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Building "green" returns economic, environmental and social rewards

Like everywhere in America, Colorado Springs has high labor costs when compared with competitors in China and India who increasingly compete with us for blue- and white-collar engineering and programming jobs.

To compete in the global marketplace, we must be smarter about creating high performance and low-cost business and living environments. To succeed, we must enhance our triple bottom line: simultaneous economic, environmental and social performance.

Such sustainability strategies will not only improve our short-term competitiveness but also stimulate long-term approaches, which will enable our children, and their children, to have a chance for healthy ecological systems -- the ultimate source of real wealth potential.

That the world just experienced the warmest September in recorded history is an undisputed fact. Unless action is taken, our local and global systems will face more ecological havoc, such as the recent devastating wildfires in California and Colorado.

Today Americans spend a remarkable (and somewhat depressing) 90 percent of our lives inside buildings. Fortunately, the state of the art of "green" high performance buildings is shifting rapidly with new standards, design breakthroughs and advanced technologies. Carnegie Mellon University, for example, reports that superior, energy-efficient lighting can save twice its initial cost annually in energy bills. But the big savings come from increased productivity among workers where the returns are projected at 40 times the initial investment.

The recent shift of home-building techniques toward green building is remarkable. Colorado's Built Green program has been one of the primary agents of that change. So far more than 18,000 new homes in Colorado have been built "green," improving energy efficiency and indoor air quality while saving consumers significant amounts of money.

The Pikes Peak region's public and private leadership is increasingly embracing these realities, and our real-estate design community is rapidly preparing for increased high performance building demands from customers -- both for new buildings, and upgrades of existing structures.

Colorado Springs Utilities has partnered with Built Green Colorado, Catamount Institute and nearly two-dozen other for-profit and nonprofit organizations to bring leading national sustainable building experts to town through The Green Advantage conference this Thursday, Nov. 6 at the World Arena Doubletree Inn in southern Colorado Springs.

The training conference will feature nationally leading case studies and seminars about sustainability solutions in real-estate development, including reports on American Honda's NW Regional Facility in Portland, Ore.; Heifer International Headquarters in Little Rock, Ark.; and Colorado College's Tutt Science Center. The conference is also offering the following two sessions that are free and open to the public, both of which begin at 6:30 p.m.:

"What to Look for in a New Home" with Steve Andrews, E-Star Colorado

"Gas, Electric & Water Money Saving Tips" with Stephen Leinweber, Colorado Springs Utilities

You can register at www.cata mountinstitute.org/green or in person at the Doubletree Inn.

Through such collaborative efforts, our regional business climate will remain attractive and competitive ... and our buildings will be more comfortable, healthy and efficient.

Christopher Juniper (juniper@cata mountinstitute.org) serves as the sustainability projects director at the Catamount Institute, and Traci D'Alessio (tdalessio@earthlink.net) is the state coordinator of Built Green Colorado.


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