Yesterday I met with Phillip Rapport and Doug Peterson at the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. I was interested in visiting the building because, just as our science center is, the Transamerica Pyramid is LEED certified (Platinum level).
I was particularly struck by all of the involved aspects to a LEED certified building. San Francisco has been in a drought for the past four years, (though it has been raining for most of the time we have been here) which has sparked buildings to use drought resistant materials. For example, porous pavements, to help regulate storm water and levels, which deters pollutants from flowing into the bay. In the building, instead of just having a trash can, they separate it into three different parts: compost, recycling and trash. Although this seems like a miniscule effort, these practices have helped to deter 92% of the building’s waste from landfills.
Sustainability in a holistic view includes the health of not only the environment, but the built environment and the people living in it. The Orrick building monitors air quality and is mindful of “off-gas”, which refers to any chemicals that new products put into the air. This improves air quality for employees of all levels, and reduces exposure to harmful chemicals. Companies in the buildings are not allowed to supply plastic water bottles, but have refillable water stations to encourage workers to bring water bottles. They encourage workers to not drive to work by having a bike room and showers for those who choose to bike to work, as well as transportation maps to encourage other workers to use public transits.
The buildings have also implemented Variable Frequency Drive, which ensures that the minimal amount of energy is used to cool the building. We saw the meter that shows how much energy it uses, and since it was a cooler day, it was only using 40% energy. It’s like a dimmer. Instead of having the lights on at 100%, one can dim the lights to what they need, and therefore save energy. This was found in both the LEED certified buildings we visited, the Transamerica Pyramid and the Orrick Building.
(The Variable Frequency Drive)
From being a tourist here, to scheduling meetings about sustainability, I have found that the San Francisco city set up and lifestyle is centered around sustainability. Stores no longer bag items in plastic bags, and encourage customers to bring their own bags, or they are charged 10 cents for a paper bag. For every trash can, there is always a recycling and composting option. Uber and Lift are also very popular and user friendly. I think there is no better way to learn about sustainability, than actually live and experience the lifestyle firsthand in San Francisco!