Consider this: buildings in the U.S., according to scientists at Berkeley Lab, consume 72 percent of electricity produced, and 55 percent of natural gas use. They account for about 40 percent of total U.S. energy consumption (costing $350 billion per year) and greenhouse gas emissions.
Looking at these statistics it is easy to conclude that reducing the GHG emissions associated with buildings is essential to reducing overall U.S. emissions. One way to do this is constructing new green buildings or retrofitting older ones.
So, in light of this information, here are a few of the shining examples of green projects making headlines around the U.S. More can and should be done with our buildings. If we build more green ones and retrofit old ones, we’ll decrease our energy usage and lower GHG emissions--a double win-win.
Portland’s Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt Federal Building
The federal government announced the largest stimulus-funded project in Oregon which will create 3,250 new jobs at a price tag of about $133 million. Downtown Portland’s 18-story Edith Green/Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, awarded a green makeover, could become a national model for large scale, environmentally conscious construction.
Phoenix’s Arizona Biomedical Collaborative
According to the Phoenix Business Journal, Arizona Biomedical Collaborative No. 1 has received a gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. The 85,069-square-foot building at Fifth and Van Buren streets in Phoenix is a cooperative between Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. It was designed by SmithGroup in Phoenix and built by DPR construction. The building features a 30 percent savings in energy costs and had 86 percent of its construction waste diverted from landfills. It will be featured as part of the USGBC’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo and a series of project tours.
Joliet’s Green Denny’s
A new Denny’s restaurant in Joliet, IL, got national recognition for saving energy and becoming the chain’s first LEED-certified eatery. No easy task. Only about a half-dozen U.S. restaurants have attained the ranking, including one McDonald’s on South Ashland Avenue in Chicago. The numbers are low because restaurants are notoriously huge energy consumers. According to the Energy Information Administration, food service operations are considered the most energy-intensive commercial buildings in the U.S. consuming nearly three times more than an average commercial building. It's impossible to run a restaurant without grills, fryers, toasters, ovens, ice machines, and freezers. Still, there are ways to do it smarter, as Denny's owner Joey Terrell told the Chicago Tribune.
“Take fryers, for example. I switched to a model in which the oil is recycled three times to cook different products -- first fries, then chicken, then fish -- before it's moved to a container to be picked up for use as biofuel and other purposes,” Terrell explained. “The fridge sits next to the freezer to take advantage of the latter's subzero temperature. The roof is covered in a white seal-coating instead of black so sunlight is reflected rather than retained. As a result, it takes far less energy to cool the outside air to 72 degrees for air conditioning.”
The feature Terrell's most proud of is the one thing that grabs you the minute you walk in the door: Four 4-by-4-foot skylights that use mirrors to harvest daylight, casting natural light on the 150-seat dining room. They were built in Downstate Arthur by Amish craftsmen, who used no electricity.
New York City’s Largest Green Roof
One of the largest green builders in the country, Turner Construction, finished installing New York City's largest green roof. The company installed plants, grasses, and fourteen benches made of FSC certified lumber for the United States Postal Service. The 2.5-acre green roof sits on the Morgan Mail Processing Facility on West 28th Street. According to Preston Koerner of Jetson Green magazine, it's expected to reduce storm water runoff and save $30,000 each year in heating and cooling costs. Built in 1933, the Morgan Facility is an historic landmark. When the old roof came up for replacement in 2007, the green option fit with the USPS's sustainability initiatives. Installing the Morgan green roof will help the USPS meet its goal to reduce energy usage by 30% by 2015.
Image courtesy of Equity Green
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