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Foundation Campus Awarded LEED Platinum Certification | Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Campus is the largest LEED Platinum non-profit building in the world

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400

SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus has been awarded LEED-NC (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for New Construction) Platinum certification from the United Stated Green Building Council  – making it the largest, non-profit LEED-NC Platinum building in the world.

Completed in the spring of 2011, the campus is located in downtown Seattle across the street from the Space Needle. It replaces an asphalt parking lot with a campus that returns more than 40 percent of the site back to green space via two-acres of living roofs and native plantings. At 639,860 SF of occupied space, the project demonstrates how large-scale sustainable architecture can be delivered at the highest level. 

“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, the architecture firm that led the new campus project. “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.”

Water conservation was a big goal for the project to protect the local watershed from further depletion and pollution. A one-million-gallon rainwater storage tank underneath the campus is responsible for the majority of the water conservation. The two-acres of living roofs absorb a significant amount of the rainwater runoff and the remaining roof and hardscape runoff is collected in the rainwater storage tank, cleaned of pollutants and filtered back into the campus for reflecting pools, irrigation and toilets. These systems, plus efficient plumbing fixtures reduced the campus’ potable water use by nearly 80 percent and eliminated all polluted rainwater runoff.

“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.”

The campus also includes a variety of energy efficiency strategies, such as a roof-mounted solar energy system which provide energy for more than a third of the hot water use. Below the surface is a 750-thousand gallon water storage system that minimizes energy used to cool buildings by chilling stored water at night for recirculation during the day. The overall energy use has been reduced by nearly 40 percent and the upfront investment the foundation made in a 100-year, energy-efficient building will pay for itself in less than 30 years. Click here for an infographic detailing the sustainable solutions.

“Perhaps most satisfying is that this sustainability achievement was the result of an integrated design process, not a race to acquire points,” said Cormac Deavy, project director and Arup design team leader. “The mechanical systems were selected for their return on investment, operations and maintenance considerations, future flexibility, and their ability to improve the indoor environmental quality for the staff.”

Yancy Wright, sustainability director at Sellen construction, adds, “By focusing on what was best for the overall project, we were able to reap benefits far beyond initial project goals. For example, we demonstrated it is possible to recycle construction debris at a rate of 97 percent - double the national average. In addition, over 20 percent of the project was built with recycled content and regional materials, resulting in boosting the local economy for 21 subcontractors that extracted and manufactured materials within 500 miles of the jobsite.”

The LEED certification system is the nation's preeminent, third-party verification program for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings. More than 7,000 projects in the world have achieved some level of LEED certification since the program began in 1993, but fewer than eight percent of all LEED projects have been awarded Platinum, which is the highest achievement in the LEED program. The award of Platinum to the Gates Foundation campus is the result of a fully integrated team that included:

NBBJ: Architect / Interiors & Workplace / Lighting / Environmental Graphics
Sellen: General Contractor
Seneca Group: Development Manager
Arup: SMEP (Structural Mechanical Electrical & Plumbing); AV/Acoustics & IT
Gustafson Guthrie Nichol: Landscape Architect
KPFF: Civil & Structural Engineer
AMA Alexi Marmot Associates Ltd.: Workplace Consultant
Hammer Design Associates Inc.: Food Service
Judith Heerwagen: Workplace Consultant
HKA Elevator: Vertical Transportation
Walker Parking: Parking
Morrison-Hershfield: Waterproofing
RWDI: Wind Solutions
McKinstry: Mechanical Contractor
Cochran, Inc.: Electrical Contractor
TechPMgroup: Technology Consultant

About NBBJ
NBBJ is a global architecture, planning, and design firm with offices in the Europe, North America and Asia. Our approach is based on the belief that design can support and enhance organizational performance. We customize our solutions based on each client’s enterprise, using an engaging process of discovery, design and delivery. NBBJ is a leader in architecture for civic, corporate, commercial, research, science & education, hospitality, retail and sports & entertainment. Other services offered include change management, environmental graphic design, landscape architecture, lighting, retail consulting, sustainability consulting, urban and master planning and workplace strategy. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter.

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