- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003


The unfinished building on the corner of Lee Highway and Culpeper Street in Arlington County looks typical, but county officials say it was built to have a minimal impact on the surrounding air, land, water and people inside of it.

“You don’t smell much, do you?” County Planner David Alberts said recently while standing inside the building and taking a deep breath.

Mr. Alberts said the reason is that workers who smoked on the job were thrown off the site.

The steel, glass and concrete building also has rainwater toilets and vegetative roofs — popular on the West Coast.

The building is scheduled to open in September along with another “green” building, the Langston-Brown School and Community Center.

Despite the environmental advantage, many developers are reluctant to construct such buildings because the costs are high and the demand is low.

“Until they get the huge outcry from the consumers, it’s tough to tell builders … to step back and start doing green building,” said Rich Dooley, who promotes the concept for the National Association of Home Builders Research Center.

Green buildings such as those in Arlington will help, Mr. Dooley said. The county requires builders to submit environmental scorecards for their projects and offers rewards to those who score well, said County Board Chairman Paul Ferguson, an advocate of green building.

Architect Mark West designed the Arlington school, which will be red and beige. It features two 11,000-gallon water tanks to collect rain from the roof, floor-to-ceiling windows that help control temperature and electric-vehicle recharging stations.

It will open as a community center and alternative public high school for students who have had trouble in more traditional schools, and it will be one of the first in Virginia to pass a review process and earn green-building certification, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, which awards the honor.

To build the school, Mr. West used paints, fabrics and adhesives that give off low levels of toxins.

Two mammoth tanks on either side of the building will collect storm water and prevent it from becoming runoff that would have eroded streams and carried pollutants into the Chesapeake Bay. Instead, the water will irrigate the landscaping around the building.

Other buildings in the county, such as the Navy League of the United States, are green. Even some homeowners have green homes.

“We’d like it to be standard building procedure in the county and nationwide,” said Joan Kelsch, an Arlington environmental planner who developed the county’s green-building programs with Mr. Alberts. “It just requires a bit of mind change on the part of developers.”

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