Green Building – A Win-Win

by Alison Lueders, Great Green Editing

Since real estate and construction together comprise almost 20% of Florida’s 2011 GDP, let’s take a moment to talk about green building. Buildings – both residential and commercial – produce about 40% of CO2 emissions worldwide due to heating, cooling and lighting. This makes them one of the biggest targets for energy efficiency improvements. Most people know about LEED – the “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” building rating system that was launched in 1998. This system of ratings and awards has spurred green building in many places, and Florida is no exception.

Here are 2 examples of green buildings locally:

  • In June 2012, the Tampa Bay History Center garnered a “Silver” rating from the US Green Building Council. This 60,000 square foot building along the Riverwalk was built using renewable materials, low-flow water fixtures, high efficiency heating and cooling systems, and water-saving landscaping.
  • In 2010, when the Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office in Orlando needed a new facility, they built green. It is now the only “Gold” LEED-certified morgue in the country. Last week I toured the building under the auspices of the US Green Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Jan Garavaglia, the Chief Medical Examiner, certainly appreciates the larger and more modern space in which to work. She also reports that one of the unexpected benefits is that employees are noticeably happier in more comfortable and well-lit surroundings.

Cost Myth Busted

Lest you think that building green always costs more up front, the morgue in Orlando cost much LESS than a similar building would have cost without the green “upgrades”. Try $290/square foot vs. $400-$450/square foot – this from the building’s engineering firm. In fact, the construction company gave back $1 million at the end of the project because costs were so much lower than expected. Best of all – this is a public building. Public buildings that cost less to build – and less to maintain going forward – can translate to lower taxes for Florida citizens.

Want to learn more? Check out the official US Green Building Council website. Also, register for the Florida Green Building Coalition’s Green Trends 2012 Conference, September 12-14 in West Palm Beach, to glimpse the future of green building.