Take action to reduce energy use, become more efficient
|The Merchandise Mart in Chicago recently received a LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for an extensive project to make the largest commercial building in the world more sustainable.
Although there is a perecent interest in finding new ways to create a more sustainable society, the role buildings play is often overlooked. In the United States alone, buildings consume more than 70 percent of electricity, use 40 percent of all energy, emit 38 percent of CO2 and consume 14 percent of water. In addition, waste generated at buildings accounts for 30 percent (136 million tons) of the total waste generated in the U.S. each year. Buildings also account for more than 40 percent of the use of raw materials.
Executive orders signed by Presidents Bush and Obama require the federal government to take serious steps to reduce the amount of energy consumed in government buildings and the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted through all federal activities. Agencies need to take a hard look at long standing practices in the construction, operation and maintenance of their buildings.
Federal agencies must now design and operate buildings according to five “Guiding Principles” for sustainable construction. The five principles are:
- employ integrated design,
- optimize energy performance,
- protect and conserve water,
- enhance indoor environmental quality, and
- reduce the environmental impact of materials.
These principles apply not only to new construction, but also to existing buildings. At Fermilab, we need to examine existing buildings for ways to increase energy efficiency, for example, through the use of natural light, using renewable energy where feasible, increasing insulation and employing “cool” roofs. We can improve water management by locating and repairing leaks, switching to low-flow fixtures where necessary, and not using drinking water for landscaping and process. We can decrease the impact materials have on the environment by using more recycled products and products that are recyclable or compostable, using bio-based products where available and buying locally to decrease transportation impacts.
You can get more information about sustainable buildings at www.wbdg.org.
-- Rod Walton, ecologist
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