That's what some say about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's headquarters building: the Philip Merrill Environmental Center outside of Annapolis, Maryland.
Building facility manager Richard Moore gave me a tour of the 7 year old building, which is located on a bayfront location. 32,000 square feet in size, it features just about any energy-efficiency / sustainablility idea you can think of -- and probably several you wouldn't have thought of. That's part of why it has received the highest LEED rating by the U.S. Green Building Council.
- -- a rainwater catchment system
- -- bioretention stormwater treatment
- -- use of recycled materials in many parts of the buidling (including louvers on the rear of the building made of pickelwood taken from a building being demolished)
- -- use of renewable materials, including bamboo and cork flooring
- -- structurally insulated wall panels
- -- solar hot water heating
- -- minimal use of finished interior surfaces
- -- light and motion sensors to adjust light levels & lower power use (even the coca cola machine in the employee cafeteria has a motion sensor controlling its power)
- -- composting toilets throughout the building (there's Richard demonstrating that it only smells like damp soil; and he's right, as I did the smell test too!)
In fact, one of the very points of the building is to serve as a working model of sustainable practices in building design. Many schoolchildren regularly visit the Merrill Center -- and it's a great way to be introduced not just to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's work in keeping the Bay clean & healthy, but to how green buildings operate. In fact, while I was visiting several school groups were also there.
In leaving, Richard showed me the pervious paving of the employee and visitor parking lot. Yes, that's the one "fly in the ointment." You need to drive (or carpool) to get to the Merrill Center -- unless you're willing to hike several miles.
Update posted on 11.26.07: An interesting post on the Veritas et Venustas blog about the Merrill Center. It included the following:
"Designers and builders expend significant effort to ensure that our buildings use as little energy as possible. This is a good thing—and very obvious to anyone who has been involved with green building for any length of time. What is not so obvious is that many buildings are responsible for much more energy use getting people to and from those buildings. That’s right—for an average office building in the United States, calculations done by Environmental Building News (EBN) show that commuting by office workers accounts for 30% more energy than the building itself uses. For an average new office building built to code, transportation accounts for more than twice as much energy use as building operation."