Steel Buildings – Can They Be Green Buildings?

If you’ve ever been inside an uninsulated steel building in the middle of summer, you know how hot it can get inside.

But can steel buildings still be a good choice for green building? Apparently, they can.

Let’s look at some features of steel buildings that could be considered eco-friendly, or green.

Steel does take a lot of energy to make. But it’s also easy to recycle, and it actually gets recycled, because it costs a lot. In fact, steel is the most recycled material on earth. Just about all steel that you buy also has high levels of recycled content.

Steel has a longer life cycle than wood or other materials, so they don’t need to be repaired or replaced as often. Some steel buildings have manufacturer structural guarantees of 50 years.

And when the day finally comes for a steel building to be torn down, all of that steel is going to get recycled yet again.

Heating and cooling loss around doors, windows, foundation and roofing can be a lot lower with steel buildings than with other types of building materials, because of how well steel buildings fit together.

Metal roofs are cool roofs, when they are painted the right color or reflective. Check out the Energy Star website and you’ll see a large number of metal roofs listed as Energy Star compliant.

And check out the LEED points that you can earn with a steel building.

The University of Connecticut’s steel building was the first athletic building in the United States to earn LEED Gold status.

In Canada, Steelcare Inc.’s 50,000 square foot steel building was the first industrial building in the country to achieve LEED Canada Gold.

Air quality can also be better inside a metal building, because steel doesn’t offgas. With the right paint, there will not be any VOCs (volatile organic compounds).

But what about that incredibly hot metal building I was talking about before? It didn’t have insulation!

Insulation is key with metal buildings, and there are many different ways to insulate them effectively. Reflective insulation in particular works well with steel buildings.

Interested in learning more? Here’s a good article about metal buildings and energy efficiency from a trade publication for building operations management .

Anyone have any experience with steel buildings that have either Energy Star or LEED certification? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.

1st LEED gold certified car dealership opens in Rockwall, Texas

Toyota Of rockwall

For those of you not familiar with the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex (or if you live in Dallas it’s Dallas/Fort Worth…but what do they know), the area is like one big city managed by a couple of big city governments and an absurd number of smaller ones. It’s why the Dallas Cowboys haven’t actually been in Dallas since 1971 and yet nobody really seems to notice.

The city of Rockwall, Texas resides somewhere to the east of Dallas proper. Apparently, it is in an area that on my outdated map was labeled “Here there be monsters.” (I don’t travel much.) Rockwall is the county seat of Rockwall County. Rockwall is the smallest county in Texas, but also the one of the fastest growing counties in the whole United States. More importantly for this blog post, it is the home of Rockwall Toyota.

So, why would someone like me brave Dallas traffic to travel to a car dealership in a town I had never been to when I’m not in currently looking to buy a car? Well, this particular Toyota dealership holds a special place in the history of going green. This is the first Leed Gold Certified auto dealership on the planet, and after reading about it in the press room at Toyota I had to see for myself.

By nature I’m a bit skeptical about green businesses; even with certification it’s easy for a company to do the bare minimum to say they tried and then go about their business same as always. But never have I seen a business the extremes that Steve and Barbara Jackson have gone to with this dealership. This isn’t a marketing ploy with them, but a serious commitment.

It’s hard to know where to start but let me tell you right off the bat you haven’t lived until you walked into a men’s room with a digital camera and start taking pictures of the high tech waterless urinals. People just didn’t know how to react, but I couldn’t pass this up. As Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was fond of saying “God is in the details.” I hope it’s not sacrilegious to apply that to a men’s room. The cabinets, like the cabinets in the lobby, are made of recycled agricultural waste. The lights turn on and off automatically when you enter the room (a feature also common to all rooms in the facility) and the electronically controlled water saving water faucets are solar powered. Even the tile accents are made from recycled glass bottles.

The lobby is even more amazing. No VOC paints are used so there is no new car showroom smell. Furniture, cabinetry, wallpaper, even the floor mats are made from recycled and sustainable products. The lighting in the showroom senses when the room is lit by sunlight flowing in through the massive windows and automatically dims the lights to save power. They even have ceiling fans powered by solar panels on the roof. Skylights and windows provide natural lighting even in the climate controlled service areas. The bay doors into the service area open and close within 8 seconds to save energy.

The service bays and the parts department are connected by computer so that when a mechanic needs a part there are no forms or invoices to be filled out; In fact as much of the dealership communication that can be conducted paperless is.

Outside, the landscaping consists entirely of native plants. By using native plants, the amount of water, fertilizer, and pest control products used are greatly reduced. Four cisterns that are each bigger than my house collect water from the roof and from the condenser units for the air conditioning. These cisterns provide water for the landscaping and the car wash.

Green building techniques and materials were used throughout construction of the complex. The outside walls are made from recycled aluminum cans, and all waste materials from construction were recycled.

Environmentally friendly as commonly understood refers to nature and the outdoors. And I guess on a lot of levels, that’s the most important. I once worked for a defense contractor that employed some 10,000 people. Almost all of those employees were locked away 8 hours a day behind concrete walls with no windows, for national security reasons. The atmosphere was toxic, and I don’t just mean the WWII era asbestos in the building, but the burned out fluorescent baked state of mind that was a recognizable feature with anyone who had worked there more than a few months.

The commitment to the environment of Toyota of Rockwall extends not only to outside world, but also to their customers and employees. Air quality is carefully maintained throughout the facility with no VOC paint and concrete sealant, and airlock style entryways. Copiers and printers are sequestered away behind closed doors so that the toners and chemicals won’t contaminate the ecosystem of the building. Nearly every room is lit by sunlight during the day, and windows are made low enough that employees are able to see the outside from their desks.

Bike racks and showers are provided for the employees to encourage them to ride to work; not something you would expect from a car company. Employees are taught and encouraged to recycle and all the break rooms are provided with clearly marked recycle bins. Employees who carpool or drive hybrids to work are given special close in parking to encourage energy efficiency.

As I said, I’m not in the market for a car. As much as I wanted to drive one of the new hybrids off the lot, my beat up old Mercedes diesel (that I fill up with biodiesel) will have to hang in there a while longer until prize patrol shows up. But if you are in the market for a new car and you live within driving distance of Toyota of Rockwall it’s time to put environmental money where your mouth is. Toyota of Rockwall already has.