This week kicks off a group of tours from the Sierra Club Cool Cities Program and the U.S. Green Building Council. Volunteers from both groups are holding public tours of green buildings across the U.S. to highlight the local economic and environmental benefits of energy-efficient, sustainable buildings. The tours are part of the national "Green Buildings for Cool Cities" partnership between the Sierra Club and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The project is aimed at helping cities nationwide make green building a key component of their economic and environmental recovery efforts. The green building tour locations include Memphis, Charlotte, Fort Collins, San Jose, Indianapolis, Denver, Greater Milwaukee, and Augusta, Maine. The venues range from homes, banks, schools, business offices, municipal buildings, to supermarkets, fire stations, low-income senior housing, a movie theater, and a LEED ND or neighborhood development project. "Buildings contribute nearly 40% of global warming emissions and consume over 70% of electricity use in the U.S., so they present a tremendous opportunity as we look for ways to reduce energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution – not to mention create jobs in the emerging clean energy economy," said Glen Brand, director of the Sierra Club's national Cool Cities program. "Green buildings efficiently use energy, water and other natural resources, protect the health of occupants, improve employee productivity and reduce pollution," said Aaron Lande, with USGBC's Sustainable Cities program. "These tours are a great way to see firsthand the realities and potential of high-performing, green building strategies." Green buildings, according to the 2006 report "Green Building SmartMarket Report" by McGraw-Hill Construction, can reduce energy consumption by 26% and greenhouse gas emissions by 33%, compared to new structures built to conventional construction methods. Investments in green buildings on average result in 6.6% improvement on return on investment, 8% reduction in operating costs, and a 7.5% increase in building value. Improving the energy performance in existing buildings can reduce energy use by as much as 30% or 40%, with the ability to earn back those investments through lower utility bills over time. Selected Cities for tours include: Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville Tour of Big River Engineering and Manufacturing, a downtown Silver LEED retrofitted building housing a medical instruments manufacturer. In addition, there will be tours in seven other cities throughout Tennessee, including Nashville, Murfreesboro, Cookville, Crossville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Johnson. Denver and Fort Collins Tour of Denver's Wellington Webb Municipal Office Building, which is both Energy Star and LEED Gold for existing buildings certified, and designed to be 25 percent more energy efficient than a conventionally-built building. In Fort Collins, the tour will be at the Poudre Fire Authority Station #4, which is seeking LEED Gold certification. San Jose Tour of the Integrated Design Associates Inc headquarters, the first commercial office building in the U.S. designed to meet a net-zero energy/ net-zero carbon emissions goal. Augusta, Maine Tour of the new Hannaford's supermarket, the world's first LEED platinum-certified supermarket. Brookfield, Wisconsin Tour of Environmental Systems Inc. (ESI) facility seeking Platinum LEED certification. LEED Green Building Certification The national benchmark for green buildings is USGBC's LEED green building certification program. LEED provides third-party verification that a building was designed, built and is operated using strategies aimed at improving energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, indoor air quality and other building impacts on environmental and human health. LEED rating systems exist to address all building types - from commercial and institutional buildings to homes and even entire neighborhoods - and lifecycle stages, including new construction and ongoing operations. More than 4,500 buildings have achieved LEED certification, and more than 200 localities across the U.S. use LEED as their benchmarking tool. For more information on the "Green Buildings for Cool Cities" project, see www.coolcities.us and www.usgbc.org.
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