The greener the better: State-owned buildings cutting energy use

When it comes to cutting carbon emissions, state buildings are getting into the act, too.

Not surprisingly, California—home of the nation’s first global warming laws—is taking the lead in requiring state government office buildings to be green. Government, too, is playing its part.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2004 executive order—it’s known as the “green order”–requires state-owned buildings to cut their energy use by 20 percent by 2015. The order doesn’t apply to universities, public schools or the courts, among others, but primarily to the buildings that house the vast state workforce.

New buildings are being built to energy-efficient standards; existing buildings are being retrofitted and modified. The standards, in the cognized through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, an accreditation and rating program of the non-profit U. S. Green Building Council.

The actions include everything from new construction to modifying the lighting, the air conditioning and improving ventilation and circulation.

Some 215 new state buildings are “pursuing their LEED certification,” said Ken Hunt, a spokesman for the State Department of General Services. There are four rating levels under LEED –basic, silver, gold and platinum. Of the 13 LEED-certified state-owned buildings, two are platinum—the highest standard of energy efficiency.

Meanwhile, some 1,500 existing state-owned buildings—with more than 100 million square feet of space—are in line to get upgraded. They include most of the 24 state-owned buildings in Sacramento alone.

The bottom line, Hunt said, “is that you want maximum energy efficiency, and in so doing you are reducing your carbon footprint.” Commercial office buildings, he noted, use vast amounts of energy because of lighting, computers, servers, air conditioning, etc.
“When you power up a building, look how much energy that’s being used for the air conditioning. Now turn on the lights, then turn on the computers. That energy is coming from somewhere, probably produced by natural gas. If you reduce your energy use, you reduce greenhouse gases,” Hunt said.

According to the Green Building Council, nationwide buildings account for 70 percent of  electricity consumption, 39 percent of  energy use, 39 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, 40 percent of raw material use, 30 percent of waste output and 12 percent of potable water consumption.

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