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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: State buildings to go green thanks to executive order

September 15, 2008

Green construction projects in Indiana are becoming more the norm than the exception.

More office buildings, schools and universities and even residences are being designed and constructed to improve environmental efficiency.

And now, new and renovated state buildings will be a whole lot greener, too. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed an executive order this summer establishing the Energy Efficient State Building Initiative, mandating that all new state buildings be designed, constructed and operated for maximum energy efficiency.

This is significant for Indiana, both for today and for our future.

Big benefits

Most people don't realize the impact a building can have on the environment. By committing to environmentally friendly structures, building owners can:

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Buildings account for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Employing sustainable design practices can reduce those emissions significantly.

Reduce energy usage. Buildings consume an estimated 76 percent of all electricity generated by power plants. Energy savings can be achieved by choosing more efficient systems for buildings and incorporating new technologies to reduce energy dependency.

Reduce the amount of construction waste and materials sent to landfills. Recycling on the job site and using recycled products help buildings meet national rating systems such as LEED.

LEED-Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-provides sustainable-design guidelines and certifies buildings that meet specific rating criteria, including energy efficiency, use of regional products and recycling.

Now that the governor has signed the Energy Efficient State Building Initiative executive order, his staff at the Department of Administration is working to develop design standards for new buildings-standards that may include achieving LEED silver certification, the third-highest level of certification.

Economic boost

These standards will serve as the roadmap for state leaders to use in both new construction and renovation projects. It's an important first step for the state, and one supported by the Indiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Certainly, AIA Indiana supports this measure because it's good for the environment, but also because it's good for the economy. If Indiana is serious about competing for jobs and the best people to fill them, Hoosiers must get serious about the environment. And we must improve on our state's ranking of 49th in the nation for air and water quality, which was revealed in a 2007 Forbes magazine ranking.

To help in this effort, AIA has launched a campaign, Walk the Walk, to help architects-including more than 700 AIA members in Indiana-design sustainable buildings, educate building owners and work with building partners to ensure that new and renovated buildings are designed not only to serve the occupants, but also to reduce emission and energy consumption, encourage recycling, use regionally produced products to reduce transportation costs, support local businesses and more.

Building a sustainable, energy efficient building does not mean sacrificing design or spending more money. In fact, most green designs are visually engaging and can result in double-digit savings within the first year alone through reduced operating and maintenance expenses.

By establishing the Energy Efficiency State Building Initiative, Indiana joins other states that also plan to "walk the walk" and do more than just talk about ways to protect the environment. With this order as a stepping stone, AIA Indiana encourages others to commit to doing their part to help improve all of Indiana.

There are lots of examples we can draw from, including the new green Keep Indianapolis Beautiful offices, DePauw University's Institute for Ethics, and the State of Indiana Forensic & Health Sciences Laboratories, among others.

Purdue University School of Engineering started a new course this fall at IUPUI, "green organizations." The course was added, because it's clear that sustainable design trends are here to stay.

Productivity reasons

Nationally renowned author, Daniel Pink, will be in Indianapolis Oct. 29 to kick off the annual Butler University Leadership Through the Arts Forum lecture series. Pink long has discussed how design is becoming a "fundamental literacy for businesses."

It's not only socially responsible for businesses and governments to consider sustainable design practices, but design (the right brain) of the workplace has productivity-enhancing potential. A physical layout and design of space can be just as valuable in boosting productivity as actual business processes, Pink contends. And, that's hard to disagree with.

Making the commitment to think differently about buildings often is the most difficult step. But walk inside any facility where green design practices have been followed and it's easy to see how green design can make a difference for those who live, work or visit those facilities.

Designing for the future is key and impacting the bottom line today through saved energy costs and efficiencies is one big bonus.

For those who aren't sure where to get started, AIA can provide assistance through education, information and resources at www.aiaindiana.org.


Shelley is executive director of the Indiana Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Views expressed here are the writer's.
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