You don’t have to fly to Santa Clara, CA and visit Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49er’s and the first professional football stadium in the U.S.—to see green architecture at work. There is no need to visit the beautiful campus at Tel Aviv University to see Israel’s first LEED Platinum certified building at the Porter School of Environmental Studies (PSES) Building. You only need to look as far as
1-800-LAW-FIRM’s headquarters in Southfield, MI for the latest trends in green architecture.
Architectural designs have progressed from blueprints to green-prints in that the design of each building is an opportunity to leverage energy efficient technologies and renewable energy. From LED lights to wastewater recycling and roof-mounted solar panels, there are plenty of energy efficient methods to incorporate in today’s architectural designs. The dividends of pursuing such initiatives are exponential as they are not limited to a significant reduction in fuel and operating costs, but also lessen the detrimental drain on our environment.
The #1 barrier to green commercial architecture used to be the upfront costs—that was until the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program was launched in 2008. PACE is an innovative way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to buildings. PACE programs enable property owners to take on a special tax assessment for energy retrofits, allowing for longer repayment periods. Michigan’s PACE program covers many upgrades to commercial and industrial buildings, and multifamily (though not single-family) homes.
The renewable energy and efficiency overhauls are being implemented by Srinergy, a Michigan company that provides turnkey solar installations. Prasad Gullapalli, president of Srinergy stated, “Srinergy is very excited and honored to be a part of this milestone solar development project at 1-800-LAW-FIRM in Southfield. Not only does it represent the first PACE funded renewable energy project in Michigan, but sets an example of social responsibility at a corporate level and showcases how important it is not only for individuals, but corporations as a whole to embrace sustainability and energy cost saving initiatives.”
1-800-LAW-FIRM is a national company that represents plaintiffs on everything from tax issues, bankruptcy and divorce to medical malpractice and nursing home abuse. The four-story, 100,000-square-foot headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Southfield, MI is being transformed into a prime model of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The plans include solar panels and micro-wind turbines on the rooftop; solar-covered carports and electric vehicle charging stations; indoor and outdoor efficient LED lights and an ecologically friendly rooftop solarium. It will also feature energy optimization that reduces power fluctuations and improves the performance of computers.
Ari Kresch, 1-800-LAW-FIRM’s CEO, jumped at the PACE project opportunity and stated, “I wanted to leave a lighter footprint on our planet... Because the building is so visible, I thought I would set an example for other businesses to follow. “ The building is located between two major Detroit freeways making it highly visible.
Leaders like Ari Kresch pursue a thoroughly integrated approach to architecture, natural systems and technology because they understand both the positive micro benefits in terms of their own business, and the macro impacts in terms of the greater good they initiate for their entire community. Prasad Gullapalli underscored his critical leadership stating, “Through this project, Ari’s innovation shines as a solar ambassador to all within the Southfield community and the state, with the byproduct of this innovation being significant energy cost savings over the next 25 years. Truly an example for all to follow.”
Hopefully, other leaders across the U.S. will follow. Profitable investments in energy conservation can generate $30 billion in annual energy cost savings, improving the financial performance of millions of small businesses throughout the United States1.
1-800-LAW-FIRM chose to add solar energy panels to its carports; the advantages are two-fold. First, solar energy is modular technology which means as many or as few panels can be installed as needed. Each new kilowatt of installed solar capacity decreases electricity bills. With a large enough installation, businesses can eliminate energy bills completely.
Secondly, while utility rates continue to increase in time, the savings businesses realize from their electricity bills will grow commensurately since the sun’s clean energy will be infinitely free. Lastly, solar panels provide an opportunity to generate passive income as states like New Jersey and California offer renewable energy incentives enacted to drive solar photovoltaic (PV) adoption.
From a macro perspective, in the last decade, many states have seen an increase in grid-connected PV. As solar technologies become more prominent in our nation’s electric generation portfolio, it is critical to understand the value it provides to states’ electric utilities and citizens:
1-800-LAW-FIRM’s adoption of micro-wind turbines is viewed as a long-term environmentally beneficial investment because it will be a number of years into its life cycle before the turbines payback in financial terms. In addition to monetary benefits, many small scale wind turbine users are attracted to them because they provide energy security—an independent, local source of energy. They too strive to reduce their eco-footprint and are pleased to choose a method other than conventional electricity generation which consumes finite resources forever.
While there are inherent emissions associated with the manufacture, transportation and erection of wind turbines, an ideally-sited quality unit will repay these in a reasonable time. The actual amount of energy generated by the turbines depends on factors such as the swept area of the blades, the amount of wind at the site, the turbine’s efficiency and availability, and the real power curve of the turbine including cut-in/out wind sweeps.
The adoption of LED lighting has increased significantly since 2008 when the EPA announced the Green Power Partnership program. Light-emitting diode (LED) lighting produces light extremely efficiently. LEDs are tiny light sources that illuminate by the movement of electrons through a semiconductor, more akin to computer chips than to light bulbs.
Today’s architects obtain the power to prolong our planet. They can help reduce environmental impacts by implementing strategies such as reuse of existing structures, low-impact and regenerative site development, energy and water conservation, use of sustainable or renewable construction materials, and design that improves indoor air quality. Each architectural blueprint offers an opportunity to reduce the design’s ecological footprint. We all share one planet and should each feel empowered to act as stewards, agents of change—one step at a time.
LEDs are exponentially efficient for many reasons: