October 31, 2014

Cover Story - Green Building

Going Green

Water-supply woes, energy costs and environmental concerns are pushing green building practices into the mainstream in Florida.

Cynthia Barnett | 2/1/2007

Sarasota County pioneered green-building concepts in Florida in 1994, when it built the Florida House Learning Center, a prototype home that draws visitors from around the world who want to check out the latest energy- and water-saving products. Today, the county has developed the most aggressive green-building incentive program in the state, including measures that have shown how Floridians can make dramatic cutbacks in water use and still enjoy beautiful landscapes. The county's residents use a little more than half the statewide average of 174 gallons per person per day, responding to landscaping requirements standard in green building.


Sipping: Rinker Hall at the University of Florida in Gainesville uses less potable water each day than an average home.

Meanwhile, at the University of Florida, President Bernie Machen has mandated all future buildings be LEED-certified; three LEED buildings constructed so far use about half the energy and less than half the water of traditional structures. UF's first green building, Rinker Hall, part of the College of Design & Construction, serves some 1,000 students, faculty and staff each day yet uses less potable water than the average house. An 8,000-gallon cistern captures rainwater for irrigation and toilet-flushing. The traditional-looking urinals are waterless.

JEA, Jacksonville's public utility that supplies both electricity and water, has sought to preclude the need for a new power plant by creating incentives for conservation. Last year, JEA launched Green Built Homes of Florida, an incentive-based program that gives builders rebates for every home that meets Energy Star standards -- an EPA measure of energy efficiency calculated to reduce energy demand and air pollution. Over time, JEA executives hope the program will generate the kind of savings realized by Austin Energy in Texas, where aggressive efficiency programs over two decades offset the need for a 680-megawatt plant.

Small Steps, Big Savings
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, if each household in Florida replaced just one incandescent light bulb with one fluorescent bulb, the change would save $43 million in energy bills. Reducing use that much would keep 727 million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere -- the equivalent of taking 64,774 cars off the road.

Healthier

In addition to saving natural resources and money, some companies have realized that green buildings can be healthier for the people who work or live in them. In Pensacola, managers at the Virginia-based Navy Federal Credit Union built a new call center with both human and natural resources in mind. In addition to energy savings, the company was concerned about worker productivity and satisfaction at the old call center, which had a 60% turnover rate.

At the new building, workers enjoy natural lighting and look out of large windows into a live oak grove as they work. The center floor was designed so that "even the person farthest from the window and sitting down can appreciate those views," says Preben Ebbesen, senior vice president for construction for Navy Federal. All employees have a unit under their desks -- workers call them "salad spinners" -- that lets them control their own heat, air and circulation.

Turnover has dropped to 20%, Ebbesen says. Employees "have such a good attitude that when anyone from headquarters comes down from Virginia, within 10 minutes they're shaking their heads in disbelief," he says. "We wanted a healthy building where the people feel good working, where they feel good when they come in the morning and when they go home at night. LEED turned out to be a very good template for that."

Tags: Around Florida, Energy & Utilities, Environment, Housing/Construction

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