County part of meeting pushing green building

The Sonoran Desert surprises many people with how green it can be. Now, a new push to adopt “green” building techniques in Pima County seeks to ensure the area continues to surprise future generations with its lush beauty.

2030 District meetingWhile green building is not new to County staff, in fact one chapter of the Sustainable Action Plan for County Operations tracks the County’s efforts in this area, a number of staff recently participated in a workshop designed to kick start the transformation of a section of the Menlo Park neighborhood into Arizona’s first “2030 District” - an innovative private/public collaboration formed to cut energy use, water use and vehicle emissions in that area in half by 2030. Where many eco-friendly urban development projects focus on new construction, 2030 Districts seek to renovate existing buildings and apply sustainable principles to infill construction.

Pima County’s sustainability volunteers- Rich Franz-Under (Development Services) Linda Sabori and Marc Lynn (Facilities Management) and the Office of Sustainability and Conservation’s Alex Oden and Julie Robinson – participated in benchmarking (measuring) the energy use of one of the County-owned buildings using the free EnergyStar Portfolio Manager, within the 2030 District’s proposed boundaries— roughly Interstate 10 west to Grande Avenue between St. Mary’s Road and Cushing Street. Staff also participated in discussions on how to engage other businesses and residents in the effort and how to translate energy efficiency into significant cost savings.

The County Energy Team was joined by Jessie Byrd from Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation, Menlo Park residents, UA students and staff, and Pima College students and experts from the U.S. Green Building Council. They examined how to make those facilities more compliant with Energy Star standards and how to measure their progress toward the project’s goals.

Equally important, participants also brainstormed how best to spread awareness of “green” building benefits through social networks, both online and real-world. Changing how people think about sustainability issues and establishing a new normal for personal behavior and business practices is a big first step in ensuring future construction and development projects minimize environmental damage, said Green Building Council experts.

There are currently 12 established 2030 Districts and five emerging districts nationwide, including cities such as Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Denver and Portland. The local effort is being led by retired volunteer architect Peter Dobrovolny, who was instrumental in forming the first-ever 2030 District in Seattle. The Green Building Council selected the Bonita Neighborhood because of its proximity to downtown and its mixed-use nature - with both old and new homes as well as commercial and institutional buildings. And while most structures there are residential, most of the square footage and energy use is commercial. If all goes according to plan, there is also interest in expanding the District to include downtown Tucson and the UA campus.

USGBC Arizona hopes to get much more private participation in the 2030 district by highlighting the financial windfall that can come with implementing “green” building ideas. By some estimates, retrofitting existing buildings with environmentally-sensitive features can provide a nearly 20 percent return on investment on average and cut operating costs 8 percent while increasing the building's value 6 percent. If you would like more information about the 2030 District effort, please email Peter Dobrovolny or email Michael Peel
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