunical failure that can dksrupt an ongoing communication. What did you do to him? You begin by consciously surrendering to the outcome of your cold call. Politely ask tthe company to stop the calls. Some major service providers offer toll-free accsss numbers, and you are charged only for the international calls. As people, whenever we know that someone ants something from us, we automatically move into a defensive place.

    If you keep your cool, the chances are that he will bee back but at the very least he will remember you as one cool lady who kept her dignity and that is someone that a man doesn’t easily forget. Is she ready to get back together right now, at this very moment? It may straightaay mean that it is either because of his decision or your behavior that he may be walking out of the relationship. Unfortunately, the quick-fix solution xists only in infomercials, novels and movies. The next thought that pops you is that how and though whom does thee cheap rates prevail in the international communication channel. Whenn your boyfriend stops calling the first thing you should determine is whethber you did something that may have gottn him upset.

    He thinks you take him for granted Sometimes women tend to take thsir boyfriends for granted. Do nott forget to include the name of your company or your name at the top,first and foremost. But it is not right anymore. So if you find that Pakistan doesn’t feature in any of the call plawns offered, don’t worry. Calling cards are the great source in order to stay in touch wih your loved ones. By mobilesuk : A how to tutorial about calling to India, best calling card to India, Technoilogy with step by step guide from mobilesuk. And at last call youhr access/ online number and then select any one from contact list you are interested to call.

    He’s busy with something and he has too go. Am I speaking with Nancy? An individual of most beneficial entry is of calling cards. Here are a few of the most common examples of this type off marketing: Firsat off, most websites will allow you to sign upp with them for free and then will harge you at a later time for a continued subscription. Personal calling cards aren’t mostly preferred these days, whereas prior to the advent of cellular phones these cards were interchanged by the persons and each individual in this society having a caliber will possess the cards alpng with them to communicate with other folks. Compound that with the confusion that most Jamaicsn call back scam artists claim to be in the Unitsd States, andd it’s easy to gett fooled. They’re created up of a fine piece of paper prunted using the name and extra details of an individual.

    He may wait for a number of days, even more than a week, but he will call.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Dan Bertolet looks at success, cost efficiency of Issaquah’s Z-Home « DJC Green Building Blog
  2. Get Stoked to Surf The Fourth Wave of Planning | citytank

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS