Saturday, January 17, 2009

EcoCentre "Living Building" opens in South Florida

The Romano Law Group recently opened "EcoCentre: The Living Building", their new 33,000-square-foot office building, located in downtown Lake Worth, Fla. (near West Palm Beach). It is not just a "green” building. It is actually a "living” building designed with integrated systems that work in harmony with nature and with each other.

For instance, integrated rooftop gardens and other green roof elements collect rainwater, minimize runoff, mitigate internal microclimate changes and treat grey-water while providing a valuable site amenity. Treated grey-water and rainwater are reused in the living building to create an appealing green Biolarium® space that is accessible to all.

The project is registered with the Green Building Council and seeking Gold LEED certification, a procedure demonstrating that the project has been planned, designed, and completed with a primary goal of environmental enhancement. The building will contain, among other things, “a Living Machine®,” a technological innovation which allows for the on-site purification and recycling of water. The building will be topped by a “Living Roof,” or “roof park,” which will mimic a miniature “wetland project” and which will not only provide for greenery, plants, trees, and a lawn on the rooftop, but will be integrated into the building’s water system and environmental life cycle.

EcoCentre, the Living Building, will save approximately 200,000 gallons of water a year, reducing its impact on the city's water infrastructure by recycling water from lavatories and showers, capturing and storing rainwater, using water-efficient plumbing fixtures and condensate capture from the air conditioning system.

We were fortunate to get a personal tour of the facility from Todd Romano, one of the lawyers with the Romano Law Group. He said that the cost of building "green" was less than 10% above a similar building, but the reduction in energy and water will be around 30%, which will result in a payback of 3 years. That is amazing investment considering the impact of having such an intricate and complicated system installed.

When you first walk in, you are greeted with a beautiful tropical oasis and a pond that was created from air conditioner condensation. Though the building needs standard fossil-fuel electricity, Romano says there are plans for a second office building next door that will include rooftop solar panels and wind turbines.

Personally speaking, this building is amazing to be inside. You have the feeling that the you are in the middle of a museum or rainforest, and there just happens to be some offices nearby. The air is clean and the general atmosphere makes it a great place to work.

The EcoCentre officially opened on June 20th, 2008, and an open house to the public was held in late November.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Device gives instant feedback on your driving efficiency

I recently purchased the Scan Gauge, which connects to any vehicle built after 1995. It displays numerous gas mileage figures, including MPG, total cost of trip, average fuel efficiency, current fuel efficiency, daily fuel efficiency, and many more. You can customize which 4 metrics you'd like to display. You can also change the color of the display, to match your dashboard lights.

This device allows you to get immediate feedback on how your driving techniques impact your fuel efficiency. You can see the loss of efficiency when you quickly accelerate from a stop, when you idle your car, when you use the cruise control, etc.

I've discovered that I am a much safer driver, since I have learned new tricks to save gas. It has lead me to follow safer driving habits, such as giving more distance between the car ahead of me (to avoid using the brakes as much), driving the speed limit to maximize efficiency, and looking further ahead to anticipate braking situations. The best part is that I am saving money at the pump.

The Scan Gauge costs about $160, but you will make it up in less trips (you'll know much each trip costs), less gas use from better driving habits, which will also lead to less chance of getting a speeding ticket.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Healthy fast food at Evos

Sometimes getting fast food is unavoidable. You are often restricted on time or convenience. A restaurant in Tampa called Evos, near the South Florida campus, is giving people the option for burgers and fries, with a healthy twist.

Evos has taken out the grease from the burger, and the oil from the fries, to give you good fast food, without the regret and heaviness associated with most fast food places. The burgers are organic and hormone-free, so you don't have to feel guilty about enjoying a burger anymore.

If burgers aren't your favorite, you can also get soy, veggie, turkey or salmon burgers. If you're looking for the world's best burgers, Evos isn't the place for you, but if you want a good and fast burger, without the guilt and sick feeling, this is definitely the place for you.

The Airbake fries taste great, especially when you dip them in one of their many naturally flavored ketchups.

They also do many environmentally-friendly things with their restaurant, such as: use of recycled paper in their printed materials, use of Fair Trade Certified products, biodegradable plastic bags, recycled building materials used during construction, and they even offset 1/3 of their energy use.

The decor is "modern retro" (see pictures), and they were playing some cool lounge music, which made it feel different from any fast food place we've ever eaten. You didn't feel rushed to "eat and run" which made the meal much more enjoyable.

If you're looking for the world's best burgers, you won't find them here, but if you want fast food without the guilt (or sick greasy feeling afterwards), this is the place for you!
Evos Westshore Plaza on Urbanspoon