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Going Green

Building Green Series: Part 1

The Houston City Council will soon consider an updated energy code for commercial buildings. It’s part of growing government and private efforts to set more environmentally-friendly and energy-efficient construction standards. Ed Mayberry has the first of our five-part series on building green.


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Green building is a catch-all phrase that describes environmentally-friendly construction. Owners and tenants can be driven by the desire to reduce environmental impacts of buildings. But those structures also cost less to heat, cool and maintain, in the long-term. Mayor Bill White’s been pushing green construction since he’s been in office. He spoke at the recent Gulf Coast Green Symposium and Expo.

“We are at a very special time right now on energy-efficient design. And it’s not simply because somebody realized that it was a good idea. I’d have to tell you that if that were true that it would have occurred a long time ago.”

Mayor White says the city needs a new commercial energy code for buildings, taking into consideration all the technical advances in efficiency that have been made.

“You know, we want an ambitious but realistic new energy code that will allow new buildings to consume a lot less energy. We have both the technical design capabilities and the construction capabilities within this community to build commercial and residential buildings to be a lot more energy-efficient. We’re going to be updating our energy code in way that’s fairly dramatic in the next couple of months.”

At the Gulf Coast Green Symposium and Expo, the president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers said buildings consume about 40 percent of the primary energy in the U.S. Kent Peterson says building green is about value.

“Certainly, if I can get the building leased out quicker, if I can get a little bit more premium for the people that are leasing the space, if I increase the productivity of the people that happen to be in the space, we increase the value to the tenants that happen to be in the space and I reduce my turnover for the people in the space itself. Building owners out there and the managers are starting to understand the benefits of really going green.”

Peterson says retro-fitting existing buildings is important.

“New buildings only represent about two percent of the total building stock on an annual basis in the United States. And so if we want to reduce energy consumption in the building environment we have to address existing buildings, and make sure the building operates the way it was originally intended to operate. It’s amazing that we actually see buildings that can sometimes be using three times as much energy as they were originally designed and intended to actually consume.”

The technology to build more energy-efficient buildings has arrived.

“And some of the exciting things is the process changes on how we go about designing and constructing buildings are starting to change, where we can build more efficient buildings and it doesn’t cost more money.”

One process change is the utilization of the LEED system…

“It’s almost like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval.”

We’ll hear about LEED from sustainable landscape architect Margaret Robinson in tomorrow’s report. Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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