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February 24, 2022

Building on Bullitt Center: The next Living Building to set sail in Tacoma

  • Ship Lofts will feature passive, carbon-neutral units constructed of mass timber, recycled industrial and natural materials, and repurposed cargo containers.
    Schuchart Construction

    Images from David Grieshaber [enlarge]
    The Ship Lofts multifamily project will use its iconic design and prominent location to promote the Living Building Challenge principles and the importance of sustainable design and construction strategies.

    Ship Lofts will take advantage of the unique site constraints to celebrate a connection to the natural environment, creating a sought-after multifamily community focused on sustainable living.

    In 2013, the Bullitt Center opened its doors as the first commercial office building to be fully certified as a Living Building. The project was born from the Bullitt Foundation's mission to safeguard the natural environment and promote sustainable communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. By targeting Living Building certification, the six-story office building was built to achieve the highest level of sustainability, and needed to meet rigorous performance standards. Building materials were sustainably sourced, rainwater is collected and treated to supply all water needs, gray water is cleaned and returned to the natural environment, and the building produces all of the energy it consumes.

    The Bullitt Center set the bar for this level of green building in an urban setting.

    Nearly a decade later, the Bullitt Center's 50,000-gallon rainwater cistern has never dropped below 50% capacity, and the system continues to meet all the occupants' water needs and provides irrigation for landscaping in the summer months. Generating on average 24% more energy than it uses, it is still one of the largest net positive energy buildings in the world. And it still serves as a testament to what sustainable, performance-based design and construction can be.


    As contractors, it is our responsibility to consider the impact our projects have on the natural environment; not only by promoting green building practices, but by finding opportunities to educate the industry and our clients on the importance of sustainable design and construction.

    At Schuchart, one of our core values is staying ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainable construction strategies. We approach each of our projects with this in mind, and always make supporting our clients' sustainability goals a priority.


    In building the Bullitt Center, Schuchart was at the forefront of the first Living Building Challenge efforts, working with the project team to generate the original Red List document that is now used as the baseline materials reference for all Living Building Challenge projects. This led to continued work on multiple tenant improvements in the Watershed Building, which is pursuing Petal Certification through the Living Building Challenge. By monitoring Red List materials, repurposing existing materials to reduce waste, and focusing on construction solutions that support energy- and water-saving strategies, we built out these spaces to meet Living Building Challenge certification as well, a requirement of all occupants of a Living Building.

    Collaborating on these projects gave us additional opportunities to work toward a new standard for development, design, and construction that focuses on long-term environmental performance and reducing environmental footprint. We've been able to participate in some groundbreaking sustainable projects that have helped redefine how buildings are designed, built, and operated, and we can't wait to do it again.


    Planned to be constructed on a prominent site along Tacoma's Thea Foss Waterway, the Ship Lofts mixed-use building is the next project that will pursue the Living Building Challenge. The project aims to help address Tacoma's growing housing shortage by providing a sought-after multifamily community that prioritizes the importance of sustainable living.

    Ship Lofts presents the opportunity for visionary developer David Grieshaber to fulfill his goal of creating “an iconic building with eco-friendly design.” Inspired by the success of the Bullitt Center, this project will feature passive, carbon-neutral units constructed of mass timber, recycled industrial and natural materials, and repurposed cargo containers, all locally sourced. Net-zero strategies include rainwater harvesting, gray water distribution, and intelligent energy consumption systems.

    This keystone project will leverage its unique look and prominent location to promote sustainable strategies and the Living Building Challenge principles. It will once again set the bar for green building, this time in a multifamily residential setting.

    Ship Lofts is also the next opportunity for Schuchart to join long-time collaborators Olson Kundig, PAE, and DCI Engineers to apply our dedication to sustainability and our Living Building Challenge experience to support David Grieshaber's vision.


    As we continue to expand our built environment, we must keep environmental stewardship and sustainability at the forefront. We must strive to make sustainable building benchmarks a standard part of the design and construction process. The Ship Lofts project will once again prove that performance-based design in an urban setting can work, and is the next step toward promoting green building practices throughout the region.

    Like the Bullitt Center nearly 10 years before it, Ship Lofts will establish a new standard for urban sustainability and serve as both an inspiration and educational resource for the next generation of high-performance buildings.

    As a follow up to this article, we'll explore best practices when planning a building that will pursue Living Building certification, and some of the challenges to anticipate on a multifamily Living Building project.

    Learn more about the Ship Lofts project at https://shiplofts.com.

    Eric Petersen leads the Ground Up Division at Schuchart, overseeing the company's new building projects throughout the Puget Sound region.

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