If you got sticker shock from your electric bill this summer, you'll want to check out the Brock Environmental Center's latest statement from Dominion Power. CBF's electric bills for the building have come in at only $17.19 a month the past few months. What's more, that's all administrative fees. Since April, the Brock Center's solar panels and wind turbines have actually produced nearly twice as much energy than was used. That extra electricity is then returned to the grid to help power other houses.
So how do you keep a 10,500-square-foot building running for just 57 cents a day in Virginia Beach's summer heat? In addition to taking advantage of abundant solar and wind energy, the building uses natural ventilation to catch refreshing morning and evening breezes. A geothermal cooling system utilizes the earth's constant 56 degree temperature.
Reducing energy and water needs is also a big part of it. Natural sunlight illuminates the space, while strategic summer shading prevents the sun from heating up the building. Super-efficient insulation makes sure it stays refreshing indoors even during sweltering weather outside. Through it all, temperatures in the office hover around a comfortable 76 degrees during the warmer months.
It's all promising as the Brock Center nears the halfway mark in its effort to earn Living Building Challenge certification from the International Living Future Institute, a rare and demanding designation achieved by only a handful of buildings around the world. CBF started the clock on April 1 for the challenge, in which over the course of one year the center must produce at least as much energy as it uses and get all of its water from collected rain, among other strict requirements.
One of the most environmentally smart buildings in the world, the combination of renewable energy and extreme energy efficiency at the Brock Center is a model for how buildings can have a near-zero carbon footprint. Wouldn't it be great if all offices could be powered for well under a dollar a day?
--Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator