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Turning the World Green

This Monday, some of the world’s most iconic buildings and landmarks will be bathed in benign green light in celebration of St Patrick’s Day. Organized by Tourism Ireland, ‘Global Greening 2014’ will see monuments as far flung as the Taj Mahal, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Pyramids in Egypt, and our very own City Hall here in San Francisco awash with green – a very literal take on making your building greener!

Coincidentally, I recently came across an article on the UK Guardian’s Environment Network on efforts of the UK parliament to make their buildings greener in the environmental sense. The historic Houses of Parliament – also a UNESCO World Heritage Site – has been targeted to improve energy efficiency by 34% by the end of the decade.  I was intrigued to learn

that as well as the more straightforward energy-saving ideas of putting solar panels on some of the flat roofs, other suggestions tabled include fixing solar panels to the clock face of Big Ben and even insulating parts of the roof with sheep’s wool. Sheep’s wool, it appears, is water tolerant so could also help to guard against leaks – very useful given London’s climate..!

These insights spurred me to look at what other countries are doing to make their landmarks more energy efficient.  Here are the ones that piqued my interest the most:

  • Empire State Building, NY, NY In 2009, work began on a comprehensive retrofit of this seminal New York landmark.  By 2011, as a result of extensive upgrades of the insulation and mechanical systems, energy efficiency savings of $2.4million were made.  Since then, the Empire State Building retrofit has become the blueprint for buildings across the nation. Incredibly, with an energy-efficiency score of 80, the Empire State Building has a higher rating than the new ‘green’ structure at 7 World Trade Center which has a score of 74, thanks in part to having thicker walls and fewer windows.   In addition to protecting the environment and reducing energy costs, the retrofit has also helped attract new tenants seeking space that reflects their sustainability values – a smart move all round.
  • The Vatican, Vatican City, Italy.  Pope Francis just celebrated his first year in office, but it was his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI who helped make the Vatican the world’s ‘greenest state,’ earning him the moniker the “green pope.”  During his relatively short papacy, 2,700 solar panels were installed on the roof of the Paul VI auditorium, saving the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil each year.  There was also a switch to a customised electric vehicle, a white Renault Kangoo Maxi van, for use around the Vatican City and the pope’s summer home.
  • Musee du Louvre, Paris, France.  Beginning in 2009, in collaboration with Toshiba, the iconic Louvre Museum started the process of switching over to to LED technology.  It took just over 2 years to complete the first part of the project, an exterior lighting retrofit of the Louvre Museum’s Pyramid, the Cour Napoleon and the Cour Carrée, but was well worth it.  This work alone reduced the Louvre’s energy consumption by 73%. Since then, work has moved to the interior and LED lights now even illuminate the Mona Lisa.  A fitting, forward-thinking move for a museum visionary enough to juxtapose the modern glass Pyramid structure with the classical 18th century-built surroundings.

Are you looking for ways to make your business more green? .  As a certified green business (CIty of San Francisco & ISO 14001 certification) we’re here to help. For more information, please feel free to get in touch.

 

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