Gallery: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the Largest LEED Platin...

Water efficient plumbing fixtures and the use of rainwater reduce the campus's potable water use by nearly 80 percent and eliminate all polluted rainwater runoff.
Water efficient plumbing fixtures and the use of rainwater reduce the campus's potable water use by nearly 80 percent and eliminate all polluted rainwater runoff.

The new campus occupies a site located in downtown Seattle across the street from the Space Needle. Formerly an asphalt parking lot, the site was restored with more than 40 percent of it turned into 2 acres of living roofs and native landscaping around the buildings. “The project started seven years ago with the initial target of LEED Silver, in support of the City of Seattle’s green building mandate,” said Margaret Montgomery, principal and lead sustainable designer at NBBJ. “Our main goal was to design the right building for the foundation staff and surrounding community. It just so happened that the best solutions were also the greenest.”

To achieve LEED Platinum, the Foundation and its design team worked diligently to incorporate a number of sustainable strategies into the project. Reduced energy usage was achieved by installing energy efficient mechanical systems and lighting, along with occupancy and daylighting sensors, use of natural ventilation and high performance glazing. A 750-thousand gallon water storage system minimizes energy used to cool buildings by chilling stored water at night for recirculation during the day. Additionally, 47 evacuated tube solar collectors on the roof provide hot water to the campus, reducing the energy use by 30% and saving 4,750 therms of natural gas every year. In total, the energy efficiency strategies reduce energy use by 40% and the upfront investment will pay for itself in 30 years.

Water conservation was also a top priority in order to protect the local watershed from further depletion and pollution. The two-acres of living roofs absorb and collect most of the rainwater runoff and the remainder is directed via the hardscaping and landscaping into the underground one-million gallon cistern. Water efficient plumbing fixtures and the use of rainwater reduce the campus’ potable water use by nearly 80 percent and eliminate all polluted rainwater runoff.

Recycled content materials and recycling efforts during construction also led to big payoffs for the campus. There was a concerted effort to source materials locally and hire contractors from the area to boost the local economy. “A sustainable campus was a natural result of the foundation’s overall philosophy, keeping in line with our values to be a good steward and be a positive addition to the neighborhood and the environment,” said Martha Choe, chief administrative officer for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We share this award with our many project partners – who all shared a common goal to build the right building for foundation staff to do their best work.”


+ Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Images ©Benjamin Benschneider, Timothy Hursley, Sean Airhart/NBBJ, Studio 216, Sellen Construction courtesy of NBBJ


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  1. dwcoop December 16, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    I should no longer be surprised that some people seem so angry that they find fault with everything — even organizations whose sole purpose is to help other people. Maybe that’s it. Maybe lazy reader is upset because the Gates Foundation isn’t helping them, it’s helping others.

    The building itself is designed to significantly reduce the use of energy. It is a model for other organizations, including profit, non-profit — and government. It demonstrates that significant reduction of energy and alternative sources of energy is possible. And, in a world that continues to use coal and oil, that is important.

  2. jkwonsolo October 9, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    is it just me or does it seem like almost every LEED certified building features massive glass facades? does that score them points for passive solar heating or something?? or are the all like quadruple glazed?? what’s the deal?!

  3. lazyreader October 7, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Why does this foundation require a huge half-million square foot building. What precisley do they do. The Gates Millennium Scholars fund, according to its official website, only provides scholarships to African American, Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific-Islander American or Hispanic-American applicants. An article published in the Los Angeles Times on November 1, 1999, criticized the program for its exclusion of Caucasians. The foundation invests the assets that it has not yet distributed, with the exclusive goal of maximizing the return on investment. As a result, its investments include companies that have been criticized for worsening poverty in the same developing countries where the Foundation is attempting to relieve it. Why not just rent an existing building for the foundation instead of spending millions on new construction.

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