Buildings Green Is Cool Loma Prieta Chapter

Buildings: Green Is Cool

Building designer Kacey Fitzpatrick builds green because "It’s the right thing to do: for our children and for the planet."

Since buildings account for nearly half of the CO2 emissions in the country, and since over the next quarter century, these emissions are projected to grow faster than any other kind, the practice of green building (and policies that support it) is a critical piece of a broader strategy to reduce our global warming pollution.

Loma Prieta Chapter member Kacey Fitzpatrick is a Los Altos resident and green building designer. The birth of her son prompted Fitzpatrick to completely green her business, Avalon Enterprises, in 2004. "It’s the right thing to do," she says, "for our children and for the planet." Now she helps clients build homes or remodels that use 30-50% less energy than comparable "to code" homes and use solar technologies, where feasible.

Fitzpatrick’s passion for the planet also led her to a Sierra Club Cool Cities leader training. Together with other Los Altos participants, she formed a teamCool Los Altoswhich in late January, after months of hard work, met with success when the City of Los Altos agreed to sign the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and initiate a greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Los Altos became the 21st "Cool City" in the Chapter.

Cool Cities teams throughout the region are asking their cities to adopt or ratchet up their green building policies. The environment couldn’t be better. Builders, policy makers, and consumers are all beginning to get it.

Green Standards

Over the past several years, clear standards have emerged in the region for measuring what is green: Build It Green’s GreenPoint checklist for homes and the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for commercial buildings. Architects and builders know how to use these standards. The Home Builders Association of Northern California has even called on Bay Area cities to adopt mandatory green building policies based on Build It Green’s system.

Cities are already moving in the right direction thanks, in part, to prompting from Cool Cities teams. San Jose leads the way for municipal buildings, requiring that buildings meet LEED’s Silver standard and encouraging Gold. The city is also beginning to improve existing municipal buildings and is exploring options for encouraging green building in the private sector.

Though a latecomer to Cool Cities, Los Altos is the only city in the region to adopt mandatory green building standards for private developments: all new single and multifamily homes must achieve a GreenPoint rating of 50 or more, and commercial buildings must exceed the state building code by 15%.

History has shown again and again the power of small-scale, grassroots movements. In her little corner of the world, Kacey Fitzpatrick is laying the groundwork for a future of green buildings with a significantly lower carbon footprint. Local organizations like Cool Cities, Build it Green, and LEED are already having an impact. California has taken the lead in implementing legislation to reduce automobile emissions; green building is clearly the next frontier.

Margaret Suozzo was the co-director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s Building Program until taking some time off to raise her kids. She currently co-chairs the Chapter’s Cool Cities campaign.


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