Last week, I wrote about the state-of-the-art
onsite power system installed by Santa Barbara Cottage hospital, which just
happens to be located a few blocks away from Forester Media.
(Innovation In My Own Backyard).
While that project’s integrated efficiency is already resulting in diminished
power needs and reduced operating costs, not all energy-efficient projects are
built alike. In fact, the Lompoc Register recently ran a story highlighting
other Santa Barbara County projects that have fallen short of their
While several different projects are discussed, in
my mind it’s the new fire and sheriff’s building in Lompoc that, to me,
exemplifies all that can go wrong when the focus is on labels rather than
results. According to the Register, the Santa Barbara County the Board of
Supervisors has had to approve a $136,800 contract so that an air-conditioning
system can be installed in the new building—quite a defeat when the structure
itself was designed with a “green” intent: double-paned, tinted windows, and
natural ventilation so that no additional HVAC system would be needed.
Unfortunately, the sheriff’s portion of the building faces south, resulting in
91-degree temps during hot days. The situation was so extreme, the Register
reports, that, at one point, the Fire Department (situated on the north side of
the building) was forced to send over emergency personnel to evaluate a
sheriff’s department employee who was “about to pass out” due to the heat and
lack of adequate ventilation.
This story could easily be entitled, “when good
buildings go bad.” After all, what’s the point of paying lip service to
sustainability if you end up with a building that is designed counter
intuitively so that its site and local environment actually works against it?
And these types of mishaps do nothing to help promote thoughtful building design
and make the “green” label a liability rather than a selling point.
With a cost close to $5.5 million, the additional
$136,000 amounts to an additional 2%—which leads me to believe that the HVAC
system was not initially included in anticipation of future energy savings. Now,
of course, those hopes have evaporated. So
what do you think? Typically green buildings cost 1–8% more than typical
construction projects, but usually the additional expense is mitigated by
reduced energy costs in the future.
Do you think that it’s worth the risk to pay more for the promise of
efficiency? Or should there be real and quantifiable standards enacted (much
like USGB’s LEED certification process) that account for not just the design and
materials, but also pay attention to the individual needs of a particular