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Prove It: Measuring the Performance of the Bullitt Center

truth noun \ˈtrüth\
the truth : the real facts about something : the things that are true (Merriam-Webster, m-w.com)

proof noun \ˈprüf\
proof : an act or process of showing that something is true (Merriam-Webster, m-w.com)

Truth is a property of being in accord with fact or reality. It is a judgment, proposition or idea that is accepted as factually correct. Truth can be ascertained through proof, a kind of validation by application of specific rules. Evidence is the key constituent of this validation. It is gathered to build a case that can be judged, through reason, to arrive at acceptance or rejection of a truth. 


The Bullitt Center

Science applies reason, rules, evidence and facts to arrive at truths about nature, the properties of matter, and the constancy of physical phenomena.  Governed by these same truths, architecture is a student of science, seeking evidence from physics, biology and chemistry to guide the creation of order and organization of form, structure, and matter in the creation of a new building.

The Bullitt Center is modeled after principles beta-tested by nature over millions of years, and subject to performance criteria unprecedented for an urban building of this scale.  The bar was set extraordinarily high by the rules of the Living Building Challenge in order to challenge assumptions of what is not possible and to test what is possible, providing living proof  for a new generation of super high performance buildings.


Parametric analysis of the PV array

The design process advanced through a dialogue between design hypotheses and analytical testing of the building’s organization and form. Since available energy production has nbso online casino reviews to align with energy consumption, team members simultaneously explored ways to optimize both sides of this equation with the aim of matching demand with supply. So while form, activities, and system variations were modeled using eQUEST/DOE2.2 to predict energy consumption, other team members explored hundreds of variations on organizing the photovoltaic arrays through parametric analysis using Grasshopper 3d Rhino.

Ultimately, the proof is in the performance. The University of Washington’s Integrated Design Lab’s role is to provide the world with unbiased information about the building’s design and construction, and evidence of its performance. So far the evidence aligns well with predictions. 

This past summer was warmer and sunnier than typical, so the building’s “sailing” strategies for passive cooling and ventilation were put to the test.  Throughout the summer the windows regularly opened every evening for “night flush” cooling of the building’s interior. When outdoor temperatures dropped into the mid to low 60’s at night, indoor temperatures tracked within 3oF to 5oF, indicating that the large, 4″ x 10″ triple-glazed “pop-out” windows were effectively facilitating cross ventilation.


Interior temperatures with night-flush cooling

With the building not fully occupied, energy performance can’t be fully assessed. However, during the first six months of operation, with the building approximately 50% occupied, energy consumption is about half of what was predicted. 

On the production side, May, June, and July were sunnier than normal (based on Typical Meteorological Year (TMY) climate data, used in the energy models). August was “typically” sunny, and September and October were cloudier than normal. Photovoltaic electricity production matched these weather trends.


Bullitt Center dashboard: actual vs. predicted energy usage and production

Evidence-based performance of the Bullitt Center is critical to Denis Hayes’ mission to demonstrate a big leap forward in building performance and low environmental impact construction. It’s also important in making an economic case for buildings that externalize far fewer costs on society, while providing ecosystem services beneficial to the city. Few buildings have had such performance ambitions nor invited such demands for proof.

But ultimately the public, as well as the architectural community, will measure the value of the Bullitt Center through the lens of feeling and not just evidence. Our most closely held truths about architectural value are governed by emotion as much as reason and by impression in addition to evidence. While widely lauded for its ambition and early demonstration of performance, the Bullitt Center will ultimately be judged by how people feel about it, their impressions of its form and fit in the neighborhood, and their opinions about its ambition and intentions. As in economics, politics and even science, abundant evidence and proof of performance may be truths of secondary value in the realm of public opinion.


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