How can a six-story, 50,000-sq.-ft. office building in downtown Seattle function completely off the grid? The answer involves solar panels for energy, geothermal wells for heat, a giant rain cistern for water and composting toilets for keeping sewage out of everything else. The toilets were just installed at the Bullitt Center, which is set to be completed this fall. “You have to remember to flush before and after,” says Bullitt Foundation president and Earth Day founder Denis Hayes. “But that may be the single largest lifestyle change.”
Even with the building managing vital systems, users must make lifestyle changes, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, for instance, and choosing MacBook Air laptops — which pull less energy than a 100-watt bulb — over a desktop. As for those special toilets, their contents will get composted and decontaminated before being shipped off-site to be used as fertilizer.
My only thing: It seems so unsocial to be off the grid. I do not like the idea of a building or even a house being isolated and self-sufficient. This just doesn't feel right to me. This doesn't feel like what a city is supposed to be.