The call to commit to sustainable building and renewable energy sources has been prevalent for decades. In recent years, much sought-after progress is starting to breakthrough. As clean energy sources become more reliable, abundant, and more affordable, the call for change has given way to action. Locally and nationwide, private businesses, energy providers, municipalities, and state governments have all made pledges and taken meaningful steps to protect the environment and access more resilient local energy sources.
Here in Tampa Bay, it has been the municipalities that have led the charge in sustainability and resiliency. In 2016, the City of St. Petersburg became the first city in Florida to sign on to the Sierra Club’s Ready For 100 Campaign. Since then, the City of Largo, the City of Dunedin, and the City of Safety Harbor have also committed. They have joined 173 cities and eight states in committing to 100% clean energy within a specific year.
The phrase clean energy conjures an image of rooftop solar panels and sprawling wind farms. While energy generation is a part of sustainability, another core part is energy reduction. New and preexisting buildings can drastically reduce energy use in various ways, including new energy-efficient lighting systems and appliances, improved insulation, and efficient energy recovery HVAC systems. Architectural design that can reduce a building’s carbon footprint (greenhouse gas emissions) include expanded green space, buildings that can capture and use natural light efficiently, reflective colors that dissipate heat, and design that reduces exposed asphalt.
To meet their commitment to clean energy, the City of Largo, working with ASD|SKY and Biltmore Construction, is moving forward with design and construction of their new sustainable City Hall. Several environmentally friendly features are under consideration to maximize environmental sustainability and long-term energy savings including a rooftop solar array, geothermal cooling system, daylight harvesting sensors to maximize daylight usage, rainwater harvesting for irrigation and water features, and sustainable materials sourced close to the site.
Ambitious projects that champion sustainable communities like the new Largo City Hall are becoming more frequent. Many states and municipalities are setting more ambitious timelines to reach 100% renewable energy as formally daunting goals look more achievable. As of today, according to the Sierra Club, many cities, including Aspen, Colorado, Burlington, Vermont, Georgetown, Texas, and Greensburg, Kansas, have already reached the goal of using 100% sustainable energy sources, and many more are well on the way. As the paths to 100% clean energy continue to become more accessible, we can expect Florida cities to join their ranks in the coming years.