Go for the Green

Departments are finding going green saves more than the environment; it saves them money as well

          The color of the day is green, even for the men in blue. Agencies across the country have long been adding green cars, green ammunition and more to be more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Now the color green is moving into police facilities, where agencies seek to green their buildings with energy efficient designs that save money as well as they save energy.

     "We're all looking to reduce future costs," says Police Chief Robert Stewart of the Cotati (Calif.) Police Department. When it came time to build a new facility for this department of 11 officers and seven reserve officers in 2002, the powers that be looked to make the new structure as green as it was functional.

     Saving money by reducing energy use in the 11,933-square-foot structure simply made sense — especially in today's economy. The police budget foots the bill for the building's ongoing operational costs, so Stewart says saving money in this way definitely impacts what they can do as a department. "If I had to pay for building maintenance without a green building it would cost substantially more," he says. "Having green features lessens the impact on our budget."

     As agencies go for the green, Stewart reminds that it's critical for police managers to understand what's involved in greening a facility. This ensures new police buildings, which will serve communities for decades, perform the functions they're designed to do efficiently and in a manner that saves money. With energy costs projected to increase by nearly 200 percent in the future, going green makes good sense.

     But as with any building project, green or otherwise, the savvy police administrator involves himself in the design and construction process. Stewart says he spent part of every day overseeing the design and construction of Cotati PD's new facility and says it helped ensure a functional and efficient building. "I think it's really important that the police administrator participates in the design and has a true understanding of what a green building provides both today and in the future," he says.

The pay off

     The Chicago PD is one of many police agencies going green across the country. It, along with the Public Building Commission of Chicago (PBC), is opening newer and greener police stations across this city of more than 9 million. In March, the Englewood District Police Station opened to the public and became one of six police stations in Chicago to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. (To learn more about LEED certification see "LEEDing the way" at right.)

     Chicago's energy efficient police facilities, the first of which opened in June 2004 in its 22nd District, are a small part of PBC's plan to construct green buildings across the city. The commission currently plans 75 projects, among them police and fire stations, public schools, libraries and district parks, all of which are projected to attain at least a silver rating in the LEED rating system.

     Kevin Smith, PBC spokesman, says the city government's commitment to greening public buildings has already saved substantial amounts of money; a fact he predicts will continue well into the future. "When you make that part of your commitment from the ground up, you can add green features for a reasonable cost and enjoy profits from those for decades to come."

     The Windy City's commitment emerged from a desire to do the right thing environmentally and financially, by building durable buildings with low long-term operating costs. Deeta Bernstein, PBC sustainability manager, notes the construction and design of the 7th District police building alone will see a 24 percent reduction in energy costs annually.

     "This provides long-term savings for the city and its taxpayers," says Bernstein. "The station is designed to last 100 years. We are saving money in terms of the cost of operating the building, but there are also environmental benefits inherent in not using as much electricity to heat and cool the building."

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