Everett firm had big role in green Bullitt Center

EVERETT — It could be one of those tricky answers Alex Trebek asks of contestants on “Jeopardy!” or a question in the latest edition of Trivial Pursuit.

If anyone asks where the most-energy-efficient, greenest commercial building in the world is, the answer is Seattle. A bonus question: “Which Everett company with more than 100 years of expertise in glass and glazing helped realize that vision?” The answer is Goldfinch Brothers Inc.

The six-story, $30 million Bullitt Center on Seattle’s Capitol Hill is the fulfilled dream of a group of dedicated people headed by Denis Hayes, the founder of Earth Day and the Bullitt Foundation’s president and CEO.

The creativity and expertise of those behind the formation of the Bullitt Center is a testament to energy efficiency, low carbon footprint and non-toxic solutions that some say is needed to minimize long-term impacts on the environment.

“We played a role in that,” said Greg Goldfinch, president of Goldfinch Brothers. “A pretty large role.”

Goldfinch Brothers met the stringent building code goals needed to meet the ambitious standards the Bullitt Center presented.

Inside the Bullitt Center building, commercial residents will benefit from super-efficient windows supplied by Goldfinch, which was first contacted in 2011 about the project. The windows’ design and assembly posed a challenge for the Everett company, which works with German window manufacturer Schuco.

Goldfinch’s involvement in other sustainable and energy- efficient projects shows an ability to look beyond normal boundaries to find unique and higher-performance products to meet project requirements.

“We are not afraid to push forward,” Goldfinch said.

That’s all very well, but one of the Living Building Challenge requirements is that heavy materials, such as window glass, be sourced within a 300-mile radius.

Having done similar work in this arena, Goldfinch’s staff took to the challenge and worked with Schuco to become the only West Coast manufacturer of their energy- efficient windows. This let the Bullitt Center project staff meet the Living Building requirements on sourcing local materials.

Not only does using natural light and heat make sense in a sustainable building as far as dollars are concerned, but through the Goldfinch windows (and high ceilings) occupants will glean more than 82 percent of their lighting. When it’s cold outside, the windows will close automatically. When it’s warm, air conditioning will come from nature itself as the windows open.

“Building is one thing,” Goldfinch said, but reaching the certified goal is another.

The Living Building Challenge will determine whether to certify the building. To pass Living Standard codes, the building must be occupied continuously for one year.

“We’ll see,” said Goldfinch.

To be certified, projects of any size must meet the Living Building Challenge essential goals for sustainability: Photovoltaic solar panels on the Bullitt Center roof convert the sun’s energy into electricity, even on a cloudy day, and powers the needs of the building.

Those who lease space are all part and parcel of the natural and energy-efficient process that makes the Bullitt Center work day in, day out.

With no on-site parking available, Bullitt Center tenants will be encouraged to walk, cycle or use public transportation to get to work, reducing the environmental impact. Taking the stairs will be encouraged, too, to promote healthful habits.

Workers will use water treated on site from a rain cistern and use composting toilets.

There are more projects of this kind in the works at Goldfinch Brothers. And partly because of the worldwide attention the Bullitt Center is receiving, they will likely receive more calls of interest.

“What we have to do is understand how best to spend construction dollars for the best outcome,” Goldfinch said. “Building for the future? No, building for the day to preserve the future.”

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About Goldfinch Brothers

Goldfinch Brothers Inc. has operated in Everett since 1892. Greg Goldfinch is the fifth generation to run the business, with the sixth generation now working there, too. Staff at Goldfinch partnered with the Bullitt Foundation, Schuchart Construction, Schuco, Point32 and Miller Hull Partnership on the Bullitt Center.

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