Florida Sierra Club's New 'Net Zero Energy' Digs
Florida Sierra Club volunteers and staff joined with elected officials and members of the business community in celebrating the opening of St. Petersburg's first commercial building that produces more energy than it uses. The "net zero energy" office building, located in the historic Grand Central District near downtown St. Pete, is now home to the Florida Sierra Club's new offices.
Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone, below, who emceed the day's activities, was joined by Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Club's Beyond Coal campaign, and Lawson LeGate, the Club's eastern regional director, at the December 3 grand opening, which attracted over 100 people and numerous media outlets.
"The ribbon-cutting ceremony was a remarkable event," Hitt said, "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." Below, Mayor Foster with Hitt and Jackalone.
Speakers praised the new building as a model for Florida and the nation, describing it as a great boost that will help St. Petersburg distinguish itself as a center for innovation and clean energy. In addition to the Sierra Club's offices, the building will also house two design firms.
"It was a star-studded day filled with dignitaries, city and county officials, Sierra Clubbers, and a retinue of community friends," said Marcia Biggs, chair of the Club's Tampa Bay Group. "Hundreds gathered to celebrate this ground-breaking building which promises to create more energy than it consumes through solar panels, geothermal heat and AC, and tankless water heaters."
Nationally renowned photographer Clyde Butcher, above at right, best-known for his wilderness photography of the Florida landscape, especially the Everglades, presented the office with a large photograph depicting the Caloosahatchee River. Mayor Foster thanked the Sierra Club and all those involved in bringing Net Zero to downtown St. Petersburg, and urged the community to continue supporting clean, green energy.
The Sierra Club, which is renting the building from All Florida Management Group, played a hands-on role in choosing sustainable designs for both the interior and exterior. The LEED Platinum building features solar photovoltaic panels on the rooftop and over the parking lot, cork flooring and recycled carpeting, an extensive recycling program, and electric vehicle charging stations. Below, Foster and Jackalone charge up an EV.
"We're really excited about raising the bar with this building," Hitt said, "not only for folks in this part of the world to see a new example of real sustainability, but also for people in other parts of the country and the rest of our Sierra Club offices. 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. This is a real inspiration and a real example."
Hitt described how she and her husband were the first to put solar panels on their house in rural West Virginia. "We had an open house, and 70 people in our town of 1,000 people came by. Two of our neighbors immediately went solar, many of the other folks who came by our house that day went solar, and now the town is trying to map out if we could power the whole town with solar. That is the power of one example, and that is the same kind of example that you all are creating right here today."
St. Petersburg was the first city in Florida to receive the Green Building Coalition's Green Day designation, and has been recognized for energy conservation, recycling, water conservation, fuel efficiency, landscaping and preservation of open spaces, and other environmental programs. It has received the Tree City USA award from the Arbor Day Foundation for 20 years running. This spring, St. Pete installed solar water heaters on 22 of its buildings and installed ten electric charging stations throughout the city—all part of Mayor Foster's effort to further St. Petersburg's green initiative.
Jackalone gives special thanks to Florida Chapter Chair Rudy Scheffer, chapter staff Linda Demler, Phil Compton, Britten Cleveland, Alexis Meyer, Cris Costello, and Macy Zander, Georgia-based press secretary Jenna Garland, and Lawson Legate, "who lent a very welcome helping hand."