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December 05, 2012

The Power of an Example: New Net-Zero Energy Office an Inspiration

Ribboncutting-lr
This week I had the great pleasure of attending the grand opening of the first-ever net-zero energy office in Florida, which will serve as the Sierra Club's state headquarters, and will also house two design firms.

The building is in St. Petersburg, Florida, and it's an inspiring example of the important solutions we need to implement in order to move our country beyond coal and oil. This building goes even farther than relying on clean energy -- the facility makes more energy than it uses.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was a remarkable event, bringing the Sierra Club together with three local Chambers of Commerce, St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster, senior executives from manufacturing and engineering giant Bosch, and local business owners. With over 100 people and numerous local media outlets in attendance, the speakers at the press conference praised the new building as a model for Florida and the nation, and described it as a great boost to the local economy that will help St. Petersburg distinguish itself as a center for innovation and clean energy.

In my speech, I told the crowd that my family was the first in our small town to put solar panels on our home, which inspired our neighbors to go solar, and even our town to consider doing the same -- and that the new St. Petersburg building would create the same kind of example. I also emphasized that, given the dire threats posed by pollution and climate change, the urgency to make this shift to clean energy could not be greater.

If you're not in St. Pete to check it out, the building's website offers an excellent and interactive way to learn more about how the builders made it net zero.

Here are the basics of the building:

  • Geothermal HVAC
  • Energy efficient building envelope (state-of-the-art eco-insulation)
  • Solar photovoltaic panels on the rooftop and over the parking lot
  • Tankless point-of-use water heaters
  • Electric vehicle charging stations
  • An extensive recycling program

And, to top it all off, the office is beautiful! I sure wish I got to work there.

Whenever the Sierra Club is looking for new office space, we're always looking for opportunities to make it as sustainable and as carbon free as possible. When our Florida chapter staff were looking around town for a new home, this opportunity presented itself and they jumped on it, because it's so aligned with our values of moving the country beyond coal to clean energy -- plus, it was just as affordable as other real estate in town.

Sierra Club members and staff have been working to make our homes energy efficient and powered by clean energy, and now, our volunteers and staff in Florida can come to work for the clean energy future in an office building that matches our values. We hope that this building will serve as an inspiration and an example for others thinking about construction and renovation in Florida and beyond.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Director

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