Cover Story - Green Building
Water-supply woes, energy costs and environmental concerns are pushing green building practices into the mainstream in Florida.
Costs and barriers
In a tiny, rural town called Lee in Madison County below the Florida-Georgia border sits one of the most state-of-the-art manufacturing plants in North America. Nestlé Waters North America cranks out 26 million cases of Zephyrhills, Deer Park and Nestle Pure Life products each year at the 646,000-sq.-ft. plant, which is also the Southeastern U.S. distribution center for all Nestlé water products, from Perrier to Pellegrino.
Last year, the Nestlé plant became the first manufacturing facility in Florida awarded LEED certification. The cost was considerable: Each of Nestlé's green factories cost the company between $350,000 and $500,000 more than a traditional plant, says Nghia Tran, Nestlé's senior design manager for facilities. The company hires an independent consultant to make sure the project adheres to Green Building Council guidelines, and it uses a unique but expensive natural wetlands system to treat wastewater.
If the costs are considerable, so are the savings: Nestlé's five LEED factories in Florida, California, Michigan, Texas and Tennessee have saved 1,500 megawatt hours of energy and 9 million gallons of water; kept 2 million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere; and kept 108,000 tons of solid waste out of landfills.
The steep initial price tag may make many green factories unrealistic, at least for now. But the once-prohibitive cost of building homes, office buildings and retail stores is falling as green-building practices become more widespread and green materials more available. For example, UF's Rinker Hall, which earned LEED Gold certification in 2004, cost 10% more to build than a traditional building. However, the only additional cost for the dozen new or planned LEED buildings on UF's campus is the LEED certification fee -- about $450, says Bahar Armaghani, assistant director of facilities planning and construction. "Even when you look at Rinker, the payback will take only seven years," says Armaghani. "We keep our buildings 100 years, so that's a good deal."