Building a more sustainable town

-A A +A

In the United States, buildings are responsible for the consumption of about half of all energy produced.  Therefore, when looking to reduce energy usage and create a more sustainable community, it makes sense to turn a keen eye on the built environment.  The concept of green building is a significant component of Los Alamos County’s quest for hydrocarbon independence identified in the Environmental Sustainability Initiative.  In the past couple of years, Los Alamos County has taken significant action in its efforts to decrease energy usage in County buildings.   
In 2006, the Council adopted a resolution that called for all newly constructed County facilities larger than 5,000 square feet to be built to a minimum standard of “Silver” - a rating used by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system, an internationally recognized green building certification system.  To date, the County has constructed four facilities using these standards: the Eco Station, the Pajarito Cliffs Site, the Justice Center, and the Animal Shelter.  Three of these facilities include, or will include, a solar thermal system enabling a portion of the building’s hot water demand to be met by harnessing the sun’s rays.  Data is currently being collected in order to determine the energy and cost savings realized from these new facilities.      
The County is not just focusing on creating more efficient new buildings, but is also taking steps to increase the efficiency of older facilities.  Los Alamos County recently completed building assessments and energy audits on County facilities older than five years.  These actions have identified potential improvements that will help reduce energy usage and increase the efficiency of buildings in general.  The assessments and audits will also document proper maintenance procedures for the building systems to ensure buildings are running at optimal performance.   
These technical approaches will be matched with an informational/educational campaign designed to create awareness among building occupants.  The recently formed County Employee Green Team will focus on shifting employee behavior toward energy conservation-oriented habits.  Visit the Los Alamos County sustainability website, www.losalamosnm.us/getgreen, for information on conservation oriented behaviors and more technical improvements that can be made to reduce your energy usage at home.

Tom Nagawiecki
Environmental Services Specialist