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Going green while saving green

Newport's Civic Center is shooting for LEED status that, ultimately, will make the facility more cost-effective.

January 04, 2011|By Mike Reicher, mike.reicher@latimes.com
  • Landscape architects have selected drought-resistant plants like cacti, aloe and agave for the under-construction City Hall park.
Landscape architects have selected drought-resistant… (Courtesy City of…)

NEWPORT BEACH — Many can picture the view from the top floor of the Central Library here — the Pacific in the distance, palm trees swaying in the breeze and sun streaming through the windows.

With its new Civic Center under construction next door, the city's hoping to take advantage of those natural elements.

Officials say measures like designing the buildings to receive natural light will lessen the city's impact on the environment and will save the city money in the long run

by reducing energy use. They hope these green efforts combined will qualify the Civic Center for a LEED Silver or Gold status — awards conferred by the U.S. Green Building Council.

"The nice part about the whole green process is that it's not only the right thing to do, but it also makes sense for the city," said Public Works Director Steve Badum. "Anything we can do to reduce the operating cost is important."

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Architects and consultants have aimed to reduce the impact with recyclable building materials, draught-resistant landscaping, sophisticated heating and ventilation systems, and by orienting the building to receive more of the ocean breeze.

For each of the measures, Badum said the city and its consultants considered the cost and benefits. They calculated the payback — how long it would take for the city to recoup its initial investment through reduced operating expense.

"We had to weigh the economic benefits with the environmental benefits, and there has to be a balance there," Badum said.

At the Civic Center's planned restaurant, some of the costs may be borne by customers — the library patrons and City Hall visitors and employees. In its request for food service proposals, the city suggested that the provider harvest waste oils for biodiesel fuels, and provide locally produced, sustainably harvested meats, fish and vegetables.

Some of the more elaborate environmental measures have already been abandoned because they are too expensive, Badum said.

Instead of a water recycling program, for instance, the city plans two sets of plumbing: one for freshwater and another for re-claimed water that would be used for toilets and landscaping (although today there aren't any reclaimed water pipes serving that area).

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