Paying Off in Efficiency
SAN JOSE, Calif. - (KRT) - In a basement in Menlo Park, Calif., six huge stainless steel machines crank out ice. When the ice melts in the building, chilled water runs past a large fan, creating cold air that is pumped through vents in the floor during the day. The icy air cools the structure, reducing energy bills and the need for air conditioning during peak electricity demand times.
The ice system is a centerpiece of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s new headquarters, a 48,000-square-foot building that is part Earth Day and part bottom line. Completed in 2002, the building, which uses 35 percent less energy and 15 percent less water than a typical building its size, was recently certified as one of California’s top examples of “green building.”
Green building is a fast-growing trend aiming to design buildings that consume less energy and water; use recycled materials; and keep employees healthy and productive with lots of natural light, good ventilation and fewer toxic paints and adhesives.
“Construction costs are more expensive at the front end,” said Paul Brest, president of the Hewlett Foundation. “But it is clear that over time, you capture the savings. Anybody can do this, or at least parts of it.”
During the past four years, the amount of commercial and high-rise residential building space certified under national green building standards has increased from 8 million square feet in 2000 to 149 million square feet today, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., made up of architects, designers, planners and other building professionals.
The council’s 4-year-old rating system, known as LEED - for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - is the most commonly used rating to certify environmentally sustainable architecture in the nation.
Governments and private companies also are catching the green building bug.
Three years ago, the San Jose City Council voted to require the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards on all new city government buildings larger than 10,000 square feet. The University of California and more than a dozen other cities More than a dozen other cities have passed similar rules.
A study in October by the California Sustainable Building Task Force, a collection of building industry representatives and state agency officials, with help from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, found that constructing a certified green building costs on average about 2 percent more than a traditional building of the same size. But the extra cost yields a tenfold savings over 20 years through lower energy and water bills, reduced waste disposal costs and increased productivity and health of workers, the report concluded.
For example, an extra investment of $100,000 to install green features into a $5 million project would save at least $1 million during the next 20 years, the report stated.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Center for Sustainable Development, buildings consume 40 percent of the world’s energy, 25 percent of its wood harvest and 16 percent of its water.
The Hewlett building, which cost $23 million to construct, is certified with a gold rating under the U.S. Green Building Council’s standards, the first commercial building in California with that status.
Its landscaping is drought-tolerant. Insulation comes from recycled denim - the shredded factory scraps left over from making blue jeans. Solar shingles line the roof. More than 83 percent of the wood, including the cherry trim, second-growth redwood siding, framing lumber and outdoor benches, is certified as having been grown sustainably. Tiles in showers and restrooms are made of recycled glass. The carpets are made of recycled nylon.
The building’s windows and roof have reflective coatings to cut down on heat. Motion sensors turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms. Storm water is filtered in natural swales outside. Heat and cool air are pumped through vents in the floor, so only the lowest six feet of each room is cooled or heated, saving energy.
One common feature of green buildings is an effort to reduce the risk of “sick building syndrome.” To be certified green, buildings must have significant natural light and minimal use of toxic paints and adhesives. Workers also must be able to control their own temperature, through windows or nearby vents. Paul Rogers, Knight Ridder Newspapers
WASHINGTON (AP) - Thinking it was renovating homes that the government owned, the nation’s housing agency paid for substandard and never-performed work that left properties in deplorable condition, congressional investigators say.
Despite “repair” bills paid by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the report - obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press - showed pictures of New York City properties with filthy bathrooms, stained ceilings, missing tiles and bare metal doors.
Payments included $1,590 for a small kitchen cabinet, $3,978 for an outdoor stoop with uneven patches of concrete and $1,082 for a few wooden dowels to help prop up a bannister.
The General Accounting Office report said $16.3 million in payments could not be supported and an additional $181,450 may have been fraudulent in the fiscal years ending Sept. 30, 2002, and 2003.
HUD, through its Federal Housing Administration, helps finance home purchases by insuring private lenders against losses. If buyers default, HUD assumes title to the properties and hires contractors to manage them and make repairs.
“HUD did not monitor contractor performance and take prompt action to correct known deficiencies,” the GAO said. “As a result, we found a number of instances where HUD paid for contractor services that were substandard or not performed at all.”
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