Government buildings going Green
I got a chance to tour the Edith Green Wendell Wyatt federal building in downtown Portland yesterday. It’s about seven weeks away from being completely renovated with green building features that should cut energy use by 55 percent and potable water use by 60 percent.
The high-rise housed more than 1, 200 federal employees before the renovation – the IRS, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many other agencies have offices there.
They all had to move out during construction, and when they move back their building will have a rainwater collection system, solar panels on the roof and those distinctive vertical bars alongside the windows – designed to block solar heat and save energy in the summer (not to imprison the people inside).
Rainwater flows through a purple pipe into a filter in the basement of the building. From here it can go onto the landscape to water plants or into toilets.
The General Services Administration manages the building, and in 2009 the agency received funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, i.e. the Stimulus Bill, to help upgrade the aging building.
“The building was built in 1975, ” said Patrick Brunner, project manager for the GSA. “It was basically worn out.”
Patrick Brunner of GSA explains how the new building design reduces energy use through aluminum shading reeds outside the windows and drop-down shades inside.
To meet the Federal High-Performance Green Buildings requirements, designers added solar panels that will generate around 15 percent of the building’s energy needs, a 170, 000-gallon rainwater collection cistern that feeds recycled water through toilets and into the garden, high-efficiency lighting, elevators that generate energy when they brake and shading devices that reduce energy needs in summertime.
The renovated building will use the waste heat generated by all the servers that house federal computer networks. And it maximizes natural light – even on the ground floor, where the ceiling has been cut open to let in daylight from windows on the floor above.
Floor cuts above let natural light into the lower level of the building, which reduces electric lighting needs for the lower offices.
“This was a total cave before, ” Brunner said as we walked through the second-lowest level of the building.
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