Seemingly, those running this great country appear to have rolled the clock back decades when it comes to certain environmental policies. Fortunately, at the state and local level, efforts at curbing pollution and improving overall sustainability continue apace.
The Town of Middleburg officially created its Go Green Committee in May 2011 to advise the Town Council on issues relating to environmental sustainability, energy conservation and the health and wellness of the community. The committee has made great strides in various areas such as recycling, decreasing toxic littering and improving healthy eating and active living awareness. In 2018, it spearheaded efforts, through the Virginia Municipal League (VML), to lobby the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing municipalities the option to regulate the use of single-use plastic bags – regrettably, that initiative was ‘dead on arrival’. But we will not be deterred!
Today, the town is in the early stages of planning a much needed new town office to replace it’s existing, aging 1960’s structure on West Marshall Street which it has outgrown. Town staff needs more space and up to date facilities, and the Middleburg Police Department will have the opportunity to move out of separate, leased offices and relocate into one central town facility.
For Go Green Middleburg, the town council and the town staff, this represents a major opportunity to approach the design and build of the new facility with a focus on green building practices – decreased use of resources, improved energy efficiency and conservation, reduced waste, the health and wellness of those who work within the structure and its physical siting.
Globally, buildings account for a high proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, and buildings occupied five days a week for ten plus hours a day, with all their inherent technologies, lighting, heating and cooling requiring large quantities of electricity are the biggest culprits. In fact, estimates suggest that buildings in the U.S. account for, nationally, almost 40% of all energy use as well as 65% of electricity use, 12% of all drinking water consumption, 38% of all carbon dioxide emissions, 30% of all raw material use and 30% of all waste output.
Carefully thought out siting of a new town office falls firmly within the scope of green building practices. One of the key goals when locating a building should be access to sunlight, not simply to allow for the possibility of solar panels at some point, but to maximize the use of natural light within the structure, thus minimizing the need for and use of electric lighting. Efficient insulation is a must to reduce the burden on HVAC systems.
Not all ideal green focussed siting criteria may be achievable in every case. For example, access to transportation can be extremely difficult in some locales, whereas in Middleburg it is a known quantity, and limited siting options available to the town will make this green element a challenge. Will the site be the existing location, or new, virgin space? What about sediment and erosion, stormwater runoff and can external surfaces and parking areas be designed to be semi pervious, rather than completely impervious, as is the case with asphalt?
We all have a responsibility to play our part to ensure that we leave our children and our children’s children a thriving planet. Despite all the fear-mongering, the many current and planned positive world-wide programs should fill us with optimism, however, complacency is not an option.