Sunday, October 28, 2007

Energy Retrofits:

When I was a senior in high school, I was able to visit an architectural firm. This was no regular firm; they specialized in sustainable architecture and worked out of a retrofitted post office. The building had been salvaged after a minor fire and the post office had moved onto another building. The architects redesigned the building to satisfy the highest level of LEED certification.

There were solar panels, grey water treatment, rain water catchments and a green roofs featured on top of their building that was is the process of being built when I got to visit. Inside, the floors were made out of fast-growing bamboo. The walls and office dividers were made out of those compressed hay panels that Beatley talked about in his chapter. The architect’s desks were recycled doors from the original post office. All of the appliances were EnergyStar and the bathrooms featured low flow toilets and sinks. The paints used were all ecologically friendly and as I remember their furniture was made out of recycled materials.

With so many recycled products in the office, it would seem like a pretty shabby place. However, that was not the case at all. If the architects hadn’t explained the energy efficient assets in their office I would have thought that everything was brand new. What’s more is that they used their office as an example for their clients—so that they could see that sustainable building practices were attractive and cutting edge. They also encouraged their clients to choose local or recycled building materials in the designs for new buildings. In this way, they were not only able to put their principles into practice, but also influence other major community stakeholders to incorporate sustainable practices into their business.

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