The Appeal of Environmentally Friendly Buildings

Contractors usually have enough to do to ensure that a new building will meet the local building codes and zoning regulations. But when a developer, such as supermarket retailer Giant Eagle, decides that it wants to go above and beyond the local regulations there is always the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification to strive for.

LEED is a national green-building rating system administered by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The rating system is appealing to a wide variety of people and businesses, and even the federal government. If LEED certification is worth the upfront construction costs of following criteria for the rating system is always a hot topic of discussion, however. Giant Eagle is able to list a variety of ways that building to LEED certification will help to reduce emissions and water consumption after construction is complete. But the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is concerned with the upfront cost of development for green federal facilities. The GSA commissioned a study, which was prepared by Steven Winter Associates, to provide a detailed and structured review of both the hard and soft costs of achieving LEED certified silver and gold ratings, which are common ratings for GSA building types. The two buildings compared in the study, a new mid-rise federal courthouse and a mid-rise federal office building modernization, were used to identify green building measures above and beyond those included in GSA’s standards that would likely be implemented to meet the specific LEED ratings. From these measures, the design and construction costs were estimated for each prerequisite and credit, with variations defined for both the courthouse and office building models. (For the full report visit the link below the story.) Construction costs were certainly a part of Giant Eagle’s plan, but meeting LEED rating standards was something Giant Eagle Vice President of Marketing Kevin Srigley said the company places high on its list of important goals. “Becoming the first LEED-certified supermarket underscores the importance of being an environmentally responsible member of the communities we serve,” he said. “It is a continuation of our pledge to understand the environmental issues that we all face and to adopt appropriate practices to meet those challenges. Our conservation department continues to pursue alternative sources of energy and conservation initiatives.” Giant Eagle had an 80,000 square foot supermarket built in Ohio over the summer, and the building is the first supermarket in the world to earn an environmentally friendly designation, according to the company’s press release. Features of the building include: – 50 percent of the location’s electrical energy is supplied by wind power purchases through Community Wind Energy. The wind power purchased by the company should offset 3.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 26,500 pounds of sulfur emissions, and 8,265 pounds of nitrous oxide. – There are 50 skylights integrated with electrical lighting sensors, which automatically adjust the amount of electric light supplied depending on the light generated by the skylight. – Air quality sensors to monitor for carbon dioxide and other gases to ensure fresh, clean air throughout the entire store. – Refrigeration and cooling systems that don’t use ozone-depleting refrigerants. – Natural filtration systems so parking lot storm water shouldn’t pollute the adjacent marshland. – Water conservation equipment that should save more than 100,000 gallons per year. – Drought-resistant plants and trees that require no irrigation other than natural rainfall. – Environmentally responsible cleaning products. – A white, reflective roof and increased insulation to allow the building to cool and heat easier. – Cabinetry made of recycled strawboard. – Gypsum wallboard made of 100 percent recycled materials. – Adhesives, sealants, paints, carpeting and wood products that are low in volatile organic compounds. “A great deal of time, talent and resources went into making our Brunswick concept a reality,” added Giant Eagle Director of Conservation jim lampl. “We already are implementing many of these features into our new supermarkets for the benefit of our employees and customers.”
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