March 31, 2015

Green Light on Green Development

Cynthia Barnett | 9/19/2011
Life Science & Technology building
Exterior features of the Life Science & Technology building reduce heat gain.

Under construction in the Miami health district on the city's northeast side, the University of Miami's new Life Science & Technology Park represents a leap in sustainable design and construction in Florida when it comes to both energy and water: An air-management system known as total energy recovery will cut energy use — and bills — by about 25%. Chilled beams, which use water instead of air to cool a coil in the beam, eliminate energy-intense, noisy fans.

To slash water consumption, the complex will capture rainfall, along with all condensate from the air-conditioning units, to irrigate the grounds and flush toilets.

The techniques are all part of the "next generation" of green building. The field has grown well beyond energy-saving appliances and water-saving fixtures, non-toxic paints and native landscaping to include progressive new practices that use a fraction of the power and hardly any potable water. Next-gen green lags in Florida in the wake of the housing bust that brought so much construction to a halt. Still, there's promising news on two fronts:

» For current construction, green practices have become standard. Most new construction in Florida features energy- and water-efficient fixtures and "Florida-friendly" landscaping. "Pretty soon, 'green building' will just be known as 'building,' says Tim Center, vice president for sustainability initiatives at the Collins Center for Public Policy.

» Second, some governments and private companies are showing how sustainable construction can save more money and natural resources than was thought possible a few years ago. Local governments including Sarasota, Tampa, Miami-Dade and Gainesville have created green incentives through local ordinances. Meanwhile, new techniques are sprouting on college campuses. "The universities tend to be leading the charge," says Joe Reagan, vice president and regional executive for Baltimore-based Wexford Equities, who is overseeing design, construction and leasing for the first building in the UM tech park.

Energy-efficient chillers cool water at the Life Science & Technology Park under construction in Miami.

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