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Diaz Leads Session on Engaging the Business Community

By Dave Gatton and Alexander Stillwell, USCM Intern
November 19, 2007

U.S. Conference of Mayors Vice President Miami Mayor Manny A. Diaz led a major discussion on Engaging the Business Community at the 2007 Mayor’s Climate Protection Summit in Seattle on November 1. The Summit, sponsored by The U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Center, featured over 60 business co'sponsors who discussed climate protection strategies with the mayors over a two day period.

Diaz touted the importance of having the business community engaged in green initiatives. Through a series of forums and discussions between the development community and the city, Diaz led Miami to adopt an ordinance requiring all new buildings, public and private, to be at least Silver certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system.

“They [the development community] stepped up and did it,” Diaz said, “even before the ordinance was in place.” Miami already has 2 billion dollars invested in 20 buildings that are at least “Silver” certified under the LEED’s system.

Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum described the multiple techniques she has implemented to lower Santa Barbara’s carbon footprint. Similar to Miami, she negotiated with the development community in advance, leading the private sector to “beg” the city to implement a green building code. An energy ordinance involving buildings was also implemented by request of the architectural association of the city.

Along with implementing standards for future buildings, Blum has focused on energy conservation. She cited the recovery of methane from the city’s wastewater treatment plant and putting it through what she calls a “magic box.” The methane is used to generate energy instead of simply burning it off.

The mayor has also committed the city to rely more on traditional renewable energy sources. The city has diverted 23 percent of city government energy use to renewable sources, in part by approving installation of a 400 kilowatt solar energy system which will supply the city’s office buildings with energy.

Burt Gregory, CEO and President of Mithun, an architecture and design firm, spoke on how Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels’ Seattle Climate Action Plan, titled the Seattle Climate Partnership, incorporated the business community.

The purpose of the Seattle Climate Partnership is “to engage and assist Seattle area employers, to reduce their carbon footprint, realize economic opportunities, and reduce risk from climate change,” Gregory said. He suggested that the partnership can serve as a model for cities to replicate, as a result of the accomplishments which it has achieved.

Gregory’s own goal consisted of calculating and reducing his company’s carbon footprint by LEED certifying Mithun’s corporate headquarters. The building is naturally cooled and does not use air conditioning.

Gregory encourages Mithun’s clients to choose environmentally conscious design techniques and to become LEED certified. Citing a recent trend, he told the group that clients in the Seattle area have begun demanding LEED certified buildings, particularly in the speculative market, to increase the appeal of their buildings. “These certifications increase the value of the buildings and reduce the cost of upkeep, a win-win situation for Mithun clients,” he said.