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Denis Hayes's Origin Story

Denis Hayes's Origin Story
In high school in Camas, Bullitt Foundation CEO Denis Hayes got a National Science Grant to study ecology. This being the early '60s, nobody (including Denis) had ever heard of ecology. Fast forward half a century, and Denis is spearheading a project to build the $30M Bullitt Center, the world's greenest commercial building.
Denis Hayes of the Bullitt Foundation in front of his First Hill office.
Sure, building green means spending more green. That's only one way to look at it, Denis told us over lunch at The Rhododendron Restaurant inside the Inn at Virginia Mason. Here's the other: The center is designed to last for 250 years (normal life expectancy for a commercial building: 40 years) and withstand an earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter scale. Oh, and be carbon negative, too. (Richter didn't make a scale for that one. Too busy hiding under his desk.)
A rendering of the upcoming Bullitt Center on Capitol Hill.
The Bullitt Foundation is willing to pay a bit more for the knowledge that they're making the world a greener place (tenants won't be asked to share in the cost; they'll pay the same rates they would for other class-A office space, Denis says.) If they live within their energy budgets, they won't pay for water or electricity either: The building is designed to generate all of its energy onsite, collect and store rainwater in a 52,000 gallon tank in the basement (eliminating the need for individual water coolers on every floor) and generate 230k kilowatt hours per year (no small feat considering Seattle doesn't get much sun). Denis and architect Miller Hull Partnership worked with Christopher Meek and Rob Pea of the UW's Integrated Design Lab to maximize daylighting.
Denis Hayes as head of the Solar Energy Research Institute during the Carter administration.
It was in the Namibian desert at age 19 that Denis, disillusioned by some of the policies of 1960s America, decided he wanted to devote the rest of his life to global environmental problems. Before signing on with Bullitt, he worked for the Carter administration heading up the Solar Energy Research Institute (today it's the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) in pinstriped suits that make us sigh for the Mad Men era. He was initially plucked from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government when Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson tapped him to organize the first Earth Day celebration in 1970.
Harbor Urban's Aspira apartments in downtown Seattle.
Partly thanks to Denis and colleagues like Jason McLennan at the Cascadia Green Building Council, green is the new black in Seattle. Here's Aspira, Harbor Urban's shimmery 37-story apartment building, the city's first high-rise to receive a 4-star built green rating. Things any business can do to consume less energy, according to Denis: use Macbook Air computers, which draw only 12 watts of electricity; invest in LED tasklights that use only two; and have only one printer. Our suggestion—encourage people to talk less, thus reducing CO2 emissions—didn't seem to make the list.