Building Beautifully: Environmentally Efficient Buildings Can Be Conventional-Looking Inspirations

By Burns, Cameron M. | Ecos, October-December 2003 | Go to article overview

Building Beautifully: Environmentally Efficient Buildings Can Be Conventional-Looking Inspirations


Burns, Cameron M., Ecos


One of the funny things about energy and resource-efficient architecture is how we, as a society, expect it to look. In April this year, Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., showed the world just how mainstream a 'green' building's design could appear when the firm opened its award-winning Torrance, California, sales headquarters.

The facility is one of the largest 'green' building complexes in the world and boasts five three-storey buildings (totalling 58 000[m.sup.2]), a 2800[m.sup.2] cafeteria, two central plants and a two-storey glass atrium connecting the buildings--all are located on a 15.4 hectare site.

The US$87 million facility has achieved a gold 'LEED' (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standard under the US Green Building Council's rating system. Gold is the second-highest rating a building can receive and the Toyota facility is the largest complex to ever receive such a rating. Yet, it looks like a 'plain vanilla' office building, as one reporter wrote.

'Office buildings have a significant impact on the environment, using about 65 per cent of the electricity and 12 per cent of the drinking water in the United States,' said Christine Ervin, President and CEO of the Green Building Council. 'Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the environmental impact buildings have, while also enhancing the overall work environment. This complex demonstrates what can be accomplished when concern for the environment plays a role in every aspect of the design and building process.'

The gold rating recognised several progressive steps in design and construction. First, the facility is built with at least 95 per cent recycled materials. According to solarbuzz.com, a leading solar energy research website, there are more than 250 miles of reinforced-steel beams in the complex, which were made mostly from recycled cars. …

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