|Larry W. Frevert|
Think for a minute
Larry W. Frevert, P.E.
How often do you stop to think about the physical attributes of the office or building where you report for work every day? Usually it's just unlock the door, switch on the light, power up the computer, adjust the heating or air conditioning, complete your assignments for the day, turn off the computer, lock the door and go home. Notice I didn't mention turning down the heating or air conditioning or turning out the lights?
Taking time to consider simple ways we can save energy and reduce costs is one way public works agencies can contribute to the overall "greening" of their communities. The new buzzwords and phrases we are hearing lately are "greening" and "LEEDS" (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design). LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures. All certified buildings receive a LEED plaque, which is the nationally recognized symbol demonstrating that a building is environmentally responsible, profitable, and a healthy place to live and work.
Each day we witness the constant change of price in gas, diesel, heating oil and natural gas. These costs are passed along to consumers and affect our electric, heating and cooling bills within our facilities. We also see the effects of fuel costs in running our fleets and in production of the asphalt and concrete necessary for paving and patching our roads.
There are many ways that both large and small communities can become greener and work towards LEEDS. Creating environmentally-friendly golf courses, parks, playgrounds and ball fields by applying organic-friendly fertilizer, along with changing methods of maintaining fields to help with groundwater and pollution runoff, is a great way to start. Integrated pest management is an effective and environmentally-sensitive approach to pest control. Recycling efforts must be continually expanded to help minimize the solid waste that we send to landfills or burn in waste-to-energy plants. The pickup of plastics with our bottles and cans, and the collection of corrugated cardboard with our newspapers, is simple to implement. E-Waste collection of computers and monitors, battery recycling, and household chemical collection (cleaning supplies such as paint and pesticides) are extremely important. Simply reducing the amount of pollutants and chemicals we use each day in cleaning our buildings, and being conscientious when utilizing vehicles and planning turf management in our municipalities, can make a difference.
The use of green roofs in new building and building renovations is an innovative concept. Green roofs increase the heating and cooling capacity thus reducing the size of HVAC equipment needed for new or retrofitted buildings, resulting in capital and operational savings. They can reduce the standard of insulation for heating and cooling, help with sound insulation by absorbing traffic and outside noises, and decrease the amount of stormwater runoff. All of this adds to increasing the life span of the roof.
Energy conservation continues with our lighting, both inside and out. The use of energy-efficient bulbs and ballasts along with motion sensing switches for rooms and halls are very easily installed and can make a big difference. These are some small starts that will show a quick return. This is where we can use information and services of the many vendors that support and exhibit at Congress each year. Many offer energy and lighting audits to aid in calculating energy savings.
One way these changes could begin is by creating updated specifications and standards in our codes for new building construction and renovations. It is important to keep moving forward with our attempts to institute as many of these methods as possible to keep our communities environmentally sound.
A problem we all seem to encounter while attempting to accomplish our goals, common to large cities, small villages or towns, is that of budget constraints. Energy audits and full facility audits can be very costly at a time when we are all attempting to do more with less. The benefits and results to becoming greener take time and often are not considered a priority thereby making it a hard sell to our governing bodies. We must persist for the immediate benefit of our residents and the future of our earth.
Questions or problems regarding these issues can be addressed through our APWA infoNOW Communities, and I encourage all members to utilize this important and effective "electronic networking" tool.
Thank you for all you do daily for the public works profession and for APWA.