The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus  Awarded  LEED Platinum Certification

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus
Awarded LEED Platinum Certification

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

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% of the site back to green space via two acres of living roofs and native plantings. At 639,860 square feet 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 architectural 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 the primary water saving strategy. 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% 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 provides 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% 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% — double the national average. In addition, over 20% 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 job site.”

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 8% 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 and Workplace / Lighting / Environmental Graphics
  • Sellen: General Contractor
  • Seneca Group: Development Manager
  • Arup: SMEP (Structural Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing); AV/Acoustics and IT
  • Gustafson Guthrie Nichol: Landscape Architect
  • KPFF: Civil and 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 the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

    Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people — especially those with the fewest resources — have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at or join the conversation at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.