Green buildings

CEPD Moves to a new Green Space

By Brenda Reyes

If moving a family to a new house (and all the packing it takes) is quite the experience, imagine moving from where you have worked for the past decade along with almost 60 co-workers! About three months ago, our Caribbean Environmental Protection Division moved to a new location in City View Plaza, in my hometown of Guaynabo.  The best part for me and some coworkers is being five minutes from home (without any traffic), the hardest part was getting used to a larger office space.  Gone are the days when it took me about eight steps to reach the Deputy Director’s office. Our new office space is 21,000 square meters and boasts green features to lower environmental impact.

The bathrooms have high-efficiency faucets and low flush toilets to help reduce the amount of water consumed by almost 40% compared to standard faucets and toilets and to reduce the burden on drinking water and wastewater systems.  All wood used in the office space is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood or wood that has been reused to reduce materials consumption.  Infrared and motion sensors have been installed in the conference rooms, office spaces, open spaces and even in the modular desk task lights. These sensors ensure that lights are on only when the room is occupied, reducing energy consumption.  Furthermore, large high-efficiency tinted windows allow for natural light to provide illumination in the perimeter around the office and in the reception area-where a native Blue Mahoe desk presides over the area.   In my case those large windows provide me with a view from the San Juan Bay, El Morro Fort and the Cataño area.  The view is truly breathtaking!

All carpets used in the office are made of about 30% recycled material and are 100% recyclable. They also do not contain toxic chemicals found in conventional carpets.  Low VOC paint was used in the new space. Also, a high efficiency HVAC system not only saves on energy, but also has a special filter that will remove almost all particulate matter from the space.   All computer equipment in the office was purchased using the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool and all appliances in the lunch room are Energy Star. We also have bike racks for those who wish to pedal their way in and out of the office and we are on the bus route.  While we have not heard from the U.S. Green Building Council yet, EPA applied for the LEED certification for this new office space.

Three months have gone by and with each passing day I come to see this new space as a true example of sustainability in action.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Register Now for EPA’s Green Building Symposium | July 17-19: Why Build Green

By Tiana Ramos

And it’s live! Links to the event information and registration in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York are now available for EPA’s “Applying Green Building Research Today” symposium.  Regional EPA offices as well as the Office of Research and Development and the Office of Science Policy are looking forward to the event as they invite the last guests and tie the end knots!

What’s going on?

In case you missed the first blog post, EPA will host its “Applying Green Building Research Today” symposium July 17-19 in Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York City, with the Big Apple taking the spotlight on the afternoon of July 19.  Participants can view (online or in-person) presentations from green building experts on a variety of themes from the economics of building green to discussions of practical technological tools.

Why is building green important?

Buildings use excessive amounts of energy, accounting for 39 percent of total energy use in the United States and 68 percent of nationwide electricity consumption.  Buildings pollute outdoor and indoor environments.  According to the UN, the building sector is the largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.  And indoor pollutant levels can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels.  This isn’t summery news for a New Yorker spending over 90 percent of their time indoors.  If that’s not convincing enough, you can click here for more information.

“Green building” reduces and optimizes energy use in buildings that can improve the state of indoor and outdoor environments and provide the necessary health and comfort for residents.

What does a green building look like?

Building green can be well-installed faucets and insulated windows to state-of-the-art structures costing in the millions.  Building green does not always mean building something entirely new and futuristic.  For example, New York City can still maintain its cultural and historic architecture by simply retrofitting centuries-old buildings so they won’t overheat in the summer.  Green construction methods can be integrated into buildings at any stage, from design and construction, to renovation and deconstruction.

Register above to learn more about green buildings and tune in for continual updates on EPA’s Green Building Symposium to learn what it takes to build green.  Further questions or comments can be directed to ramos.tiana@epa.gov.   EPA would love to hear your feedback to better integrate green building concepts into your work!

About the author:   Tiana is an EPA GRO (Greater Research Opportunities) Fellow interning in New York City.   She is working on outreach and research for the Green Building Symposium “Applying Green Building Research Today.”  She is obtaining her BA in Environmental Studies and Economics at Wellesley College.  Her specific interest is sustainability-building in the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.  To follow the progress of the symposium, tune in to updated blog posts by her and her team members

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Learn What it Takes to Build Green: Tune into EPA’s Green Building Research Symposium | July 18-19.

By Tiana Ramos

Having never lived in New York City before a few weeks ago, I always envisioned it to be a gigantic urban center teeming with activity, people and traffic.  Symbols off the top of my head include the Empire State Building, Radio City Hall, the Statue of Liberty and Rockefeller Center.  Although I did not know what all of these did or stood for (just saw them on TV), I knew one thing: they consisted of buildings.  Let’s face it: New York City isn’t known for lush and verdant landscape, but for towering skyscrapers and complexes.

As an environmentalist, I was a little discouraged tackling the city.  There is rapid, inefficient development everywhere, low to no biodiversity, and not a green spruce in sight.  But I came to learn there is much potential in transforming people’s home and work life, starting with New York City’s foundation: buildings.  As the epicenter for design and innovation, I knew New York had the power to fundamentally establish sustainability into building development.

I wanted exposure to the workings of EPA in development, so I applied for and graciously received the EPA GRO Fellowship Award.  This grant funds two years of my undergraduate education and provides me a research internship at the EPA.  Since I was curious about New York City’s potential, I seized the opportunity to be selected to work with EPA Region 2 and their partners on a green building research symposium this summer.  From July 17-19, the EPA will host its “Applying Green Building Research Today” symposium in three of the most industrialized cities of the world, with the Big Apple taking the spotlight on the afternoon of July 19.  Participants can view (online or in-person) presentations from experts that will focus on Technology, Product, and Services, Social Science/Human Behavior Building and Community, and Human & Ecological Health and Finance/Accounting.  It will be held 1-5PM (EST) for the three days in New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

In-person registration will open soon, but to learn more please send me a note at ramos.tiana@epa.gov to be added to the mailing list.  I hope you come to be as educated and inspired as I am working on this project.  EPA would also love to hear feedback to better integrate green building concepts into peoples’ work.  So save the date and tune in for continual updates on NYC’s Green Building Symposium.  Get excited!

About the author:   Tiana is an EPA GRO (Greater Research Opportunities) Fellow currently interning in EPA’s Region 2 in New York City.   She is working on the outreach and research for the Green Building Symposium “Applying Green Building Research Today”.  She is obtaining her BA in Environmental Studies and Economics at Wellesley College.  Her specific interest is sustainability-building in the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico.  To follow the progress of the Symposium, tune in to updated blog posts by her and team members.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Greening the Empire State Building

By Larry Siegel

King Kong would have been a big help on this project! Unfortunately, since the big guy wasn’t around it fell on Serious Materials, a Silicon Valley firm, to replace all 6,514 windows in the iconic Empire State Building.

Working at night so as not to disturb tenants and tourists in New York’s 102-story Art Deco landmark at Fifth Avenue and West 34th Street, workers used a high-tech process to remove every window from its frame and separate the glass. Renovating roughly 50 windows a night, they installed a clear, mylar-like plastic sheath in between the double panes, then filled the windows with an argon-krypton gas, resealed them and reinstalled them.

The result? The windows are four times more insulated than the old ones and will save $410,000 a year in heating and air conditioning costs!

The massive project is part of a $550 million upgrade of the Empire State Building, which was constructed in 1931 and held the title of world’s tallest building until 1973, when the World Trade Center was completed.

A key component of the renovation is eight projects totaling $13.2 million that will cut the building’s energy costs by 38 percent by 2013 and pay for themselves in three years. Those projects, which include the window replacements, also will insulate radiators, install more efficient lighting controls and upgrade the building’s cold water and ventilation systems.

Anthony Malkin, manager of the Empire State building, points out that, “The least expensive source of energy is energy savings. Before you start putting solar panels and wind generators on buildings you have to look at energy efficiency. You get three to five times the bang for the buck per watt, for efficiency.”

In writing about the Empires State Building project, journalist Paul Rogers writes, “Energy efficiency renovations have enormous potential as a growing industry. Nationwide, 72 percent of all commercial building space in the United States is at least 20 years old. And 43 percent of the office space in New York City was built before 1945.”

As Ashley Katz, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C., points out, “Building green doesn’t have to cost a penny more than a conventional building. Most costs are recouped in a few years, and after that you are going to be just saving.”

About the Author: Larry Siegel has worked as a writer of corporate policies and procedures and as a technical writer. He currently works as a Pesticide Community Outreach Specialist for the Pesticide and Toxic Substances Branch in Edison, NJ

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Fall Classics

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Aaron Ferster

The big yellow school buses have begun rolling into the neighborhood every morning again. The heat waves of the summer have relinquished. And I’ve noticed a leaf or two starting to fade. This can only mean one thing: it’s time for pennant races to get going!

As a former resident of the Bronx—and a life-long Yankee fan—I have spent more Septembers than I care to admit fixated on the epic struggle for baseball’s biggest prize: beating the Red Sox. (Okay, it’s pretty thrilling watching N.Y. win the World Series, too.)

But now that I’ve lived in the DC area as long as I’ve lived in New York, I have to admit that the baseball universe is larger than just two teams. I’ve even started to learn about my adopted hometown’s Washington Nationals.

Although I don’t think I’ll need to worry about choosing between N.Y. and D.C. in the Series anytime soon, I now know one area where the Nationals are already contending: the rain delay.

Earlier this season, a colleague invited me to tag along with a number of other EPA employees for a lunch-hour tour of Nationals Park. The team was eager to tout the numerous environmentally- sustainable, “green architecture” features of their new stadium.

According to their web site, “Nationals Park is the nation’s first major professional stadium to become LEED Silver Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.” To start, the ballpark is easily accessible to public transportation, and offers bicycles valet parking. A green roof—much like one EPA scientists are studying—sits atop a concession and restroom area.

I was particularly impressed with steps the team has taken to filter ground and stormwater runoff, another area of great interest to EPA researchers. An intricate system separates water used to clean the stadium from rainwater runoff, filtering both before any is released into the sanitary or stormwater drains. The end result is that the entire stadium acts like a giant rain garden (another EPA research subject) that helps protect the nearby Anacostia River. They even take pains to keep discarded peanut shells from entering the wastewater flow!

While the Nationals might not have the line up of the big budget teams up North, they sure do impress with their investment to environmental sustainability. Even this Yankee fan is impressed.

About the author: Aaron Ferster is the managing editor of Science Wednesday, and a frequent contributor.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.