Monday, February 1, 2010

Eco-nomics: The Answer is Hops!

I had not heard about this one before. According to The New York Times, the federal government is planning on growing vegetation 200 feet up the side of the renovated Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building in Portland:

As part of a $133 million renovation, the General Services Administration is planning to cultivate “vegetated fins” that will grow more than 200 feet high on the western facade of the main federal building here, a vertical garden that changes with the seasons and nurtures plants that yield energy savings.

“They will bloom in the spring and summer when you want the shade, and then they will go away in the winter when you want to let the light in,” said Bob Peck, commissioner of public buildings for the G.S.A. “Don’t ask me how you get them irrigated.”

Rainwater, captured on the roof, and perhaps even “gray water” recycled from the interior plumbing are both possibilities, the architects say. But they concede that they are still figuring out some of the finer points of renovating the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, which was completed in 1975 and is currently 18 stories of concrete, glass and minimal inspiration.

Who will prune the facade? Maybe the same folks who wash skyscraper windows, the architects say. Perhaps the exterior concrete panels removed in the renovation could be reused as salmon habitat in a nearby river.

The G.S.A. says the building will use 60 percent to 65 percent less energy than comparable buildings and estimates a savings of $280,000 annually in energy costs. Solar panels could provide up to 15 percent of the building’s power needs. The use of rainwater and low-flow plumbing fixtures will reduce potable water consumption by 68 percent. And energy for lighting will be halved.

“It will be one of the more energy-efficient high-rises in America, possibly in the world,” said James Cutler, whose architecture firm, Cutler Anderson, led the design work.

But apparently they don't exactly know yet what vines to use:

This summer, he said, landscaping experts will experiment with vines and cover plants that can endure Portland’s wet, mild winters and its dry, hot summers — and do so at varying heights.

“We may train them on some vines in the nursery,” Mr. Eggleston said. “About 50 percent of the windows we need to shade every summer. You can’t take little seedlings up there in Year 1, because you won’t have anything up there for five years.”

The answer to this is clear: Hops! It is the Northwest after all, where hops thrive, and, if the government is going to spend all of this money, might as well plant a cash crop and try and recoup some of it. We have 42 breweries in the Portland area alone after all, so the demand is here. One variety per fin, I say.

Joking aside, this should be a fascinating project. Will it work? - one wonders...

1 comment:

Mary Sue said...

'hot, dry summer'? Is that what those two weeks of 90+ weather in September is, summer?