Monday, August 31, 2009

Going Greener

The NYT reports this morning that some LEED certified buildings--including the Federal Building in Youngstown--aren't as green as advertised.  The reason? Certification is based on design and construction, rather than on actual carbon-reduction performance.  You can collect green points by including native landscaping and bamboo floors, but up to now you haven't had to track how energy-efficient the building actually is.  The rules are changing, though; new buildings are going to have to provide energy bills for the first five years of operation, with the possibility of having their LEED status revoked or downgraded.  The standard should be continual monitoring and retrofitting as technologies evolve.

Meanwhile, on the retrograde side of things,  the Dispatch reports that business and building groups are opposing EPA efforts to protect streams and wetlands, even as 477 acres of wetlands and 106 miles of streams have been lost since 2006.   The builders prefer being allowed to buy into mitigation banks, often located miles away from the sites they're filling in; when they do mitigate on site, the replacement wetlands are often shallow and unvegetated, decorative rather than functional.  Oddly enough, although opposition to the new EPA regs goes back to 2006, a VP for the Home Builders Association cites the "economic depression" as a reason not to move on them now.  If not now, Mr. Squillace, when? 

I guess I should feel good, though, that Delaware County--one of the fastest-growing counties in the US over the past decade--held a "GreenWise" fair over the weekend, teaching kids how to recycle and homeowners about organic lawn-care products.  It's good to promote rainbarrels and provide information about how to dispose of dead batteries; I wonder, though, whether understanding land-use patterns and wetlands lost to overdevelopment would have put too much of a damper on the festivities. 

This past Saturday, I did attend the opening of the long-awaited Grange Audubon Center on the Whittier Peninsula, a spectacularly reclaimed brownfield site, cheek-by-jowl with the Columbus Auto Impound Lot.  Kudos to Heather Starck and crew for seeing it through.

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