Quad Cities Turning Green? Print
News/Features - Environment
Wednesday, 17 January 2007 02:24

For the new Davenport police headquarters, building green is a simple matter of economics. "Saving money was the main motivation," said Charles Heston, a project manager in the city's Community & Economic Development Department.

Among its features, the under-construction building will be heated with geothermal energy; some lighting will be automatically adjusted based on daylight; other lighting will be controlled by occupancy censors; and a "green roof" with soil and plants will prevent rainwater from running off into storm sewers and provide additional insulation.

A report prepared by The Weidt Group in 2005 gave the city its options. The report presented five construction choices - building according to code, and four "bundles" of energy-saving construction improvements - along with costs and savings.

For example, Bundle 1 would have added $312,090 in construction costs and resulted in annual utility-cost savings of $104,668. Bundle 4 would have added $750,938 in costs and saved $118,234 annually.

The city chose Bundle 2, with additional construction costs of $516,147 (more than 2.5 percent of the total project cost) and annual energy savings of $114,147. By implementing those measures, the city expects to save an estimated 54 percent on energy compared to building the headquarters to code.

Taking into account an estimated incentive from MidAmerican Energy of $255,000 and a $65,000 grant through River Action for a green roof, the actual cost to the city for the improvements will be just less than $200,000.

In other words, the city will pay for the energy-efficiency improvements in less than two years. Without the incentives, the improvements would pay for themselves in less than five years.

Still, the promise of future savings is sometimes not enough when a company or government body is faced with the constraints of a construction budget. "We were struggling with the budget the whole time," Heston said. He admitted that several times the city considered axing the energy-efficiency improvements.

But in the end, the long-term financial benefit won out. "It's a bigger building, so there was a bigger incentive to keep that [utility costs] under control," Heston said.

The Davenport police station isn't the only "green" initiative in the Quad Cities. Moline's new library, while not certified, emphasized energy efficiency, said Director Leslie Kee. "We are not ‘green,'" she said. But "we're very close to LEED. ... We actually haven't applied to LEED to see how close we are."

The 68,000-square-foot building includes features such as hand dryers instead of paper towels; lights that reduce their output when it's sunny; lights that turn off when rooms are unoccupied; low-flow toilets; and landscaping that reduces runoff.

The project was constrained both by the size of parcel (at 3210 41st Street) and the budget, Kee said, but planners focused on energy efficiency. "In the long run, it saves money," she said. "We made informed decisions." She added that she probably won't know for another six months how close the building's utility costs come to projections.

While local governments, in particular, have begun to build greener, the local chapter of the Sierra Club is trying to push them farther in that direction. Gerald Neff, president of the Eagle View Group of the Sierra Club, has been presenting Quad Cities mayors with materials about the "Cool Cities" campaign (http://www.coolcities.us). He said last week that he'd met with the mayors of Rock Island, Moline, and Davenport, with a meeting scheduled with Bettendorf's mayor on January 16.

The campaign asks city leaders to sign a pledge to reduce carbon-dioxide pollution to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, and then to do a global-warming emissions inventory, create an action plan, and then implement and monitor it.

Neff said he's encouraging cities to do things such as buying hybrid vehicles when replacing their fleets, tightening building codes to require better insulation and windows, and generating their own energy.

Green construction can also play a role in reducing emissions, Neff said, and Rock Island and Moline officials were aware of LEED standards. But at this point, he added, he hasn't had follow-up meetings and doesn't know whether Quad Cities mayors will be willing to sign on to the "Cool Cities" program.