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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Site Tours – May 26, 2012

Trinity River Audubon Center

Our first visit was the Trinity River Audubon Center, the city of Dallas’ first LEED certified building. Sahar Sea, Education Manager, explained the site was previously used as a landfill that was used for illegal dumping for years. Through the efforts of the City of Dallas and architect, Antoine Predock, they have designed the site to minimize the effects on the environment and repair some of the pre-existing problems from the illegal dumping. Following the state’s requirements and the goal of returning the land to nature for the use of future generation and as the site of the Trinity River Audubon Center, the restoration plan consolidated landfill waste into capped rolling hills replanted tall prairie grass and hardwood trees.

The Center is designed to reduce storm water runoff and erosion. At the base of the hills, a series of cascading wetland marshes and ponds captures and filters runoff from adjoining neighborhoods and prairies before returning the cleansed water to the river. All trails are wheel chair-accessible and are made of recycled decking material or decomposed granite, which channels rainwater into the wetland pond system.

There were many other key sustainable elements throughout the Trinity River Audubon Center. The interior walls are made of a combination of concrete and fly ash. Fly ash is a by-product of coal mining that would usually end up in a landfill. The Center is designed to utilize the maximum daylight and views to the exterior without nternal heat gain the hot Texas sun. Also throughout the building the glass windows are slanted with soap circle to reduce sun glare and bird strikes.

The exterior wall of the exhibition hall is made of Corten steel, which is low maintenance product which has a beautiful patina as it ages and rusts.



The ceilings have acoustical ceiling tile made of 100% recycled cotton.




Likewise, there are components of the site which assists in reducing energy costs. The building has light-reflecting white roofing which helps minimize heat absorption. The insulation is made of 14″ inch recycled denim. The administrative wing has windows that can open during cool weather to relieve the pressure from the air conditioning system.

The Trinity River Audubon Center reuses local natural resources throughout the site.
Namely the exterior of the entrance to the building is East Texas Cypress.




The floors in main lobby are comprised of East Texas Bamboo.






The office furniture is “cradle to cradle” which is comprised of recycled materials and the cabinets are from recycled East Texas Pecan.






Landscaping is filled with drought tolerant, native plants and grasses to Texas.

All in all, the Trinity River Audubon Center done what I say in my words to my family all the time, “Use what you got.” The center has taken an unsightly, toxic landfill and turned it into a beautiful oasis for birds and nature lovers alike with the use of local natural resources and materials. No out-sourcing here. The center has succeeded in its efforts of sustainability.

The Fairmont Dallas

Jason James, Director of Engineering led our class on the site tour of the Fairmont Hotel, in the heart of the arts district in the city of Dallas.  It is a multi-use luxury building, comprised of hotels, apartments and retail space.  The Fairmont’s elements of sustainability were discovered through the use of fluorescent and LED lighting.  The hotel utilizes single stream recycling.  To say the least, they even recycle the grey water from the ice machines which goes back through the roof tower and into the coolers of HVAC system.

Another resource saving method the hotel has adapted is out sourcing the laundry facilities.  Without the mechanism to recycle their laundry water on site, the hotel has found a launderer who has their own reuse of water established, therefore the Fairmont will not be wasting water on laundered items.

Also, the hotel commissions artists who recycle and up cycle materials for the artwork throughout their hotels.

The rooftop garden displays an array of plants and vegetables also including a greenhouse.  The garden is a tranquil getaway, there is lounge sitting for the guests to relax and provides fresh fruits and vegetables for the chef to use in her recipes.

Although, Mr. James explained the hotel only has single pane windows and this is admittedly an economic challenge for the hotel to overcome, it is certainly has done good effort in the right direction.  I learned we must start somewhere and we cannot do everything at once.

Sustainable Project Features. Trinity River Audubon Center, 2012. [Brochure]

Ferrier Homes Residential Build

We visited a new residence site at 2807 Hedgerow Drive in Dallas.  Don Ferrier, owner and CEO of Ferrier Custom Homes guided us through the details of new build.  Initially the homeowner wanted to renovated the previous existing home; however he discovered it would be more cost effective to rebuild a new more energy conscious home.  The home will be two stories, approximately 1800-1900 square feet with a concrete basement.  Experts estimate a typical home of this side in North Texas would normally yield an electric cost of $400- $500 monthly.  In contrast, once completed, Hedgerow energy costs monthly will only be approximately $60!              

The sustainable elements in the home will include an air conditioning system with energy effective rating of 18, tankless water heater and white TPO roofing.  The roof is considered a lifetime roof by insurance industry standards and can uphold in a Class 4 tornado, due to the anchor bolting of every 3 feet instead 6 feet as code require of the wall assembly.  The insulation will have a spray foam value of 25. Buffalo grass will be laid down.  Once established after the first year, its water needs will be minimal.

I initially questioned the rate of return on the homeowner’s investment.  However, if he plans on staying in his home for many years to come, the costs will be worth the investment.

Green Living

Our last stop of the day was Green Living retail store located at 1130 Dragon St., Suite 140, Dallas TX.  Green Living sells eco-friendly products for your home and garden.   The products are recycled and chemical free; perfect for our allergy sufferers out here.

Dining sets made of reclaimed wood

Glassware from recycled glass

Check out their website and go shopping.

In summary, sustainability efforts can be applied to all types of projects, being residential, commercial, retail or parks & recreation.  Our visits today, exemplified some our Leaders in Energy and Environmental Design.   As Jane Ahrens, Director of Sustainability and Project Architect at Gresham, Smith and Partners stated, LEED was established for organizations who want to be leaders and show exemplary performance. Despite the companies who want to be perceived as leaders, with the continued efforts of businesses and government programs, I have observed in the past couple of weeks, I believe sustainability of natural resources and energy will be a play a major role of all in the near future.

Site Tours – May 19, 2012

Bedford Public Library

Surprisingly, we learned the Bedford Public Library of Bedford, Texas, was an old Food Lion grocery store in the past, explained to us by Maria Redburn, Library Manager.  You honestly would never believe it, by looking at the new renovations.  The adaptive reuse of the building is impressive.  The sustainable elements applied to the building have lowered their energy costs by 50 percent.

The City of Bedford did use an outside firm for their grant writing.  As a result, the library acquired a number of grants to assist with the installation of solar panels, reflective roofing, geo-thermal wells, low E glass, insulation and energy-efficient lighting throughout the 40,000 square foot library.

The decision to make the library more environmentally efficient was more of business decision and not a green decision.  Due to the recession and government cutbacks, the budget for the library was decreased; therefore they had to find cost-cutting methods to continue on.  With the new updates, their energy bills have decreased $20,000 annually.  As a result, there are two-fold benefits, the library will not need to decrease staffing and future energy consumption will have decreased.

Another cost saving method, was in the purchase in of automatic sorter for library materials once they have been returned.  The sorter scans the item and sends it to a specific bin, where the library staff can easily stack the materials on the shelf, without using more time to sort.  The cost of the sorter was half a million dollars, however it will pay for itself within 7 years, explained Ms. Redburn.

Bedford Library Automatic Sorter

I surmised if other government municipalities use the Bedford Library as a model to approach decreasing budgets, they will be able to save not only libraries, but many other programs that are usually the first to go in a budget crisis, such as education, teachers, and music & arts programs.

Recycle Revolution

Recycle Revolution began with a visionary, Mr. Eddie Lott, founder.  Recycle Revolution (RR) is located near downtown Dallas Texas and provides recycling, compost and solid waste programs for their growing clientele.  RR collects and ships recyclable items.  They have two loading trucks and a staff of twelve that are all committed to being environmentally conscious.

Foster a culture of recycling in North Texas, provide outstanding service to businesses that care, and use our success to rally for the causes of good neighborhoodship and environmental awareness.
– Recycle Revolution Mission Statement

Recycle Revolution accept paper, plastic, aluminum, cardboard, glass, electronics and small appliances.    Eddie explains glass has a very low commodity here in North Texas and their best value is hard white paper; $300 for a ton.  This is good in the recycling world.   In contrast, newspaper has a very low value.   Hard to believe Styrofoam is accepted as well.  RR has a client who will use the melted down Styrofoam mixed with other components to create a product to use to make Dome homes;  a much better use, than sitting in landfills for thousands of years.

Eddie, explained to us about another environmental program called the Dallas Eco-Op, where there are number of vendors providing eco-friendly services which others are need of. The Eco-Op offers education and local jobs.  In turn, the vendors have a financial gain, with the goods and services they provide.

Programs such as the Eco-Op and Recycle Revolution actually brought home to me, how I can contribute more to being green than just tossing my cans and bottles in my green recycle bin.  I learned we can all Reduce, Reuse and Recycle many items in our homes, if we take a few extra steps in our daily lives.

The Omni Hotel Fort Worth

We visited the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth, Texas.  Mike Davis, Assistant Director of Engineering led the tour. We first stopped in engineering, where Mike showed us the program used by the Omni to electronically control the heating and cooling throughout the hotel.  They try to stay within the parameters of 68 degrees Fahrenheit to 78 degrees Fahrenheit, depending upon room occupancy and time of day.

We then were guided to what is called the Chiller Room.  Housed in the chiller room is the piping for the water flow throughout the hotel.  They are 3 chiller and cooler towers which utilize hydro-electric controls that are on timers.

Our last stop was the beautiful rooftop garden.   There was a broad assortment of plants and a vegetable garden.  The garden provided not only a way for the chef to serve the freshest vegetables, but is was also aesthetically appealing and guests were taking advantage of this by having a nice, peaceful stroll through the garden. I learned, not only can sustainability be eco-friendly it can be beautiful.

The Tarrant Regional Water District

Tarrant Regional Water District

Laura Blalock of the Tarrant Regional Water District guided the tour of their building on 808 East Northside Drive in Fort Worth, Texas which is honored in being a LEED Gold status building.   There were many elements which make the building sustainable, but most notable were the solar arrays. The solar arrays installation is what brought them to level of Gold Standard.  At the completion of the install, the Tarrant Regional Water District had the largest solar array install in the state of Texas until the Veteran’s Administration Building in Dallas completed their install.

The other elements which achieves the building’s sustainability are:
Solar panels, grid-tied
Hydro-Electric Turbines
Double Pane Low-E Glass
Fluorescent Lighting
Concrete flooring and countertops
Cork Flooring
Austin Limestone
Furniture made with recyclable products
Open Cabling (ease to repair)
No VOC paint
Use of natural Beeswax, for countertop and floor cleaning

Moreover, the landscaping has drought-tolerant plants.  The shrubs are the only plants that are watered and this is through drip irrigation, which is supplied from two large rain barrels where water is collected throughout the year.

With the success of the Tarrant Regional Water District building, the City of Fort Worth has  adopted a policy that every new building renovation will now be a LEED building.

Overall, my feelings about all the visits have a cumulative effect.  I feel more passionate about being more eco-friendly and only hope I can continue with the program to learn more.   However if I cannot, I can take away from the experience with trying to be more vigilant at home and in in my local community with educating others and doing more reusing and recycling.

How has my organization addressed Corporate Social Responsibility?

Bank of America’s social responsibility is showcased through the Bank of America Charitable Foundation; we deploy our philanthropic support in communities across our global footprint. With annual giving of $200 million, we are one of the largest financial institution philanthropic donors and the second largest cash giver in the U.S. Overall, our giving falls into four categories critical to the long-term success of our neighborhoods:
• Community Development/Neighborhood Preservation
• Education and Youth Development
• Health and Human Services
• Arts and Culture

In 2009, in response to the economic downturn, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation launched its Emergency Safety Net Strategy to help meet pressing community needs stemming from the unprecedented economic crisis. Since then, we have provided more than $9 million in philanthropic support and direct funding to enable health and human service nonprofit organizations to continue delivering core health care, job training, hunger relief, shelter and childcare programs and services to help stabilize our communities.

Our conduct is guided by our core values, our code of ethics and a commitment to openness and transparency.

Corporate governance is ultimately overseen by our Board of Directors, which is largely composed of directors who are independent of management.

 In 2009, we identified a number of changes and priorities which have been a focus during the past 18 months. These included modifying board membership and committee membership; focusing on enterprise risk through establishment of the Enterprise Risk and Credit Committees (in addition to the preexisting Audit Committee); adjusting how management reports to the board; further enhancing the orientation process for directors and increasing board interaction with senior management; and formalizing the board’s process for approving the company’s annual risk appetite.

 Through our participation, we aim to lend our voice to the creation of policies that sustain our industry, support our customers and benefit society. For example, Bank of America supported creation of a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau as part of the Dodd-Frank Act passed in 2010. While there were areas of disagreement, we supported the stated goals in the legislation of transparency, simplicity, fairness, accountability and access for consumers.

 In 2010, we worked closely with governments to advance key policy priorities, including our ongoing support for small businesses, enhanced consumer protections, the creation of a new global risk framework and help for people trying to stay in their homes. Specifically we: Consulted policymakers and government leaders about proposed legislative and regulatory changes that would improve consumer financial protection.  In the U.S., we engaged on key legislative and regulatory initiatives, including:

• Regulation Fair Disclosure
• Dodd-Frank Regulatory Reform Bill
• Basel III global financial guidelines

 Ultimately, with the strategies we are implementing, it will provide a competitive edge to improve gains for customers, clients and shareholders.

Bank of America 2010 CSR Report. (online). Available:

What Did I Take Away From Our In Class Meeting- May 12?

Initially, I was alarmed; Texas is #1 in the nation for the most CO2 emissions. Wow, we need to do better than this for our children and our environment. However Texas is not the only culprit, the U.S. overall is guilty in extreme overuse of energy. However, on the flip side, Germany has 70 percent less resources but is much more efficient in energy consumption due to wind and solar energy. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) needs to have more integrity here in the United States. We learned in class it is more profitable to be proactive versus reactive to the effects of social irresponsibility. There is beginning to be a cultural shift in businesses and governments today. For example, the City of Fort Worth Economic Development started a Drill Down initiative, focusing on the South East area of the city and its citizens, with hopes in revitalizing the underserved area.

With all that was spoken, I learned we as individuals, small groups and larger groups in society can make an effective change towards social responsibility. We all have a part in the protection of our environment and the existing resources. Ultimately, we can accomplish these goals, through our own efforts and upwardly to more universal efforts inclusive of community, states and countries.

Who am I?

I have been working in various areas of mortgage servicing for years with a leading financial institution, Bank of America.  My current role is assisting homeowners with preventing their homes going into foreclosure. I have worked in mortgage origination and also have been a licensed realtor years ago. With the Masters of Real Estate Sustainability, I hope to gain extensive knowledge in real estate transactions, analysis and development to further my career.

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