The Green Column #10

Green Buildings in a Cleaner Greener Lincoln

September 07, 2009— Buildings in Lincoln and every other city in the world pose the largest threat to our continuing contributions to global warming. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they also present the largest opportunity for humankind to mitigate the negative consequences.

According to the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council, more than 65 percent of all electricity consumed in the U.S. flows through commercial and residential buildings. Thirty-eight per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions, on average for all U.S. cities, come from buildings. And the equivalent of 2.8 pounds per person per day of construction and demolition waste goes into landfills from the building industry.

The greenhouse gas “ecological footprint” for some cities is much greater, and if we calculated all of the secondary impacts of harvesting, manufacturing and transporting building materials and services, while generating the required energy at original polluting power sources, the net impact of urban buildings and the transportation systems connected to them is in the 70-90 percent range.

The USGBC created a suite of standards in 2000 to set conservation-based construction and retrofit benchmarks for buildings, with a focus on energy efficiencies, site and building orientation, the use of environmentally preferable materials, the protection and conservation of potable water, and assurances of healthy and safe indoor environments.

These standards, published under the heading, “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED),” have now become the buildings design and construction trades’ benchmark for the U.S. and much of the industrialized world. LEED certifications are available from the USGBC on four levels: certified, silver, gold and platinum, depending on the points accrued for the achievement of specific performance standards.

Fortunately, Lincoln architects, developers, owners and builders have begun to adopt the LEED standards, both for new buildings and for the retrofit of existing structures.

To date there are 17 projects in Lincoln, and 76 projects in Nebraska, either newly constructed or in planning and design, that have been registered with the LEED certification process (USGBC, Flatwater Chapter website: www. usgbcne.org). Five of Lincoln’s projects are especially notable:

  • The Assurity Life Office Building, located in the Antelope Valley project at 21st and Q streets
  • The Antelope Village, located at 23rd and P streets
  • The Color Court Office Building, located at 825 M Street
  • The UNL Quilt Center, located at 33rd and Holdrege streets
  • The UNL Multicultural Center, located at 15th and S streets.

Most notably, the Clark Enersen Partners, architects for the Assurity Life Insurance facilities, have designed a building and the supporting landscaping and infrastructure that will enhance the eastern edge of both the UNL campus and downtown Lincoln. Their site planning of the facilities and the landscaping will create a designed image of an integration of higher education/research, Lincoln commerce, and the recreation and visual pleasures of Lincoln’s newest public park, the Central Park in Antelope Valley.

The corporate leadership and the Assurity Board of Directors specified from the beginning of the design of their new headquarters that the buildings should meet the LEED standards at a gold or higher certified level.

Some of the key features that will make this project stand out in both performance and aesthetic appearance:

  • Use of exterior sunshading and lightshelves to control the sun’s heat and to reduce reliance on interior electrical lighting
  • Double-pane high-performance low-e glass to reduce heat gain and to enhance views to the exterior
  • Emphasis on use of recycled materials, waste reduction during construction and as many materials as possible from the Midwest region
  • Superior, energy efficient and clean air distribution systems for the indoor air quality
  • Individually controlled task lighting and room motion sensing light switches
  • Convenient access for the building occupants and visitors to public transportation, and bicycle facilities for storage, showers, and locker facilities for employees
  • Green roofs and reflective surfaces to reduce heat absorption. Other paving surfaces will be pervious for rainwater absorption to reduce stormwater runoff
  • The landscaping will feature rain gardens, natural plantings native to the region, drought tolerant grasses, and a rainwater collection system from the roofs and site to be stored and reused as a grounds irrigation system. An ingenious use of existing stormwater piping as storage cisterns will provide the supply for the irrigation system.

The Assurity project will be a model of corporate responsibility to improve the community landscape and the built environment, while minimizing the consumption of energy, materials and natural resources.

“Cleaner” means safety, high quality maintenance and good appearance, and “Greener” means good conservation and higher efficiency in the use of the Earth’s resources. With these LEED models and public commitment Lincoln can, indeed, be a model Cleaner Greener city!

© Lincoln Green by Design