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Special Energy Issue 2008
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What Makes a
Building Green?

This question has become easier to answer thanks largely to the U.S. Green Building Association (USGBA), which has developed extensive guidelines to abide while building green.

Reflective Roofs: Reduce the amount of heat buildings absorb from the sun, contributing to greater energy efficiency.

Construction Pollution Reduction: Builders must create an erosion and sedimentation control plan for all construction activities to protect soil, area streams, and prevent dust pollution.

Heating and Cooling Specs: Heating and cooling systems are tested rigorously for energy efficiency during and after construction.

Size and Placement of Windows: Natural sunlight goes a long way to lift employee mood and morale.

Source: U.S. Green Building Council

Between Ecology
and Economy

Profitable results as builders and employers go green

by Michael Castellon

For years, the conversation about eco-friendly practices was limited to earthy coffee houses and college campuses. But now it has expanded to corporate boardrooms and office break rooms. When ecology and economy collide, the result is not only a healthy planet but also a surprising cycle of revenue and growth.

In Texas, sustainability has met profitability. An epic gap has historically existed between businesses and environmentalists who together walk the line between maximizing revenue while doing what’s best to preserve the earth’s natural resources. Many Texas businesses and corporations have discovered that “greenability” provides big gains to the bottom line while contributing to healthier workers.

Background

Just a few years ago, designing and building an eco-friendly residential or commercial building was wildly expensive. Further complicating matters, many industry and environmental officials couldn’t define what it meant to be green.

“Our goal is to create an environment where the non-profit world and the for-profit world can come together to facilitate this cycle.”
– Lance Sallis, Trammell Crow Co.

The proposed Clean Energy Park is located on 139 acres southeast of the intersection of I-35 and East Ben White Boulevard, around East Stassney Lane and Burleson Rd.

But now, thanks largely to the exponential growth of a population of Texans who seek to live and work in eco-friendly homes and offices, going green is easier, cheaper and more profitable than ever. More earth-friendly paint and lumber products are available, as are construction waste recycling services.

“Years ago, there weren’t many suppliers of eco-friendly products, which kept prices high,” says Lance Sallis, managing partner in Trammell Crow Co.’s Austin office. “Thanks to growing awareness across the state, we now have more suppliers of these products. Going green now costs only about 5 to 10 percent more than traditional building projects.”

And that slight cost increase pays off for tenants in various ways, usually on energy cost savings. Green-engineered buildings are designed and tested to efficiently heat and cool throughout the year.

Government Canyon Visitor Center,
Texas Parks and Wildlife

The Government Canyon Visitor Center in Helotes uses sheltered outdoor spaces that catch the breezes. This cuts air conditioning needs by 35 percent.

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Sallis says demand for green homes and office buildings has risen dramatically across Texas.

“Corporations and other businesses have discovered that employees not only expect to work in clean environments, but they thrive in them,” he says.

Sallis should know. Trammell Crow Co. is overseeing the development of the Texas Clean Energy Park, a 140-acre, 12-building, $100 million facility that will serve as a green research, training, and business center in Austin.

The million-square-foot space will be a major component to Texas’ renewable energy industries.

The facility is expected to have a tremendous economic impact, signaling that Texas is onboard with renewable energies, which will attract a number of jobs in research and innovation related to renewable energy.


Spring Terrace, Foundation Communities

Austin’s Spring Terrace, a multi-unit residential building, uses solar power and rainwater harvesting to supplement utility use.

Photo courtesy of Foundation Communities

“Organizations and government agencies throughout the state realize that this market segment is here to stay,” Sallis says. “Not only is this good for the earth, but it’s good for economic development. Green energy pays good wages, and a commitment to green energy attracts and provides jobs.”

The Texas Workforce Commission agreed, and provided a $600,000 grant to help launch the first phase of the Texas Clean Energy Park.

But there’s a bigger need to build green. As more developers move to eco-conscious practices, greater demand for materials is achieved, and as a result, so increases the demand for research and innovation in these areas.

“Our goal is to create an environment where the nonprofit world and the for-profit world can come together to facilitate this cycle,” Sallis says.

In that regard, the Clean Energy Park provides a one-two punch in support of natural and human resources: the facilities will be constructed using eco-friendly methods conducive to the health of the surrounding environment as well as the building’s tenants, and will also be a major hub for renewable energy research and business for the long-term. FN

For more information on green building practices and guidelines, visit the U.S. Green Building Council at www.usgbc.org.

Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, City of Austin

The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless has a 13,000-gallon rainwater collection system and a passive solar hot water system.

Photo courtesy of Austin Resource Center for the Homeless

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