A new report says metropolitan Milwaukee is pumping so much groundwater, it’s pulling water out of the Great Lakes basin. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
A new report says metropolitan Milwaukee is pumping so much groundwater, it’s
pulling water out of the Great Lakes basin. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Sarah Hulett reports:
Just west of Milwaukee runs a line that divides the Great Lakes basin from
the Mississippi River basin. Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey say
the fast growing-communities that sit along that line are pumping enough
groundwater that it’s actually reversed the underground flow that used to go
into Lake Michigan. Instead, that water is coming out of the lake.
Noah Hall is with the National Wildlife Federation.
“What’s most shocking and disturbing about this, though, is that this
groundwater pumping that’s been going on is having the effect of draining
Lake Michigan of ten million gallons a day, and diverting that water out of
the Great Lakes basin, never to return.”
Hall says that water is going into the Mississippi River basin. He says the
USGS report illustrates the need for Great Lakes governors to regulate
groundwater – not just surface water.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
In the last ten years, some cities in the region have seen an increase in the number of days on which the air was considered unhealthy. And according to a recent report, much of the blame should be placed on air pollution from cars and trucks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush has more:
In the last ten years, some cities in the region have seen an increase in the number of days on
which the air was considered unhealthy. And according to a recent report, much of the blame
should be placed on air pollution from cars and trucks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Mark Brush has more:
In its report, the Surface Transportation Policy Project highlighted research showing links
between transportation-related air pollution and increased asthma rates, and increased cancer risk.
Jim Corliss is one of the report’s co-author’s. He says progress has been made in cleaning up the
nation’s air, but that there’s still more to be done about pollution from vehicles.
“The increase in driving, the explosion in the number of miles people drive every day and every
year has really undermined a lot of the progress that we’ve made in cleaner engines.”
Corliss says that the increase in the number of miles driven is largely due to the way communities
are designed. He says urban sprawl has led to large increases in the number of miles driven for
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.
Many sidewalks end abruptly and go nowhere. Health experts are saying sprawling urban areas need to be designed so that sidewalks and bike paths are connected to community destinations. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Public health officials are calling for changes in how we design communities. They say poorly designed development contributes to higher obesity rates, the early onset of diabetes, and other health problems. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Public health officials are calling for changes in how we design communities. They
designed development contributes to higher obesity rates, the early onset of
diabetes, and other
health problems. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
For the past few decades most suburban developments have been about convenience.
should be just a short drive away…. parks, just a short drive away… school just a
away. Four-lane highways have replaced two lane streets to relieve congestion. If
you’re in a
car, other than dealing with the headaches of traffic, getting places isn’t that bad.
But… if you’re on a bike… or walking… crossing those multi-lane roads at busy
daunting for adults… let alone children. And often, sidewalks are built, but
sometimes they just
end. A lot of times, sidewalks in a sprawling area never really go anywhere. So,
ride their bicycles or walk to destinations. It’s just not convenient… and
Ellen Bassett is with the Urban and Regional Planning Program at Michigan State
“Because we’re building things further and further apart without connectivity that
people to walk or to use their bicycles; they have to drive everywhere. We’re
environments where people exercise less, are less and less active.”
And the result has contributed to a decline in the overall fitness of Americans.
evident in children. Kids today are fatter. The rate of obesity is up. Early onset
of diabetes is up.
Part of that is due to kids watching too much television… sitting around playing
games… and so on. But… not being able to ride a bike to school… or being able to
walk to the
park to play soccer… contributes to health problems because kids don’t get enough
their daily routines.
Richard Killingsworth is the director of Active Living by Design. The program works
incorporate physical activity into everyday lives through the way we design
Killingsworth says somewhere along the line we came to accept that it made sense to
walking places and instead drive to the health club.
“Now we’ve embraced the notion that we drive to destinations to do physical activity
to having it as a part of our everyday lifestyle. So, we’ve essentially built an
accommodates something that is not physically active and accommodates one mode of
transportation, that’s the automobile.”
Killingsworth consults with urban designers, encouraging them to think about more
it’s a convenient drive… but to think about whether a neighborhood is designed to
make it a
convenient walk to school… or the park.
“We’ve built upon the notion that the car is king and it should be the only way and
we cannot sustain that for much longer. We need to look at other viable modes and as
we build, if
we build more compactly, a viable mode and a more efficient mode clearly would be
And, increasingly, urban planners are being urged by physical fitness experts to
public health. They say making sure there’s a network of sidewalks and bike paths
connect the community’s destinations is worth the cost.
Risa Wilkerson is with the Michigan Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health
She’s taken an active interest in land use planning. She says it’s cheaper to design
that encourage physical activity than it is for society to pay the health care costs
caused by too
little exercise. She argues she’s not asking for that much.
“That children have sidewalks that are buffered between the road with a row of trees
that the parks are connected to the schools and to homes and that people could walk
to get a
gallon of milk if they chose to or to go down and visit their neighbor at the local
coffee shop and
they wouldn’t have to get into their automobile for a quarter-of-a-mile trip.”
Wilkerson says health care costs are skyrocketing. Designing communities that
walking or bicycling are investments in prevention of the health problems caused by
exercise. She adds the health care costs of poorly designed areas is just the
“And then you’ve got pollution costs from automobile emission. It goes on and on in
you know, the savings if we get people out walking or biking — cleaner air. If you
put all of those
together, I mean there’s just — it’s a phenomenal case to make.”
Advocates of incorporating more sidewalks, bike paths, and safer intersections into
developments says local governments should also look at existing suburbs too… to see
neighborhoods can’t be retro-fitted to include a few sidewalks and safe crossings
that can connect
shopping, schools, and parks to homes. That way the walk of the day can be a little
just from the front door to the car in the driveway.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
Urban planners and fitness experts are beginning to compare notes about how suburban development affects health. They’re finding that urban sprawl discourages exercise such as biking and walking. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Urban planners and fitness experts are beginning to compare notes about how suburban
development affects health. They’re finding that urban sprawl discourages exercise
biking and walking. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
Not nearly as many kids ride their bikes to school today as kids did a generation
because sprawling areas – complete with four lane roads – are designed for cars. not
Risa Wilkerson is with the Michigan Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness, Health
She says fitness experts say there are advantages to building neighborhoods more
bicyclists and pedestrians.
“Carpooling your child everywhere you go is a hard life to have if your child could
walk to their
soccer game while the other child walks to piano practice and you stay home and
start to cook a
healthy dinner or you have a chance to go ride your bike.”
The experts say the way neighborhoods are designed now could be contributing to health
problems in kids such as obesity, the early onset of diabetes, and asthma that might
by auto emissions.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
The art deco style Mott Building is the tallest building in Flint, Michigan. Local chapters of the American Institute of Architects are trying to raise awareness about buildings like these in order to preserve them. (Photo by Ronald Campbell)
As people move to homes and businesses in the suburbs they often abandon beautiful buildings. Some inner cities are now filled with boarded up store fronts and dilapidated high-rises. A group of architects hopes that people will be less likely to do this if they value good architecture and design. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney has this story:
As people move to homes and businesses in the suburbs they often abandon beautiful buildings. Some inner cities are now filled with boarded up store fronts and dilapidated high-rises. A group of architects hopes that people will be less likely to do this if they value good architecture and design. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tamar Charney reports:
Flint, Michigan could be the poster child for a city left behind. Parts of the city have crumbled since Flint’s
auto industry moved away. But like
many older cities, there are dozens
of architectural gems here… (sound up)
like the Mott Building. It’s the city’s
tallest building and the exterior, the
interior, and every detail right down
to the doors on the elevators (sound
of elevator) are designed and
decorated in the Art Deco style.
Albert Ashley is a security contractor
at the Mott Building. He says a week
doesn’t go by without someone
asking about it.
(elevator bings and boings)
“It’s quite regular, quite regular we
get comments about it and the
architectural design and so forth…
well they can tell that it was pretty
old building and well kept, you know,
and the design is pretty much the
same throughout the building, so they
notice that and they like it.”
(Sounds of traffic)
One person who has always liked this
building is Ron Campbell. As a child,
he’d stand here on the corner of
Saginaw Street waiting for the bus.
“I can remember asking my mother,
‘how many stories is that?’ And I
probably pestered her with questions
to the point where she was ‘just be
quiet and wait for the bus.’ But…
‘How high is that compared with the
Empire State Building? How many
buildings do we have like that?'”
With that kind of early interest in
buildings, it’s no surprise Ron
Campbell grew up to become an
architect. And he’s now written a
guide to the architecture in Flint.
It’s a pamphlet with pictures and
blurbs about 34 places in the city.
It’s available at highway rest stops
and at businesses and museums.
Campbell says he’s trying to
teach people about the various styles
of architecture found in the city, but
he’s also hoping the guide can in
some small way combat urban sprawl
by celebrating places that are
beautiful, well thought out, and
designed to last. He thinks that if
more people paid attention to good
architecture in many older cities
they’d be less likely to abandoned
them in favor of new buildings and
“The Guide is to show, you know,
can come from good design. It
doesn’t matter if it was built in
1800’s or today. If it’s good design
and it interfaces well, it functions well,
it’s going to be with us, and therefore
we should use it and not think of it
The Guide to Flint Architecture is one
of many projects local chapters of the
American Institute of Architects are
doing to raise awareness about
architecture and the environments
that we build. Similar guides have
been created for cities ranging from
Duluth, Minnesota to Manhattan.
Celeste Novak is the president of
AIA Michigan. She says the buildings
in a city can tell stories about the
“They are a museum that we are all
participants in, and so it’s important
that people understand that
about the buildings and the communities,
and so that they begin to treasure their
communities and that’s one way we
can all have more livable
communities and really prevent things
like sprawl and the unpleasant places
we all find ourselves at when we’re grocery shopping.”
Those strip malls and big box stores
near the highway look very different
from the places shown in Ron
(sound of footsteps on bridge)
Campbell and I walk across a small
wooden footbridge in the heart of
downtown Flint. We’ve just left a
peaceful riverfront park designed by
a well known architect. On the other
side of the river where we’re going
sits Carriagetown. It’s where the
vehicle industry began in Flint.
“Oh, Carriage Town is rich in history –
this is the birthplace of General Motors
Company with the Durant Dort
After years of neglect, this factory
from the late 1800’s has been
restored as have many homes in this
historic district. Ron Campbell says
he’s glad Carriage Town was never
torn down. It’s part of the city’s
industrial history. And Carriage Town,
like the Art Deco Mott Building and
many other places in the Guide to
Flint Architecture are nostalgic places
for Ron Campbell. They’re reminders
of his past and things he’s done over
“Those buildings, it re-kindles
childhood memories for me, but then
I look at the future, and what are we
leaving for our children and our
children’s children and hopefully it’s
something just as memorable.”
He says design decisions can
change a community for better or for
worse. He and other architects like
him want to encourage people to
think about the buildings they have
and to pay more attention to
aesthetics. The hope is society can
do a better job protecting historical
structures, preserving natural
resources, and by doing so
For the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium, I’m Tamar Charney.
Chopping down trees for subdivisions and farm fields isn’t just bad for forests. It can also hurt people. According to new research, small patches of woodlands breed more ticks with Lyme disease. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein reports:
Chopping down trees for subdivisions and farm fields isn’t just bad for
forests. It can also hurt people. According to new research, small
patches of woodlands breed more ticks with Lyme disease. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s David Sommerstein reports:
Felicia Keesing, a biology professor at Bard College, wanted to know
where people ran the greatest risk of getting Lyme disease, an illness
spread by ticks. She knew Lyme disease-bearing ticks are carried mostly
by the white footed mouse. And she knew that kind of mouse thrives in
small chunks of forest.
That’s because its predators need larger woods to live and have
moved away. So Keesing compared forest chunks of different sizes for
tick populations. She found a lot more ticks with Lyme disease in small
forests boxed in by houses or farmland.
“On average about seven times as likely to encounter an infected tick in a patch of woods
smaller than five acres.”
Keesing says the results send a clear message to town and village zoning boards
weighing development issues. They should do everything they can to prevent the
fragmentation of forests.
Keesing says her research doesn’t suggest small lots should be cut down altogether. But
new development could be better planned to reduce the risk of Lyme disease.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Sommerstein.
Urban sprawl is affecting communities across the Great Lakes region. In one Ohio community, residents are turning to their churches to fight back. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer reports:
Urban sprawl is affecting communities across the Great Lakes region. In one Ohio community,
residents are turning to their churches to fight back. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen
Forest Hill Presbyterian Church was built in Cleveland Heights 100 years ago. Pastor John Lentz
says, in its heyday, some 15-hundred people regularly walked to church services every week.
Today, the congregation totals just 600. Lentz says it’s a constant struggle to replace those who
leave his flock for the greenfield developments that surround the urban center.
“Churches are anchors of communities and I think we need to be active in the kinds of issues that
affect our communities, like fair and open housing and education, and really make it our mission to equip
faithful people to, you know, walk the walk.”
He and other religious leaders have banded together to form the Northeast Ohio Alliance for
Hope. The group is working with 15 Cleveland suburbs, taking on issues like predatory lending,
school funding, and home repair.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Schaefer.
It’s that time of year again, when those who winter in warm, southern climates travel north for the summer. But for many birds, land development and habitat destruction are making migration an uncertain proposition. Some groups in the United States, Canada, and Central America are working together to protect land for the birds. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:
It’s that time of year again, when those who winter in warm, southern climates travel north for the
summer. But for many birds, land development and habitat destruction are making
migration an uncertain proposition. Some groups in the United States, Canada, and Central America
are working together to protect land for the birds. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Julie Grant reports:
(sound…birding in the rain…)
It’s 6 A.M. It’s still dark outside. And it’s raining. But Rob
Tymstra and Darrell Parsons are
hiking in the woodlands of Pelee
Island, in Western Lake Erie, on the
lookout for birds.
They’ve seen all kinds of warblers,
and herons, even a bald eagle.
They’re trying to spot as many
species as possible in one day as
part of the Pelee Island Birdathon.
They’ve seen or heard more
than 104 species since noon
yesterday, which seems like a lot, but
competing against six other teams
from the U.S. and Canada for who
can spot the most bird
“Uh oh, those are the Ottawa people,
our other competitors.”
Tymstra and Parsons are in this
contest to win. But they say the
Birdathon is really just for fun and to
raise money for the Audubon Society.
Both men are in their 40’s and have
been birding since
they were teenagers. They’ve got
lists of birds they hope to see in their
lives and have traveled
the world, most recently, to Brazil,
Panama, and Thailand, in search of
“Pelee Island compares really
favorably with the whole area. Point
Pelee National Park, just
north of us, is world famous for birds,
especially in spring migration. But all
these islands here in
Lake Erie are stepping stones as the
birds are traveling north.”
The next stepping stone for many
birds is Point Pelee National Park,
which gets a lot more
attention. But Tymstra likes to take
the ferry to Pelee Island because it’s
“So here we get as many birds or
more birds as Point Pelee, but we
don’t have the crowds. On a
busy day there in May you might get
10,000 people, but here you’re lucky
to see a dozen people.
So the birds here actually outnumber
(unveiling of sign)
“Pull from that end, gentlemen.
Everybody got their cameras ready?
The unveiling of this sign marks the
significance of a natural habitat that’s
been preserved on
Pelee. Most residents of this
Canadian island want the birds,
butterflies and other wildlife to
continue to outnumber the humans.
So, they’ve recruited organizations
such as the Nature
Conservancy, the Federation of
Ontario Naturalists, and others to
preserve and restore the habitat.
Ric Wellwood coordinates a coalition
of conservation groups concerned
about development in
“The difficulty we had was that twenty
years ago we realized that this
paradise we were living in
was getting crunched. Intensive
agriculture hurt for awhile, but it’s
eased off. But urban sprawl
is going like crazy. Urban sprawl is
taking away habitat. Our birdies
are not finding as welcome
a time as they used when they were
coming up here from Central
America and Mexico and
America and the southern U.S.”
A yellow-breasted chat or a wood
thrush might spend its winter in
Central America, then make the
long trek to Canada for the summer.
Field biologist Larry Roche tracks
birds in the Great Lakes
“That’s a tough life – migratory birds.
You can go to Belize, and/or Mexico,
and go out to the
Yucatan, and watch them leave the
Yucatan in the evening and they fly
somewhat eighteen hours
across the Gulf of Mexico and they
land on the upper Texas coast. And
then they leave that area
and go hopscotching all the way to
wherever they want to go. Some of
these birds come from
Argentina and go all the way to the
Arctic. It’s pretty stunning for a land
bird to do that.”
These tiny creatures can be exhausted
by the time they get to the shore of
Lake Erie. The Nature
Conservancy in Canada and Ohio
are trying to protect land here to
make sure there’s a place for
the birds to make a pit stop, or to
nest and raise their young. But the
conservationists are concerned that
poorer Central American countries
are allowing bird habitats
to be destroyed. Those countries
need the money developers are
offering for the rainforest
A report from the WorldWatch
Institute says bird species today face
a wave of extinction not seen
since dinosaurs died out. Twelve
percent of the world’s bird species
are considered to be at risk
of extinction and habitat loss is the
single greatest threat to birds.
Some environmental groups are not
only protecting land here, but also in
Central and South
America. To do that, Randy Edwards
of the Ohio Nature Conservancy says
they’re buying land
“Because there are more then sixty
species of birds from herons to
songbirds, warblers, etc, that
overwinter in Belize and elsewhere in
Central America and then come to
Ohio and places north
to make their nests and raise their
young. And the birds that we see
here, and that we enjoy in the
spring and the summer spend time in
Belize, so we need to protect habitat
here in Ohio and
Canada and Belize, all along their
migratory route, or they won’t be
The Ohio Nature Conservancy was
part of a debt for nature swap in
Belize. In total, the U.S.
provided five and a half million dollars
to Belize for the preservation of
23,000 acres of forest in
the Maya mountain-marine corridor.
It’s a small but significant step to
ensure that birders Rob
Tymstra and Darrell parsons can try
again next year on Pelee Island.
They lost by one bird species to their
arch rivals from Ottawa.
For the Great Lakes Radio
Consortium, I’m Julie Grant in Ohio.
Governments are trying to figure out the best way to deal with urban sprawl. Legislators and planners are considering all kinds of approaches to manage the growth of cities, but some say government really has no business trying to stop the market forces that are driving the rapid growth. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the deeper debate between property rights and land use protection:
Governments are trying to figure out the best way to deal with urban sprawl. Legislators and
planners are considering all kinds of approaches to manage the growth of cities. But, some say
government really has no business trying to stop the market forces that are driving the rapid
growth. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the deeper debate
between property rights and land use protection:
Through the public process, states that are grappling with urban sprawl end up hearing from everyone involved. While the media and environmental groups tend to look at the
problems of congestion and loss of green space and farmland due to the rapid growth at the edges
of cities, others see the growth as driven by what people want – it’s natural growth, even organic. In
fact, many property owners, builders and developers, see government interference as “un-
American,” as testimony from this public hearing in Michigan shows.
“As an American, I strongly believe in our citizens’ rights to pursue life, liberty and property.”
“Centralized planning did not work in Russia, Cuba, North Korea or anywhere else they’ve
attempted it.” “Are we gonna mandate where they’re going to live? Is this gonna be America?”
“The land should be controlled by the individual who has paid for the land and pays the taxes on the land and should be able to do with that property what he wants to do.” “Our Constitution tells
us about the preservation of private property rights.”
There’s something deeply rooted in the American cultural ethic that bonds people to the land – or
more precisely – to their land. It might be leftovers of the concept of Manifest Destiny where,
in the words of one essayist, land ownership was associated with wealth and tied to self-
sufficiency, political power, and independent “self-rule.” This seems to be especially true of
people who live in rural areas, or are only a generation or two removed from the farm.
Amy Liu is with the think-tank, the ‘Brookings Institution.’ She says when states start looking at
growth management techniques, commonly called “Smart Growth,” landowners and builders
“There is a belief that the government needs to get out of the way of the market. And so the idea
of having government intervene in the real estate market and consumer choice is considered un-
And property rights advocates quickly become dogmatic about their beliefs and resist any kind of
restrictions on use of land.
In the same way, some environmentalists consider sprawl to merely be a matter of greedy
developers and builders wanting to make money no matter what the cost to the environment,
green space, or farmland. They sometimes ignore the fact that consumer demand for larger lots
and larger houses, as well as convenient shopping, is much of the driving force behind urban
Liu says many on each side of the urban sprawl debate are inflexible.
“You know, I think that there are definitely reasons why the environmentalists can be extreme
and why the property rights advocates can be extreme.”
And generally, the two sides are talking right past each other.
Ann Woiwode is with the environmental group, the Sierra Club. She says the opponents of
“Smart Growth” say they don’t want government interference, but she says they don’t talk that
way when they’re in need of roads, fire protection, good schools, and other government services.
Woiwode says “Smart Growth” doesn’t mean unreasonable restrictions.
“I’m not trying to take anybody’s rights away and I don’t think that’s the appropriate approach.
What in any society part of being a society is that we collectively decide how we’re going to
make decisions that affect the entirety of the community.”
And while Woiwode and other environmentalists are in favor of making sure green space is
preserved, most of them acknowledge that growth is inevitable. They say they just want to make
sure it’s the right kind of growth.
Amy Liu at the Brookings Institution says not every growth management plan makes sense.
Some of them only look at benefiting the environment and ignore market forces, the desire that
many people have for a bit of land and a home to call their own.
“There are certainly growth management policies that don’t work, that strictly limit development-
growth boundaries and are therefore anti-growth. I think the growth management policies, the
Smart Growth policies that do work are those that really do try to anticipate and accommodate
growth in a metropolitan area in a way that is going to promote economic development, that is
fiscally sustainable, that is environmentally sustainable, and that actually allows low-income
working families and middle-class and upper-income families to enjoy that growth.”
And finding that balance in a world where politics and competing interests sometimes muddy the
best intentions will be the real trick, as states try to define what “Smart Growth” will mean for
people pursuing the American dream of owning their own home.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.
To the environmentalist, “green” refers to something environmentally friendly. When manufacturers refer to green, they usually mean money. But with an increase in the demand for environmentally sound buildings, manufacturers have the opportunity to combine the two definitions. For those who see the possibility, retooling to meet the demand for green construction could mean a large payoff in a burgeoning industry. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Shula Neuman reports:
To the environmentalist, “green” refers to something environmentally friendly. When
manufacturers refer to green, they usually mean money. But with an increase in the demand for
environmentally sound buildings, manufacturers have the opportunity to combine the two
definitions. For those who see the possibility, retooling to meet the demand for green
construction could mean a large payoff in a burgeoning industry. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Shula Neuman filed this report:
There’s an 86-year old abandoned building in a Cleveland neighborhood that was left for dead a
few decades ago. It’s a shame because inside the building are 26-foot high ceilings with ornate
molding, original Tennessee marble walls and wood trim. But recently, the building, which was
once the Cleveland Trust Bank, was identified by a coalition of local environmental groups as the
ideal spot for their offices. The Cleveland Green Building Coalition spearheaded the task of
converting the old bank building into the new Environmental Center. Executive director Sadhu
Johnston explains, the project is not your average renovation.
“What we’re really trying to do is to demonstrate to people that you can do green while
preserving and that’s often they are seen to butt heads and this project is showing that the two
movements have a lot in common.”
While touring the mostly finished building, Johnston points out seemingly endless
environmentally friendly features. First, there’s a radiant floor heating and cooling system. Then
there are the geothermal wells under the parking lot. They use insulation made from recycled
paper and cardboard. And the roof is divided into three sections: one part has traditional black
tar, another has a white reflective coating and the third segment is a living roof, which looks like
Johnston says the layout is meant to demonstrate a more than 100-degree temperature variation
between the three surfaces. All of the different materials and methods used to construct the
Environmental Center, could signal a forward thinking manufacturer to see financial reward from
the burgeoning interest in green buildings. After all, green buildings tend to save money.
The Environmental Center is 67-percent more energy efficient than required by code. In fiscal
terms, that adds up to a half-million dollar savings over 20 years. This might make you wonder
why more people aren’t building green. Actually, according to U.S. Green Building Council
president and CEO Christine Ervin, interest in green construction has been increasing over the
past decade. Since the group established green certification standards three years ago, nearly 700
projects have registered to meet certification. And, Ervin adds, the increase in interest is not
exclusive to tree-huggers
“The diversity of the kinds of projects also is telling us that this is a serious trend that is moving
into the mainstream market. We have projects that are registered firehouses, small schools, FAA
stations. All the way up to manufacturing plants and convention centers.”
Several cities and government agencies are already mandating green construction on new
buildings, including the city of Portland, the General Services Administration and the U.S. Army.
David Goldstein is with the Natural Resources Defense Council and environmental group in San
Francisco. He says there’s a movement afoot to establish national incentives to build green. In
other words, the time is ripe for the construction industry to get with the green program.
“From the point of view of the manufacturers of the equipment and supplies, and of the expert
building designers who put all these things together, once these policies for green buildings are
there, that’s a new market opportunity for them. So it is in their interest to promote these kinds of
Goldstein adds green regulations also have a coincidental social benefit. With 35-percent of
pollution coming from the electricity and gas buildings use, requiring green buildings is as much
a public health issue as it is an economic one.
Some manufacturers in the great lakes region have caught on to the possibilities. The Cleveland
Based Garland Company manufactures and installs roofing systems all over the country and is
responsible for the Environmental Center’s roof—its first in-town green job. Garland
incorporates recycled materials into about 80 percent of its products. Nathan Schaus, project
manager at Garland, says about 15 percent of their business comes from their green product line.
Schaus says the market for green materials will continue to grow, especially with manufacturers
pushing its benefits.
“It’s a two-fold education. You need to educate the buyer, the end user that what they’re buying
is a building solution for the long term. So the initial investment, you have to explain that cost
over its life cycle. With the incentives, it’s changing the mindsets of the people that regulate
government and electricity today.”
Government regulators may work even faster on establishing incentives when they see the
increase in demand for residential green building on top of the commercial market. According to
the National Association of Homebuilders, about 13,000 green homes were built last year – a
huge increase over any single year before that. If demand continues to increase at such a rapid
pace, those business that go green now may be making plenty of green in the future.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Shula Neuman.