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Living Gems of Innovation: The Bullitt Center harvests rainwater for potable use

The Bullitt Center in Seattle exemplifies “Code Innovations for Living Buildings” because it took numerous code variances and policy innovations to get it permitted and built. One of those innovations, inspired by the Living Building Challenge’s (LBC) “net-zero water” imperative, is still awaiting approval after more than 2 years: harvesting rainwater for potable (drinking water) use in a public building.
Living Gems of Innovation:  The Bullitt Center harvests rainwater for potable use

Bullitt Center Rainwater Harvesting ready to go, still awaiting approval

The Bullitt Center in Seattle exemplifies “Code Innovations for Living Buildings” because it took numerous code variances and policy innovations to get it permitted and built.  One of those innovations, inspired by the Living Building Challenge’s (LBC) “net-zero water” imperative, is still awaiting approval after more than 2 years: harvesting rainwater for potable (drinking water) use in a public building.  While some jurisdictions will allow you to drink purified rainwater from your own roof, to do it in a commercial office building will require the Bullitt Foundation to become a Class A Public Water utility which brings with it numerous mandates for sanitation to protect public health.  One of these requires purification using chlorine, a chemical on the LBC’s “red list” of substances not allowed under the Challenge.  Foundation President Denis Hayes took this issue all the way to the top, to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, arguing that their non-chlorine technology would provide all necessary sanitation protection.  Jackson eventually ruled that chlorination is indeed required to purify surface water; and it is expected the LBC will grant an exception and allow Bullitt to use chlorine since not doing so would be in violation of the law.  Nonetheless, the hoops they’ve had to jump through are substantial – including a requirement that the roof-mounted solar panels from which rainwater is collected be certified by NSF as food-grade material!  We’ll be tracking this innovation and publishing a Code Innovation case study as soon as the technology is finally approved!  Get in touch if you’re interested in underwriting one or more of the Bullitt “Living Gems” to get published in 2016!

Read more on the Bullitt Center Website:  www.bullittcenter.org/building/building-features/waterworks/

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