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Seattle University


The Right Place

Written by Mike Thee
April 8, 2013

If where you live says something about who you are, the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability's soon-to-be home speaks volumes.

Launched this year, the center will hang its shingle in what's being heralded as the greenest commercial building in the world, the Bullitt Center. Just steps away from campus at 1501 Madison St., the 50,000-square-foot building will celebrate its grand opening on Monday, April 22-Earth Day-with an 11 a.m. ribbon cutting and tours from noon to 5 p.m. All are invited to attend.

Phil Thompson stands outside the Bullitt Center, the future home of the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, which he directs.

The opening is one of many activities included in SU's celebration of Earth Week. Visit CEJS for the full slate of programming, which begins April 12 and includes, among other events, a gathering at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, April 19 in Casey Commons at which the first-ever recipients of the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability faculty fellowships will be announced.

But back to the Bullitt Center, "There is a tremendous harmony between what this building stands for and what we are aspiring to accomplish through the center," said Phil Thompson, director of the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability (CEJS). "We are thrilled to be located at the Bullitt Center and look forward to collaborating with our partners there." The CEJS plans to move into the Bullitt Center during the week of April 15.

Reimagining a Park

SU students have also been involved in redesigning McGilvra Place Park, which is adjacent to the Bullitt Center. As we reported in 2010, students in Associate Professor Marie Wong's Community Design Workshop Class developed a plan that is helping to guide a transformation of the park.

And yet the CEJS will be so much more than a like-minded tenant. Thompson and his students will play a critical role in ensuring the building lives up to its meteorically high eco-friendly standards. As Thompson explains, all the building's grey water (from sinks and showers) will be treated by a wetland on the building's third floor balcony. He and his students will do the water-quality testing the Department of Health is requiring.

The wetland is somewhat untested. "The firm that designed it has done other wetlands but never one that will treat just grey water," Thompson says. The question he and his students will investigate is whether there's enough substrate in the water to activate the biological treatment process.

President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., announced the center's launch in January. "Seattle University has a long tradition of leadership in sustainability and environmental justice and many of our faculty members in virtually all disciplines have been recognized as influential scholars on environmental issues," he wrote. "The center will bring these minds together to address the most urgent question of our time-how we as human beings can more responsibly and equitably steward the planet on which we live."