Best of SA 2012 Critic Pick
Leed Gold: Energy sipping library showcases city direction
Published: April 25, 2012
The end may very well come in a flash as the ancients predicted, but more worrisome are the theories of a gradual inching toward collapse. Should wells pumping fuel from the earth's crust, the essential drivers of our economy and way of life, start to run dry and push us toward that edge without alternatives in place, society as we know it's in for a world of hurt. Among other things, living off less has become ever more crucial, and, credit where credit's due, the City of San Antonio has started down that path. Retooling existing city buildings for energy efficiency isn't exactly flashy, and it doesn't often garner headlines, but it's a critical piece of the environmentally friendly San Antonio we envision.
"We've been systematically trying to gain higher and higher improvements to our existing portfolio in addition to being smarter with what we build new," said Laurence Doxsey, head of the city's environmental policy department. And this month the city, in conjunction with national library week, announced that its Parman Branch Library scored the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. It's an independent sign that city construction's becoming environment and health conscious — the certification recognizes sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, and indoor environmental and health quality.
The Parman Branch, which opened a year ago, is the first city-owned building to get such a designation, Doxsey says. Using materials found regionally, and with little disruption to the ecosystem surrounding the 17,000 square-foot building on the Northside, the Parman Branch was built to blend into the environment and community it serves. "Achieving that Gold certification is really above and beyond the minimum that we had established for new facilities, so it was definitely noteworthy," Doxsey said.
The city's also moving systematically to improve energy and water use across the board. Along with new construction, COSA's currently in the process of taking inventory of existing city facilities in hopes of greening up its holdings. So far they've targeted 103 facilities they'd like to finish upgrading by this September. Over the last two and a half years, the city has already chipped away at over 30 facilities, fixing lighting, heating and cooling, and water use through a mix of city cash and federal grants. So figuring the final costs of the work are "complicated to finalize," according to Doxey, but ultimately it'll cut down on electricity and water waste. Overall, such fixes should reduce city energy use by 18 percent by September of this year, along with a 4 percent reduction in natural gas consumption, Doxsey said. And at current energy prices, that spells out $2.5 million saved in electricity costs for the city, he says, along with $47,000 saved in natural gas purchases.