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GreenTown: Sustainability for future generations

March 31, 2010
GRAYSLAKE, ILL. — Sustainability was the hot topic at GreenTown Lake County held here at the College of Lake County March 18.

GRAYSLAKE, ILL. — Sustainability was the hot topic at GreenTown Lake County held here at the College of Lake County March 18. Attendees learned about present and future sustainable initiatives from government officials and participated in sessions about green building and design, water conservation and alternative energy.

Bob Dixson, mayor of the town of Greensburg, Kan., spoke about rebuilding the community after 95% of it was leveled by an EF5 tornado on May 4, 2007. Greensburg is now one of the most sustainable communities in the U.S. All municipal structures in the city are being built according to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum requirements.

The mayor discussed many of the LEED buildings in the community, including the new Kiowa County Memorial Hospital, which just opened last month, and the Greensburg K-12 School, which is scheduled to open this fall. Sustainable features of the hospital included an on-site wind turbine, water conservation techniques, an energy-efficient heating and cooling system and natural day lighting features. Sustainable features of the Greensburg K-12 School include an onsite wind turbine, geothermal HVAC system and natural ventilation.

Another project the mayor spoke about was the Greensburg wind farm. The project will consist of 10 wind turbines, and will produce enough electricity to power approximately 4,000 homes. John Deere Renewables is the owner and operator of the wind farm, which is the company’s first wind energy development in Kansas.

“We need to think about how we build, recycle, etc.,” Dixson told GreenTown attendees. “Sustainability is the ability to endure for future generations. Don’t let the realities of today get in the way of a future vision. You need a vision and hope, and you need to identify what you can change”

Suzanne Malec-McKenna, commissioner of the City of Chicago Department of Environment, presented the Chicago Climate Action Plan, outlining strategies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and how the plan can be adapted to other communities.

According to Malec-McKenna, within two years, there have been many accomplishments based on the plan. For example, 20 million gallons of water per day have been conserved and an Energy Action Network, a pilot program that encourages residents and businesses to save money through energy efficiency, has been launched.

Malec-McKenna stressed how important it is to figure out how to create a demand for renewable energy, and how every community is unique and needs to figure out what will work for it.

“There is an opportunity for partnering and to try new things out,” Malec-McKenna told attendees. “You need to be creative, have a vision, and imagine what the community will look like in the future. It all goes back to quality of life, jobs, culture, etc.”

GreenTown’s morning session closed with a Mayors Roundtable discussion made up of Michael Belsky, mayor of Highland Park, Leon Rockingham Jr., mayor of North Chicago, and Robert Sabonjian, mayor of Waukegan, all located in Lake County, Ill. The mayors discussed their cities sustainable initiatives.

“Highland Park was green before it became big,” said Belsky. “The city is using biodiesel for work trucks, encouraging native landscaping and rain barrels. The city is modeling Chicago.”

According to Rockingham, the city of North Chicago is focused on water conservation.

“North Chicago is aware of Lake Michigan’s water table that is decreasing,” said Rockingham. “We are focusing on leaks in the infrastructure and making sure things are tightened up. We are making sure storm water retention ponds are filtered correctly, and promoting rain barrels and gardens to our citizens. We want to make sure residents understand that they can collect and use rainwater for irrigation.”

Sabonjian told the attendees that Waukegan was a major industrial area of the county, and the city is learning what can be done to clean up industrial areas and make them reusable again.

According to Sabonjian, once the areas are clean up, the lake front can be used for a clean energy industry.

“We can bring in a biofuel production plant or a wind turbine manufacturing plant,” said Sabonjian.

Afternoon sessions at GreenTown covered a variety of sustainable topics, including community design and building, water conservation and alternative energy.

Amy McEwan, assistant county administrator of Lake County discussed the county’s guiding principles to becoming green.

“The county has retrofitted diesel trucks, implemented sustainable infrastructure and building strategies, and is looking into the possibility of a large wind farm.”

According to the Strategy for a Sustainable Lake County, sustainable goals include maximizing energy efficiency and purchasing renewable energy sources, maintaining and enhancing open space as the community grows and develops, restoring and maintaining quality water resources in the county’s water sheds, implementing efficient water practices and storm water control, and promoting private green business growth and economic development.

Amy Talbot, associate planner at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, and Tori Trauscht, project president of the Indian Creek Watershed Project, spoke at the Implementing a Regional Water Supply session.

Talbot discussed water conservation measures, including water waste prohibition, metering, audits, leak detection and repair and residential retrofits, among others.

Alternative energy was discussed at the Sun & Wind: The Future of Alternative Energy session. Pete Kadens, president of SoCore Energy, and Tadd Scarpelli, founder and president of AVA Power Inc. discussed sun and wind as viable alternative energy sources.

Kadens spoke about the different types of solar energy, photovoltaic systems and PV technological improvements.

Scarpelli discussed wind power’s potential, noting that wind energy is one of the cleanest energy resources and the U.S. Dept of Energy has a goal of 20% wind energy by 2030.

Scarpelli also discussed AVA Power’s patent-pending vertical axis wind turbine, which he invented and on display at the event. The small wind turbine is available in 1kW and 5kW sizes, reaches rated power less than 20 mph, and will be manufactured this summer.

About the Author

Candace Roulo

Candace Roulo, senior editor of CONTRACTOR and graduate of Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences, has 15 years of industry experience in the media and construction industries. She covers a variety of mechanical contracting topics, from sustainable construction practices and policy issues affecting contractors to continuing education for industry professionals and the best business practices that contractors can implement to run successful businesses.      

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