If there's one thing Las Vegas is known for, it's change. Although our green building awareness got off to a slow start compared to some other cities, we've managed to turn that around. Many are surprised to learn that the rate of green building is accelerating rapidly in Southern Nevada, now home to some of the largest green building projects in the world.
While some have argued that the idea of a green casino is an oxymoron, there is no doubt that everyone benefits from green building practices. Green homes are durable, healthier and save money. Green businesses reap financial rewards in many ways. Green schools improve both the teaching and learning experience.
The concept of green buildings is now commonplace, but how many of us actually "get" what a green building really is all about? There's nothing better than direct experience to fill in the gap and that's why the Las Vegas Green Building Tour was created. The tour is an immersive and detailed encounter with several diverse green buildings and projects in Las Vegas.
The origin of the tour is rooted in one of Nevada's most unique educational institutions. Founded in 1974, New Horizons Academy is a licensed, private, nonprofit, alternative day school. It is the only private school in Nevada specifically created and designed for students with learning differences. The school's executive director, Roger Gehring, has a vision for a new green addition to the existing Lied Foundation Campus at 6701 W. Charleston Blvd.
The project, dubbed the Energy Education Station (www.energyeducation station.org), will seek platinum certification under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Schools program. Plans are being developed as funds are raised for the project.
Jan McAdams, an enthusiastic and experienced green building advocate, is coordinating the green building aspects of the project. Her company, Funding GreenBuildings.com, specializes in turning green ideas into reality. It was McAdams' idea to create a tour of green buildings in Las Vegas to help raise awareness about the New Horizons project. Feedback from those who have taken the tour has been overwhelmingly positive.
The tour combines something for everyone and includes stops at Core Construction's new green headquarters, which is seeking LEED Gold certification; the Molasky Center, a LEED Gold-certified office building; the Springs Preserve with its campus of seven LEED Platinum-certified buildings; and the new homes at Villa Trieste, Pulte's LEED Platinum housing development.
It begins with a very special visit to the green demonstration classroom at New Horizons Academy. The classroom is part of the existing building but has been upgraded to incorporate many green features including daylighting, low or zero-volatile organic compound paints and carpeting, and environmentally friendly furniture. The positive responses from the students are incredible. They love the natural daylighting system and are thriving in their new environment.
With so much diversity on the tour, it appeals to everyone, including contractors, architects, educators and homeowners. The tour, which is offered as needed based on requests, lasts from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and includes an excellent lunch at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant at the Springs Preserve. A comfortable Earthbus provides green transportation, running on 100 percent clean biofuel.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I have the good fortune of serving as tour director, but please don't let that stop you from taking the tour. For those interested in learning about the benefits of green buildings, with lots of practical information, expertise and interesting anecdotes thrown in, the Las Vegas Green Building Tour is just the ticket.
Also, University of Nevada, Las Vegas will again offer an Introduction to Solar Energy Utilization class this fall. It's a great introductory course on a wide range of topics including renewable energy, building applications, photovoltaic and solar thermal power, wind, environmental motivations and even includes some hands-on experience.
Robert Boehm is the course coordinator and instructor. It is open to all, begins Aug. 24 and runs through early December on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Take a tour or take a class, but whatever you do, don't take a break in the process of creating positive change in Southern Nevada.
Steve Rypka is a green living consultant and president of GreenDream Enterprises, a company committed to helping people live lighter on the planet. Steve can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com. More information relating to this column is posted at www.greendream.biz.