Cover Story - Green Building
Water-supply woes, energy costs and environmental concerns are pushing green building practices into the mainstream in Florida.
In the wake of Florida's last drought, Miami-Dade County officials asked the South Florida
Water Management District for permission to increase ground-water withdrawals by 100 million gallons a day to keep pace with population growth. The district's answer was a short, shocking "no."
The water managers based their decision on the region's depleted groundwater resources and the fact that Miami-Dade recycled only 5% of the water it used. For Miami-Dade County, the inability to pump more water helped put major proposed developments on hold and sent officials and developers scrambling.
Part of the county's response has been an effort to promote a more environmentally sustainable approach to growth, including "green building" practices -- ways to build homes, offices and other developments that use less water and energy and are healthier for the people who live and work in them. Today, Miami-Dade offers fast-track permitting for developers with green-building plans, tax incentives for companies that build green and a mandate that all future county government buildings be built green.
Whether Miami-Dade can sustain growth and live within its environmental means is yet to be seen. But the green-building policy is not some "warm and fuzzy" tactic calculated to appease environmentalists and get growth back on track, says Pierce Jones, director of the University of Florida's Program for Resource Efficient Communities. "When you consider Florida's population growth and the water and energy it would take to meet that growth if nothing changes, you can see that it's just not going to be possible in many parts of the state. That's what makes this a serious business issue."
Florida's LEED Buildings
Eugene M. & Christine Lynn Business Center, DeLand
Rinker Hall, Gainesville
Navy Federal Credit Union Remote Call Center, Pensacola
Happy Feet Plus Inc., Clearwater
North Sarasota Public Library, Sarasota
McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, Gainesville
Whole Foods Market, Sarasota
Twin Lakes Park Office Complex, Sarasota
Deer Park Bottling Plant, Lee
Powell Structures and Materials Testing Laboratory, Gainesville
Source: U.S. Green Building Council
Until recently, Florida has lagged a burgeoning national green-building trend. Many states have dozens of buildings certified under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) program, a national standard for commercial buildings. By contrast, there are only 10 LEED-certified buildings in Florida.
But now, green building is poised to go mainstream. Since December 2004, the number of Florida commercial projects seeking LEED certification rose from 30 to 133. Last year, the Florida Home Builders Association agreed to adopt the standards set forth by the Florida Green Building Coalition, a non-profit organization that has worked for years to create rigorous practices, including for houses.
Green-building pioneers are working on projects all over Florida -- in both residential and commercial building sectors. WCI is building the Venetian Golf & River Club in Venice, where all homes -- eventually 1,100 -- will be certified green. The homes include passive design features, including sun-exposure orientation, cross-ventilation, solar lighting and native landscaping rather than mechanical irrigation systems; use of renewable materials; energy-efficient appliances; and water-conserving plumbing. WCI also is working on plans -- along with the Florida Solar Energy Center -- to build a zero-energy model home in its planned Artesia community in Collier County.