Mar 15th 2017 | Posted in Vertical by Kristin Gordon

Is it our responsibility to save the environment for future generations? Most of us make small efforts each day or go to great extremes to keep the Earth healthy. When did we become so green-minded? In 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced Energy Star as a voluntary labeling program designed to identify and promote energy-efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Computers and monitors were the first labeled products. Today, the Energy Star label is now on major appliances, office equipment, lighting, home electronics, new homes, commercial and industrial buildings and plants.

Energy Star has partnered with over 18,000 private and public sector organizations delivering technological innovations as efficient fluorescent lighting and low standby energy-use equipment.

An industry that erects structures  became more aware of the materials they were placing on virgin land around 1993, when Rick Fedrizzi, David Gottfried and Mike Italiano established the United States Green Building Council. The council evaluates the environmental performance of a building and encourages market transformation towards sustainable design.

During the council’s first meeting, the three men met with representatives from around 60 firms and several nonprofits in the American Institute of Architects’ boardroom and came up with a rating system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The rating system was unveiled in 2000 and has become an international standard for environmentally sound buildings, certifying hundreds of thousands of square feet per day.

LEED’s rating system applies to all kinds of structures, including schools, retail and healthcare facilities. Rating systems are available for new construction and major renovations as well as existing buildings. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.

The performance score corresponds with the globally recognized LEED certification levels of Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. There are more than 59,000 LEED-certified projects totaling 6 billion square feet in 164 countries. The U.S. Green Building Council announced its annual top 10 States for the LEED list, and Massachusetts, with 136 LEED-certified projects, moved up from its 2015 third-place position to top the 2016 ranking. Second place is Colorado. See the full list here.

The U.S. Green Building Council has released a report called LEED in Motion: Venues, which highlights the efforts of convention centers, sports venues, performing arts centers, community centers and public assembly spaces to transform their environmental, social and economic footprint through LEED certification. The report showcases some of the most impressive green venues around the world.

Golden 1 Center’s Live Wall. Photo courtesy of Golden 1 Center.

The Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., which is listed in the report, received LEED platinum status for its unique indoor/outdoor design. The $558.2 million multi-purpose indoor arena is completely powered by solar energy, saves 1 million gallons of water annually and has one of the largest onsite bike valet programs at a sports venue.  Completed in September 2016, the seven sections of the facility have 2,700 live wall modular planters that feature 5,400 plants.

In a push to make the city more environmentally friendly, Binghamton Mayor Richard David is proposing legislation to install a green roof at 38 Hawley St. The roof, part of an increasing trend in cities throughout the U.S., absorbs stormwater and deflects heat. That, in turn, decreases pressure on a city’s stormwater management system and lowers air conditioning costs for the building.

The $1.7 million project will include planting 22,500 square feet of sedum, also known as stonecrops, on its roof. The plants will require minimal maintenance and will regrow each year. Binghamton will apply for state environmental grant funding for 90 percent of the project’s cost.

In January, the College of Lake County (CLC) Board of Trustees approved several purchasing and financial items to help complete construction projects in the Sustainable Campus Master Plan.

Design plans call for creating a vibrant streetscape along Genesee Street, Madison Street and Sheridan Road, site of a new six-story building with sweeping views of Lake Michigan from a top-floor meeting and banquet room.

The project also includes renovating CLC’s buildings at 33 and 111 N. Genesee St., creating attractive outdoor spaces and building a second-story bridge from the college’s parking garage to the buildings. Construction bids are expected to go out in summer 2018, with construction planned from October 2018 to December 2020.

The new Lakeshore Campus building is being designed to achieve LEED platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Green features will include a rooftop photovoltaic array, geothermal heating and cooling, rainwater harvesting, LED lighting and a living wall. The location and proximity to mass transit increase the building’s potential for achieving platinum status.

The Lake Oswego School District in Oregon is trying to pass a $187 million bond measure that will be used for net-zero school buildings. Besides solar panels, other examples how schools could be built included window designs that allow for naturally lit classrooms and walls so well-insulated that the building can retain the heat generated by the bodies of the people inside, eliminating the need for a central forced-air heating system.  The building’s water supply consists solely of harvested rainwater and wastewater that is treated and reclaimed onsite, and produces no sewage waste — only fertilizer. The bond will be up for a vote in May.

Lake Mills Elementary School. Photo courtesy of Miron Construction.

Perhaps they are trying to follow the lead of Lake Mills Elementary School in Wisconsin. The K-12 school was the first in the nation to achieve platinum LEED v4 certification. The facility enhances the environment by promoting rainwater infiltration via bioswales and restoring 129,920 square feet of native/adaptive vegetation. Green features include a vegetated green roof, photovoltaic system, solar hot water system, operable windows,  GreenGuard furnishings and a web-based eco-screen. All of the teachers at the school earned credentials as Green Classroom Professionals and use the facility as a teaching tool.

Studies on the school building show that students had a 75 percent reduction in recorded asthma and allergy incidents, a 15 percent reduction in absenteeism and a 425 percent decrease in the number of communicable diseases. Additionally, nearly all standardized tests in science, social studies, reading and math across all grade levels have improved.

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