The operation of buildings in the U.S. accounts for 43 percent of all U.S. carbon emissions, and 76 percent of U.S. electricity use. Every year five billion square feet are built in the U.S., five billion feet are renovated, and 1.75 billion square feet of buildings are demolished. Energy conservation and efficiency improvements in the building sector have the “greatest potential for an effective near-term mitigation wedge for climate change,” according to a study cited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The American Institute of Architect’s Committee on the Environment (AIACE) released its 2009 list of top ten new buildings with outstanding environmentally responsible architecture and design. Three California buildings made the list: Chartwell School in Seaside, Gish Apartments in San Jose, and Portola Valley Town Center in Portola Valley.
Chartwell School is a Kindergarten through 12th grade school whose 21,000 square foot building achieved LEED-platinum rating. Completed in 2006, the school features a rain catcher system and a system to capture the condescension in the air from the area’s abundance of fog.
“The idea behind green building is integrative design,” said Douglas Atkins, executive director of Chartwell. The school was built on a site that would provide plenty of natural lighting and incorporated walls of windows in the classrooms. The school does not have to use artificial lighting during the day because of the school’s design. The school’s need for electricity dropped 50 percent as a result of using natural lighting.
The 35-unit Gish Apartments are a mixed-use site with a ground floor convenience story and hair styling salon. A rooftop solar system provides energy for the common use area. The apartment building is the only affordable housing in the U.S. to achieve LEED for Homes and LEED NC Gold certification.
The Portola Valley Town Center replaced and relocated the town’s library, community hall, and town hall because they were situation on the San Andreas Fault. The remnants from the site’s former buildings were recycled into the Center’s construction. Using salvaged wood reduced the Center’s construction carbon emissions by 32 percent. A solar power system provides 40 percent of the Center’s energy use.
California is the first to adopt statewide green construction code
It is not by chance that three of the buildings on AIACE’s list are located in California. In 2008, California became the first state to adopt a statewide code for green construction. The California Building Standards Commission voted 10 to 0 in favor of the code.
The code will take place in three stages. Starting July 1, 2009, the California Energy Commission’s Residential Energy Efficiency Standard will become twenty percent more stringent, which will make it fifty percent stricter than the International Energy Efficiency Code. In January 2001, rules for moisture control, indoor air quality, and waste recycling will become stricter. In July 2001, a rule mandating a 20 percent reduction in potable water use by buildings will take effect.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “By adopting this first-in-the-nation statewide green building code, California is again leading the way to fight climate change and protect the environment.”