Goldfinch Bros. integral to Bullitt Center’s green

  • By Christina Harper HBJ Freelance Writer
  • Tuesday, May 28, 2013 1:48pm

EVERETT — It could become one of those tricky answers Alex Trebek asks of contestants on Jeopardy, or a question on the latest edition of Trivial Pursuit.

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

The six-story, $30 million Bullitt Center, located 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 Everett’s Goldfinch Bros., Inc. “A pretty large role.”

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

From 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 window’s design and construction, typically European, 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 its 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 the window design pushes out from the building and 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 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.

“It took it to a different level,” Goldfinch said. “We had to set up and learn a new process and a new system. It took good people and patience.”

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, through its stringent guidelines, 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.

In order 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 outside the Bullitt Center. Taking the stairs will be encouraged, too, thus promoting healthy 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 Bros. 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 is 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.”

About Goldfinch Bros., Inc.

Goldfinch Bros., 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, he said. Staff at Goldfinch partnered with the Bullitt Foundation, Schuchart Construction, Schuco, Point32 and Miller Hull Partnership on the Bullitt Center. Goldfinch Bros. is working on two other Living Building Challenge projects: the Bertschi School and Stone 34.

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