The new Southern Caifornian NRDC headquarters building may be the greenest in the country. No one quite knows, but it's clearly a sign of what's possible:
"Truth be told, no one can really verify the claim that the Robert Redford Building is the nation's greenest structure. Though it is expected to receive the much-coveted Version 2 Platinum green building rating from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, which indicates the highest possible level of sustainable design, the building is just one of several others that may also soon carry this badge. But the claim itself represents a kind of triumph for the sustainable-building movement -- a gauntlet, finally, to be thrown down in the spirit of our famously competitive national ethos. It's about time that the all-American lust for superlatives and habit of one-upmanship be embraced by the building industry -- to see not only who can design the tallest and glitziest, but also who can out-green the rest."
"'Buildings are far and away the worst thing humans do to the environment,' said Rob Watson, NRDC senior scientist and a chair of the LEED program. 'The built environment devours half of all the world's material and resources, half of all forests. Think about it -- the concrete, the drywall, the lumber, steel, vinyl, and granite, not to mention the furniture. Think about all the toxins produced in the mining of materials, the air pollution, the chewed-up land. No other human activity even comes close to this kind of impact.' The most surprising part of this equation is energy: All of the buildings in the U.S. consume more than twice as much energy as all of the cars in the country (when you consider, in BTUs, the total embodied energy it takes to construct and operate them) and emit twice the amount of carbon dioxide -- which makes them the leading human-induced cause of global warming. Buildings also consume 80 percent of the nation's drinking water and 2 million acres of forests and farmland each year.
"NRDC's new headquarters, however, uses 60 to 75 percent less energy than a conventional building of its size, gets 100 percent of its energy from carbon-free renewables, and consumes 60 percent less drinking water. As Watson estimated, 'If all commercial buildings in the U.S. were as efficient as ours, the country would achieve 70 percent of its Kyoto Protocol obligation.'"