We Need A World of Green Buildings

By Emily Andrews,
Executive Director,
USGBC-Missouri Gateway Chapter

World Green Building Week was last month – did you even know there was such a thing?! When I went to their website, I read the following sentence: We need a world of green buildings. And then I got really excited. Of course that’s what we need because our buildings – greener, healthier buildings – are solutions. Let me say that again, BUILDINGS ARE SOLUTIONS.

#BuildingLife was the theme of World Green Building Week, which aimed to raise awareness about carbon emissions from all stages of a building’s lifecycle – design, construction, operations, deconstruction, reuse. This emphasizes the important role of buildings in our lives and in our efforts to address climate change. BUILDINGS ARE SOLUTIONS to the climate issues we face – at all stages of a building’s lifecycle.

Did you know buildings and construction are responsible for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions? 28% is related to operations – what it takes to heat, cool, and keep the lights and computers running. The other 11% is related to the embodied carbon emissions – the carbon released during construction and in the manufacturing of building materials. Some may read this and feel overwhelmed. But I know that our BUILDINGS ARE SOLUTIONS.

Lucky for us, we have tools, expertise, and passion to create a world of greener, better buildings. There are a myriad of tools available for making this work easier. From the old standards of LEED and ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager to some of the newer kids on the block like the WELL Building Standard, TRUE Zero Waste, and the Living Building Challenge. Rest assured, there is something out there to guide you on your way to a greener building.

Locally, there are so many ways that buildings are serving as solutions. In August, we awarded LEED Plaques to two iconic buildings that are now both green and historic. Soldiers Memorial Military Museum and the Visitors Center and Museum at the Gateway Arch achieved LEED Gold certification at the beginning of 2019.

The revitalization of Soldiers Memorial Military Museum allowed the building to meet ADA compliance for the first time in the building’s history. The renovation included building materials with less environmental impact, like cork flooring. All original lighting fixtures were updated with LED lights and many original materials in the building were preserved. In on-going operations, the Museum is benchmarking energy and water use and strives to reduce waste through the TRUE Zero Waste program.

The Visitors Center and Museum at the Gateway Arch, at the time of certification, was one of only 10 other LEED certified sites in the National Park Service. Most St. Louisans are familiar with the transformation of the Arch grounds and museum, but did you know that all that new green space also serves as a green roof for the museum? This reduces the “heat island effect” while also increasing open space. Additionally, more than 80% of the construction waste and demolition waste generated by the project was diverted from landfills.

By investing in our buildings’ long term success and improved operations, these buildings are stimulating the economy and creating jobs, while saving money and reducing carbon emissions. This commitment to greener, better buildings demonstrates exactly how BUILDINGS ARE SOLUTIONS. We hope you will join us in creating a “world of green buildings” to safeguard a healthy planet for future generations.

For more information visit www.greenbuildingsarebetter.org.