Go for the Green

          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."

     What does this mean to the police agency itself? Plenty, Smith says. How the city's police department handles the cost savings is entirely up to them. "They can certainly say, 'We saved you a half-million dollars in heating costs; can we hire three more officers?' "

     Stewart agrees, noting much can be done with the money saved. The department's new site reduces energy costs by 24 percent with a 30kW photovoltaic renewable energy system. This geo heat pump system pushes air through tubing in the ground into the building to lessen the load on the city's HVAC system. "The air circulated into the building is always picking up that ground temperature, which is usually around 60 degrees Fahrenheit," he explains.

     In addition, Cotati's water efficient landscaping has reduced landscape irrigation system water use by 50 percent, while the use of low-flow toilets and water systems has reduced potable water consumption by 30 percent. "It all adds up," he says.

Whistle while you work

     Savings doesn't only come in the form of money, adds Stewart, who points out that the agency has seen an increase in efficiency among employees working in the new facility — a fact he attributes to better lighting and improved air quality.

     The building utilizes materials that emit low or no volatile organic compounds. He explains VOCs, such as methane, can vaporize off building materials and enter the air, which may contribute to sick building syndrome, a situation in which occupants experience acute health effects that seem to be linked to time spent within the building.

     With 90 percent of the occupied spaces having access to an exterior view, through a skylight system running along the building's spine, Cotati PD employees also can work without the lights on during the day. "It keeps employees from getting dragged down with fluorescent lights," says Stewart. "This really makes a difference in how people feel at work."

     Harvey Van Hoven, director of the Monroe County Public Safety Laboratory in Rochester, N.Y., and Mike Garland, director of the Monroe County Department of Environmental Services, echo Stewart's sentiments. The county will break ground on a $30 million green crime lab this fall and expects similar results when finished.

     The County Executives Green Building Policy, developed by Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, requires LEED certification for new buildings greater than 5,000 square feet. The lab, a four-story, 45,000-square-foot building, clearly falls within that policy. Garland notes because high-performance, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings create a positive, productive work environment for occupants, a green building brings many social benefits.

     "People find themselves enjoying working in green buildings, and as a result tend to be more productive and content," he says. Building occupants will also experience greater health because of better indoor air quality, which will be improved with an HVAC system that promotes rapid air exchange throughout the day.

Nothing worthwhile is free

     The downside, as with anything, is that nothing worthwhile ever comes free; and green buildings are no exception. Building green is more expensive at the onset, agree those who've already gone down this road.

     The Monroe County crime lab includes porous pavement to avoid storm runoff, a white roof so the building retains less heat, low light from the building at night to limit light pollution, a high-efficiency HVAC system, an exterior built with recycled materials, and more. These green features increased the project's total cost by approximately $700,000; an upfront investment that Garland predicts will pay dividends in lower energy bills.

     "I don't have a computed payback on that," Garland admits. "But we expect to see 10 to 15 percent improvement on energy efficiency."

     Green features added approximately $700,000 to Cotati's project as well, but Stewart too expects a rapid return on that investment. "It added some cost to the process, but doing our part was really important to us and to the city," he says.

     He adds that part of Cotati's additional cost occurred because green features were not incorporated into the facility's original design. The city halted the design phase midway to include them. "We spent money designing a building and then had to start over again," he explains.

     While federal funding for going green is limited (Monroe County received $4.5 million in federal funds for its $30 million project), Garland points out the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority offers funding for energy efficient building designs. Funding from the City of Rochester, which promotes green building design, was also available. He adds most states probably offer such opportunities if one seeks them out.

     As more green buildings are built and green technologies continue to develop, Smith predicts construction costs will decrease. For now, sticking with available green technologies can lessen the financial impact. "You have to put on a roof; why not put on a green roof? You have to put in a heating system; so why not put in an environmentally friendly heating system?" he asks.

     Paybacks will come in the future from the additional capital outlay today, Smith adds. "If you can build a police station that costs 24 percent less to heat, cool and operate, that is designed to last 100 years, the math isn't that complex," he says. "You will have significant savings down the road from a relatively minor upfront investment."

Hay bales and twine

     As California's first green police facility, police administrators from across the state of have journeyed to Cotati to see its building firsthand. And Stewart says it's funny to see their reactions. "They've all told me they were amazed with how functional the building was and that it wasn't really what they thought of when they considered a green building," he says. "When someone says green, people often think it's something cobbled together with hay bales and twine or something. But the building functions as well as it looks."

     Van Hoven concurs, stating he anticipates nothing but positives for the new crime lab. Better ventilation will prevent fumes from escaping and will better protect forensic samples as they are analyzed. A thoughtful layout will maximize efficiencies of product flow, while natural light will enable employees to better see evidence as they work.

     The features added to the Chicago police stations are not readily noticeable, Smith emphasizes. And none of them impact the building's functionality as a police station. All of Chicago's new facilities sport a high-tech communications and computing infrastructure designed for future upgrades as new technology becomes available. Detention areas are durable and secure while meeting rooms are readily accessible to the public. "From a purely law enforcement perspective, this building is extremely practical and pragmatic," he says. "It just happens to have green benefits that will last for generations."

     Green is being touted as the new black. But for police stations, going for the green offers more than a means of being more environmentally friendly. Green buildings offer today's cash-strapped agencies a way to save money and keep employees productive and happy for generations to come.

     "It's the right thing to do," says Stewart. "We are all trying to do our part to make things better for the environment and financially, and we've done our part here."

     Ronnie Garrett spent 12 years as the editorial director of the Cygnus Law Enforcement Group. She recently left to open a photography and writing business and may be reached through her Web site at www.garrettncostudios.com.

LEEDing the way

     In its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) provides a road map for public safety agencies to operate buildings in an environmentally responsible manner.

     Four levels of LEED certification exist — certified, silver, gold and platinum. Each level is reached by obtaining points from a LEED rating system that offers seven prerequisite points and 69 elective points. To achieve any certification a project must comply with the seven prerequisite points. The elective points are what determine the LEED rating level with certified requiring between 26 and 32 points, silver requiring between 33 and 38 points, gold requiring between 39 and 51 points, and platinum, the highest level, requiring between 52 and 69 points.

     The categories in which companies may earn credits include:

     Sustainable Sites: This category discourages development on previously undeveloped land; minimizes a building's impact on ecosystems and waterways; encourages regionally appropriate landscaping; rewards smart transportation choices; controls stormwater runoff; and reduces erosion, light pollution, heat island effect and construction-related pollution.

     Water Efficiency: This category encourages smarter use of water, inside and out. Water reduction is typically achieved through more efficient appliances, fixtures and fittings inside and water-wise landscaping outside.

     Energy & Atmosphere: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, buildings use 39 percent of the energy and 74 percent of the electricity produced each year in the United States. The Energy&Atmosphere category encourages a variety of energy strategies: Commissioning; energy use monitoring; efficient design and construction; efficient appliances, systems and lighting; the use of renewable and clean sources of energy, energy generation on-site or off-site; and other innovative strategies.

     Materials & Resources: This credit category encourages the selection of sustainably grown, harvested, produced and transported products and materials. It promotes the reduction of waste as well as reuse and recycling, and it takes into account the reduction of waste at a product's source.

     Indoor Environmental Quality: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans spend about 90 percent of their day indoors, where the air quality can be significantly worse than outside. The Indoor Environmental Quality credit category promotes strategies that can improve indoor air as well as providing access to natural daylight and views and improving acoustics.

     Innovation in Design: This credit category provides bonus points for projects that use new and innovative technologies and strategies to improve a building's performance well beyond what is required by other LEED credits or in green building considerations that are not specifically addressed elsewhere in LEED. This credit category also rewards projects for including a LEED Accredited Professional on the team to ensure a holistic, integrated approach to the design and construction phase.

     For more information, visit the USGBC Web site at www.usgbc.org.