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Green Buildings 1

NOTE - It was reported in this story that Jeff and Pam Vilkin of Tradewinds Construction are the only green certified builder and architect in Nevada. Neither Jeff nor Pam Vilkin are architects, they are builders.

Chances are, you're in a building, you've recently left a building, or you're on your way to one. As absurd as it sounds, that building may not have been constructed with you in mind. Today architects are continuing to try to make the indoor experience more pleasant. KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports. GREENBUILD1 SOQ 8:52

In the mid 20th century architects thought they knew what was best for clients - and the clients accepted it. By the late 20th century architects started listening to the needs of their clients according to Julie Nicoletta, author of Buildings of Nevada. She describes the difficulty architects face trying to balance the needs of clients while trying to reduce energy consumption while trying to make office space more comfortable.


"A lot of it has to do with controlling the environment and not necessarily wanting to give individuals especially in a skyscraper and institutional buildings control over their own space."

Despite the controls that are in place, construction and operation of structures in the United States account for almost half of the nations energy consumption, half of its pollution and half of the nation's waste according to a U-S Senate, Public Works and Environment Committee report last year. Nicoletta says that the underlying problem is that the buildings just don't work well.

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"At least historically, people in Las Vegas weren't building anything any different than other parts of the country, so the buildings really weren't designed to deal with the intense heat and the sun and the rainstorms that come through in the summer time - that is true throughout the country but there wasn't the reflection on how the buildings fit in with their environment and so that is definitely happening more now."

The cost of that mistake can be high as buildings have to be retrofitted according to Craig Curtis of the Miller-Hull Partnership in Washington, winner of the Architecture Firm Award - the nation's highest awards for design. He's seen lots of bad designs.

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These are apartment buildings that have gone up over the last 10 or 15 years and a number of them are now covered with tarps and scaffolding as they go in and tear the exterior skin off to replace the skin, replace the windows, get rid of mold and take care of some environmental health issues that are hurting the buildings and the occupants.

Making bad buildings and then having to tear them down isn't practical.

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"It's getting more and more of a desperate situation. We have to do something or we will just flat our run out of resources."

He says architects and builders around the nation, tired with this trend are trying to change it. He's speaking this evening at the third lecture series sponsored by the American Institute of Architects in Las Vegas. Laura Heartman spoke at the second one.

(sound of lecture series)

It's called the Sustaining Nevada Lecture Series and earlier speakers have drawn hundreds of architects who want to learn about sustainable design. It's a combination that looks at the building as a whole: Tight construction standards, materials that come from renewable resources, alternative power, quality air circulation systems and a focus on energy and water efficiency. Lance Kirk, chairman of the American Institute of Architecture's Committee on the Environment set up the series. He says builders and architects want to learn how to do it.

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"Now it's kind of taking on a more of a holistic approach. You have a concern for productivity, you have concerns for operating costs of a building, all these things are starting to come into play as a concern."

Structures made for the people inside keep people happy he says.

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"There have been studies that show people in a building when you are not using artificial light, people re a little bit more happy, they want to come to work the natural light is starting to have or always had a kind of psychological, but it is starting to become more evident that people are happy to be there."

But Curtis of the Miller | Hull Partnership says architects can't do it alone.

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"I think the biggest challenge is convincing private owners, I think a lot of governmental agencies are on board with this movement, but it is to convince private business owners that it makes sense financially to do this as well, that this is not just about protecting the environment but it is also economically a good decision as well."

Construction costs range from 5 to 12 percent more than conventional construction depending on the level of environmental sensitivity. There are many different levels of environmentally sensitive designations for builders to choose from. There's the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star Program, a more stringent Department of Energy's Building America program and state and local governments all have their own stringent building codes. But the top designation for environmentally sound buildings is determined by the U-S Green Building Council. It registers and certifies construction as green based on 65 different categories including its use of energy, indoor air quality, water, materials and site selection. A building needs 26 points to be certified. It starts with a registration process before construction and ends with an independent contractor evaluation of the project. So far, there are only 65 buildings have none through that process in the United States and none in Nevada. But the Council currently has a backlog of almost 1-thousand projects registered for certification - seven of them are in Nevada.

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Sound of plans opening

"These are the plans for the new regional animal shelter that will be housing animals, an adoption facility for the future use of Clark County."

Jeff Vilkin is president of Tradewinds construction in Las Vegas and the general contractor on this project, one that's currently registered for green certification with the Green Building Council. The building's still in the design phase. He says the lights will have automatic dimmers that read light levels and the facility will include a recycled scientific laboratory.

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On the plan one big thing is what is shown as the future living machine which is a water treatment facility that may be organic or mechanical that will recycle the water that is used in the facility specifically in this large adoption park, the outdoor stalls are all cleaned with the water and at the end of each stall is a trough and all the waste materials are washed into the trough and then the trough is essentially flushed so a lot of the water that can be recaptured, it can be cleaned in the quote living machine or water treating facility.

The cost of this building is estimated at 9 million - with 45 -thousand dollars going to the green building certification. He says the overall higher cost than conventional building will be made up in savings over the life of the structure. He and his wife, Pam Vilkin are the only Green certified builder and architect in Nevada.

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I believe that construction and architects as well tend to change does not come easy to them and I believe that we have no choice, that is the wave of the future, sustainability, conscious building practices will go hand in hand and construction companies will come around.

She is working on a green project for a public agency, but can only say it'll be a 22 million dollar project in Clark County that she hopes will recycle water, use composting toilets, and wind and solar power. But as a demonstration project, she's building a private office complex at a cost of 2 million dollars - just to show that green building is possible for smaller developments too.

For KNPR, I'm Ky Plaskon


U.S. Green Building Council

ARCHITECTURE FIRM AWARD - Miller | Hull Partnership