In a sign that communities are tackling the problem of rising utility bills head-on, a fire station in Charlotte recently undertook a series of renovations and upgrades that enabled it to cut down on power consumption and actually produce a little bit of its own energy as well. In honor of the achievement, the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit group that advocates for eco-friendly construction measures, awarded it with a Gold-level LEED status.
According to the Charlotte Business Journal, a regional news source, a number of initiatives were utilized in making the firehouse worthy of the prestigious recognition. During the actual reworking phase, over 40 percent of the materials reportedly came from nearby sources, which reduced the amount of fossil fuels used during that process. Approximately 20 percent of these items were recycled, and 75 percent of the accumulated waste at the end of the project was sent to be used elsewhere.
"The decision to make Fire Station 42 LEED Gold demonstrates community leadership, intelligent consideration for efficient ongoing operations and maintenance and a respect for conservative government budgets," says Emily Scofield, director of the USGBC's chapter in the Charlotte region. "LEED makes all of this possible, not impossible."
Additionally, a rooftop solar thermal system was installed that uses the sun's energy to create hot water, which enables the station to achieve savings in its operating budget. Skylights built into the roof allow natural light to illuminate the indoor sections, reducing the need for costly around-the-clock systems.
During a time when local government budgets are being squeezed by falling tax revenue and increasing costs, finding ways to reduce energy expenditure in important institutions like fire departments is a viable path forward. Hopefully, in time, other communities will follow in Charlotte's proverbial footsteps.