Schiller says, ‘Building green can save green’


BUILD GREEN TO SAVE GREEN—Green Building Alliance CEO Mike Schiller tells African American Chamber of Commerce members how “green” building can positively affect their bottom lines. (Photo by Christian Morrow.)

Mike Schiller, CEO of Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance told the audience at the African American Chamber of Commerce PowerBreakfast that whether Catastrophic Global Warming theory is correct or not, or even if no one can really define what “green” is, it still makes bottom-line sense to build that way because waste can be expensive.

Schiller, who has founded three companies, a nonprofit and a charter school, said that idea was brought home to him during a mountain climbing adventure in South America.

“When you have to carry all your food, fuel and water up the mountain, and all your waste–including your feces–down the mountain, you think more about energy use and waste reduction,” he said.

In terms of building that way, Schiller said it is possible for a small business to build a LEED, silver-certified building for the same investment as a conventional building. Does that mean adding geothermal heating and cooling, installing solar and wind-turbine electrical systems, reclaiming and making all the shower and toilet water potable? No, but it could.

In many cases, using recycled or repurposed materials–found locally so energy isn’t wasted shipping them from California–and insulating properly will do, and it will save money, he said.

On the other end of the spectrum are what Schiller called “the castles,” one of which–the Center for Sustainable Landscapes is at Phipps Conservatory. It uses all the technology listed above. And though the reclaimed water is only clean enough for watering the conservatory’s plants, it is the “greenest” and one of the most expensive buildings in Pittsburgh.

Another “castle” is the PNC tower currently under construction at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street Downtown.  It will employ a number of energy- and waste-reducing technologies, including the ability for its windows to open, and renew the inside air passively. The 50-percent premium PNC is paying for this, from $200 to $300 per square foot is, Schiller admitted, beyond the reach of all but the richest homeowners and companies.

“There are five ways to get LEED certification: site management, water management, materials choices, energy management and environmental impact,” he said. “Doing only some, or a little of each can make a big difference and doesn’t require a huge up-front outlay of cash.”

He reminded the audience that the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate on storm water management could require between $2 billion and $15 billion in expenditures and attendant rate hikes, reducing water usage and waste will be on everyone’s mind.

Schiller also noted that a company call PassivHaus has built two “net zero” houses locally and sold them both. Net zero homes have essentially no energy costs.

The home in Heidelberg, he said, was sold at market rate. The one built in Highland Park, however, sold at three times the market rate.

Schiller said he is working on creating more financing options for sustainable building. Improved solar and insulating products should come on line as well, reducing expenses.

“Right now we also need more data because we don’t have what we need for you to walk into the bank for a building loan and say, ‘if I do this it will save $1,000 on our utilities,’” he said.



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