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Nearly every sizeable city in the United States struggles with clogged arteries. It’s a sea of traffic signals, brake lights and all-around urban sprawl. The roads in and out of town stack up during rush hour with smog-spewing traffic jams.

Nobody enjoys sitting in traffic, so there is personal motivation to eliminate tie-ups. It saves time and reduces frustration. It can also reduce pollution.

Here are a few things we have done to limit the impact employee vehicles have on the environment, at least while they are at work:

  • At our office, the best parking spaces are for carpools only. This encourages our team to find a friend to ride with. It saves them gas money too.
  • Our parking lot has low flow paving, so there is less effect on the ecosystem.
  • An island in the lot is filled with plants to limit our carbon dioxide impact.
  • We offer flex hours, so employees may choose to come in at times when traffic is lower, eliminating the extra pollutants emitted while waiting in traffic.
  • Employees can connect to their email out of the office. If they would like to work from home occasionally, it cuts down on gas and pollution.

This is an example of how being green can have benefits beyond the impact on the environment.

But we can always do better. The key is cooperation, especially among officials of neighboring municipalities. After all, polluted air and water does not stop at the city limits. Low-efficiency buildings in one area suck energy from the overall power grid. By pulling together, cities can adopt sustainable practices that will both preserve natural resources and enhance the quality of life.

What steps are you taking to lower your business’ carbon footprint?


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Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.
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I recently attended a U.S. Green Building Council presentation where architect and professor emeritus Norbert Lechner,  a noted Fulbright senior specialist and energy expert, presented his thoughts on the field of efficient building energy design and sustainability, a topic often considered the foundation of green philosophy.

I learned that reduced energy goals are in many cases easily obtainable with the simplest approaches to building orientation and design. At present, buildings consume approximately 50% of all total energy used, and this percentage is even higher according to some. At this rate of consumption, it will be impossible for the world to keep up with energy demand unless buildings are designed to be more energy efficient.

Professor Lechner named the following building design elements conducive to achieving maximum energy efficiency (listed in order of greatest energy savings).

1. Building orientation (can reduce energy consumption by up to 50%)

2. PA-fruitTreeBuilding color (and add another 20% of energy savings)

3. Window placement

4. Window size

5. Shading

6. Passive solar heating

7. Day lighting

8. Active solar

9. Photovoltaics (PV) – the future

What was amazing to me is that the lowest hanging fruit—the stuff that’s practically lying on the ground waiting to be picked up—is building orientation. Situating your building at the optimal place and angle can reduce conventional building energy resources by up to 50%. That means that by simply considering building orientation as a design factor we can reduce our total energy demand from all resources by up to 25%.

There’s even a movement to create zero energy buildings . But first, we all need to be thinking about how to get everyone on the same page and how our combined efforts can help make it possible for the next generation to save energy responsibly.

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___________________________________________________________________________

Merrill Stewart is Founder and President of the Stewart Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham, Ala. Contact him via email.