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Seeing Green

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Sustainability isn't just the right thing to do. By “seeing green” you can stretch your infrastructure dollars, which allows you to do more with less. In 2008, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) adopted a sustainability policy. Since that time, EBMUD has worked to incorporate sustainability into the planning, design and construction of its infrastructure projects and into the choice of materials used in the operation and maintenance of its facilities. This approach has not only reduced environmental impacts and minimized community impacts, but also resulted in tangible cost savings. This paper presents concepts for utilities to successfully apply green building techniques to maximize capital budget dollars and improve community relationships.

Green building practices have been evolving for years. In some areas, such as paper, carpeting, and metals, specifications based on recycling and sustainability have been mainstream for decades. Other areas are less established, and adoption has been hindered by higher prices and lack of a proven track record. In the past few years, however, the state of green building seems to have passed a tipping point: prices are becoming competitive, reliability concerns have been largely assuaged, and code standards are emerging. Agencies that invest in green infrastructure may find they are able to harvest additional benefits beyond the initial environmental benefits. Written policies, when coupled with strong technical efforts, help instill a culture of sustainability, which then shapes efficient planning, design, construction and operations.

EBMUD has implemented sustainable design into several projects, reducing their initial cost as well as their on-going operations and maintenance costs. By looking holistically at a project, there are many opportunities for taking a greener approach. The tried-and-true “reduce, reuse, recycle” approach can be successfully applied to water system projects. For example, a sustainable building might be planned first of all to reduce energy consumption, then to recover energy onsite.

This paper presents case studies on building, reservoir, and pipeline projects that have realized savings due to green building practices. These projects include:

• A 17.6 MG storage reservoir replacement, which incorporated on-site materials recycling to save countless truck trips through narrow streets in a residential community.

• Two Microturbine and PV Projects at administrative facilities, which have reduced EBMUD's use of electrical power

• EBMUD's first net-zero energy building, which incorporated a solar power system, a night-sky evaporative chiller system, an earth-tube heating and cooling system, graywater irrigation, and a lighting control system that minimizes lighting use, while taking advantage of the building's extensive natural lighting.

Application of the lessons learned by EBMUD would help other water and wastewater utilities advance their sustainability efforts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2012

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