November 12, 2006

THE ISSUE: -- The new, 56,000-square-foot Glenwood Community Center uses some of the latest in "green" building technology and design, including geothermal energy for heating and cooling and large windows to provide natural light. It is the first county-owned building to meet national standards for energy savings -- and it cost $13.8 million. How much of a priority should the county be putting on environmentally friendly design and technology in its buildings and infrastructure -- and how much of a premium should it be willing to pay?

The technology makes good sense

In recently posted articles, there is no analysis that permits the reader to determine additional costs because a building is "green." Some buildings that are LEED rated have been reported to cost no more than 10 percent more. One feature of the technology is that future cost of ownership is usually much lower for cost of power. In those cases, it makes good sense for green technology to be used because taxpayer costs are dramatically reduced over the long run. I am happy that Ken Ulman has announced his strong advocacy for green technology, and we look forward to a green downtown Columbia.

Ray Cole


`Green' buildings an economic plus

It misleads to suggest that a premium is paid for "green" buildings; most features fully recover their cost and then reduce future utility expenses. As energy costs rise and more widespread green technology achieves economy of scale, savings will increase. The Glenwood Community Center project manager says the cost of green features was 5 percent except for the geothermal heating and cooling system, which will recover its full cost in seven years and then provide savings over its 30- to 50-year life span.

The Howard County Citizens Association urged the county Department of Planning and Zoning to go green; in September, the department announced that it will propose incentives for green technology countywide. It remains an open question if LEEDS certification should be mandatory for all new buildings.

Bridget Mugane


The writer is president of the Howard County Citizens Association.

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