The 9,000 people who attended the South Coast Earth Day celebration Sunday in Santa Barbara had plenty of opportunities to hear about the benefits and relative ease of building homes and offices that are kind to the environment.
For proof, look no further than the UCSB campus. The university Friday opened a new building that claims the title as one of the country’s most environmentally friendly structures. Fittingly, it is the new home to the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
The school (ironically named after a big Orange County developer) is a graduate program that links student and professors from throughout the UC system to examine environmental science, management, law and public policy. No other similar programs exist on the West Coast.
“Building energy-efficient ‘green’ buildings is not a luxury,” notes Dennis Aigner, the school’s dean. “It is a necessity. Donald Bren Hall is part of a new trend toward environmentally responsible building practices that make workplaces more resource efficient, healthy and aesthetic while improving worker productivity.”
The new building shows that the environmental school can practice what it teaches.
To start, builders tried to reduce the impact to the land. They protected and cared for trees during construction. New landscaping included drought-tolerant native species. A recovery process to retexture carpeting kept 14 tons of carpet from ending up in a landfill.
The building’s office wing doesn’t have air conditioning generate and relies on natural ventilation. Trees shelter and shade the structure. Solar panels on the roof generate 10 percent of the electricity. Windows are connected to heaters, so when windows are opened the heaters shut off.
All these will save on energy bills for decades to come.
The 84,672 square-foot building cost $26 million. That’s only about 2 percent more than the bill without the green features. The percentage would have been even lower if the building’s planners hadn’t first designed a normal structure.
The new hall is a model for green building – but it also has company in Santa Barbara County.
The designers of the Hillel Student Center in Isla Vista integrated solar hearing into the building and sea breeze and thermal chimneys cool its rooms. The Watershed Resource Center at Arroyo Burro Beach used recycled, salvaged and sustainability harvested materials. For example, linseed oil, wood flour and other natural ingredients went into the bathroom floor’s natural linoleum.
Private homes throughout the county incorporate environmentally friendly features, too.
Want to know how you can join this green parade? A good place to start is the Sustainability Project’s Web site, www.thesustainabilityproject.org.
Reprinted with permission from Santa Barbara News Press