Saturday, February 9, 2008

Emerging EcoCentre in Lake Worth

This is such a great accomplishment - being completed right now within the City of Lake Worth. This year, I have re-joined the board of the Palm Beach County Planning Congress. We are currently planning an event and educational tour of this building as part of a special program on green building construction and design in March. I will provide further details as they come together. The outing will include a tour of this magnificent building and an informative talk by John Szerdi, project architect. Below are some of the features employed within and a part of this building.

Green and Living Features:

1. Seeking Gold LEED Certification

2. Living “Roof Park” captures rainwater, purifies, and re-circulates to cistern for toilet supply and irrigation make-up water

3. Raised flooring system efficiently delivers air conditioning with individual thermostats for all offices.

4. LEED compliant dismantling of existing building

5. Living Machine® designed to purify & recycle greywater on site for exterior irrigation

6. Building is lush with indoor landscaping

7. 12’ Waterfall and pond water supplied by harvesting air conditioning condensate

8. Operable windows for each office

9. FSC (Forest Stewardship Certified) wood used

10. Ice stone countertops made of recycled crushed bottled glass

11. Extensive use of natural lighting

12. Vegetable-based oil for elevator piston system

13. Energy-efficient lighting system with occupancy sensors for each office

14. Central atrium or “Biolarium”

15. Exterior includes recycled "Chicago Brick"

16. Environmentally friendly paints, sealants and adhesives

17. Environmentally friendly furniture

18. LEED compliant floor covering

19. Garage plug-in for electric car

20. Bike rack on premises

21. Waterless urinals

22. Water conserving fixtures

23. Fully equipped health gym

24. Water-efficient landscaping

25. Construction recycling

26. Non-smoking building

This is from a press release on the building and the law firm which will occupy the space:

Palm Beach County’s first green, “living” office building

coming to historic Lake Worth

[LAKE WORTH, FL, August 20, 2007--] When it opens in the spring of 2008, EcoCentre, the Living Building will be Florida’s first office building of its kind -- a 33,000 gross sq. ft., four-story structure incorporating natural systems and “green” technologies designed to save energy, reduce CO2 emissions, water consumption and create an overall healthier environment. The project will be registered with the Green Building Council in order to seek Gold L.E.E.D. 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 developed and patented by Worrell Water Technologies, LLC, 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 which will be integrated into the building’s water system and environmental life cycle.

According to Nancy Romano, President of Vive Verde, Inc., owner of EcoCentre, the Living

Building, “Can you imagine a society in modern times where we construct beautiful, livable, and

workable office buildings and homes which in turn enhance the environment, recycle water, sustain energy, and provide a home for Mother Earth instead of buildings constructed which continuously wound our Planet Earth? This is a reality! It can and will happen, but it requires a vigilant and continuous focus on environmental needs and concerns. We are so proud to be doing this project in Lake Worth, Florida and hope to inspire others to build with the same responsibility to the environment.”

The lead architect on the project is John Szerdi of Living Designs Group, LLC of Boynton Beach, Florida, and Taos, New Mexico. Mr. Szerdi is a resident of the city of Lake Worth. He brings to the project 25 years of architectural experience, construction of green projects and a wealth of knowledge on environmental projects. Szerdi was the principal architect in designing the Sundy House Restaurant in Delray Beach, Florida, a facility renowned for its green atmosphere, canopy trees and plants, moving streams and fountains and the “Sundy Pond.” According to Szerdi:

“The basis for a ‘Living Office Building’ or ‘work home,’ for the client is based on the diverse working hours of this nationally recognized trial law firm. Both principals and staff spend many late nights in preparation for cases without the comforts of home that could provide for a pleasant and invigorating workplace. Such an environment would not only help with late-hour productivity, but would also serve as a delightful place for staff to spend time when not at their ‘family home.’

“The client in this instance requested an equitable and livable work environment for everyone in the firm. The site and special program posed stimulating challenges which inspired us to turn the common office building design response inside out. That is, instead of placing a compact building form on an urban site and surround it with the obligatory perimeter landscape strip, we have decided to bring many of the natural elements inside and ‘on top.’ This eliminates interior work spaces totally dependent upon artificial lighting (which is typically for the less fortunate or less senior staff in most projects).

“This premise is the foundation for the design organization of the site and the integration of Living Designs Group’s ‘Living Building Systems.’ These systems create their synergy through the use, collection, treatment, and re-use of water. Building form and details are water-driven decisions producing a style called ‘Aquatecture.’

“Here are just some of the roles these systems will play in EcoCentre, the Living Building:

a) A Biolarium space with cubic proportions will be created by wrapping a 25’ wide ribbon of office spaces and other uses. All spaces will be accessed from this space which will contain crucial visual, thermal, and acoustical systems for the pleasure and comfort of all other spaces.

b) The perimeter spaces not only insulate the Biolarium or atrium-like space but assure all occupants of views to nature or the city. Natural daylighting will reduce energy costs of artificial lighting and provide workers with the full spectrum of light. Artificial lighting will be activated by sensors for general lighting with desk or floor lamps for task lighting as desired.

c) The juxtapositioning of the work and work-related spaces at each level will allow fresh air and people into the Biolarium from the north of Lake Street and natural light and access upper level gardens to the south. Untinted glass on this north side will allow everyone to see this unique feature of the building as they pass by.

d) The upper level gardens and ‘living roof modules’ will capture storm water and provide the filtration of the water which will be stored in an 8-thousand-gallon cistern located beneath the covered parking. This water will be used for toilet flushing, dramatically reducing the potable water consumption for this building while keeping the roof cooler.

e) The ‘Living Machine®’ located on the second floor of the Biolarium will treat grey water from the building occupants (lavatories and showers) and be re-used for irrigation, further reducing potable water consumption in the building. Waterless urinals will be used in the men’s bathroom. The kitchen will be the hub of recycling materials. Food and the water cooler are social connectors at work.

f) The Biolarium space becomes a ‘sponge’ for the incoming fresh air and a water source for the pond located in the entry at street level. The condensate may capture as much as 250-300 gallons of water a day and will be used for all the indoor irrigation needs. The indoor plants will absorb CO2 from the building occupants and contribute to the healthy fresh air being circulated back to the offices through the Biolarium (the lungs of the building).

g) The raised flooring system in the building will locate modular motorized air dampers in each office that opens and closes at the control of the occupant via separate thermostats. Individual controls have been proven to save substantial energy while giving everyone a comfortable space to work. The system will maximize the efficiency of air conditioning and air flow,

while also providing ongoing flexibility for the movement of electrical outlets, air flow vents, and easy/ready access to wiring systems without requiring remodeling or discarding any equipment or materials.

h) Cooling loads will be reduced because of the thermal absorption of the roof top and balcony gardens and ponds. A highly thermal resistant (R-30) curtain wall system will significantly reduce cooling loads and almost eliminate any heating needs to but a couple days a year.

i) Ninety percent of the on-site parking is covered by the building creating a shaded area reducing heat island effect that typically radiates energy from the exposed cars and parking surfaces back into the microclimate of the city.

j) All landscaping will be provided with re-use water and delivered via subsurface irrigation system to minimize evaporative loss and maximize water efficiency. Biolarium landscaping will provide a constant connection with nature and reduce CO2 concentrations in the building.”

The integration of these systems becomes the recipe for a healthy, pleasant “living environment,” a concept that makes EcoCentre, the Living Building unique from other green projects. The Biolarium becomes the focal point of the building’s image and performance, and the staff can take comfort in the fact that they are behaving in an environmentally responsible way on a daily basis. They may even take some of these ideas home with them. EcoCentre, the Living Building should prove you don’t have to sacrifice convenience or comfort to minimize the impact of our natural resources.

“EcoCentre, the Living Building” will be located at 1005 Lake Avenue in Lake Worth, Florida.

It is designed to be a 33,000 gross sq. ft., four-story office building with garage parking and two retail

spaces on the ground floor level. This first floor will be rich with gardens and a beautiful waterfall

flowing onto it from the second floor above. The second, third, and fourth floors will contain office space and views into the center of the building looking into the Biolarium, gardens, streams and

waterfall. The building will be topped with a “living roof” rich with plants, trees, gardens, and sitting and viewing areas.

Thomas E. Worrell, Jr., principal owner of Worrell Water Technologies, LLC and Dharma Properties, states, “Imagine the fusion of art, nature, and technology. Imagine living alternatives and business office settings which are elegant and responsible. I believe it is important for our health and our soul to invite nature into our lives. We believe in harnessing the vigor of biology to cleanse our water without harming the environment. EcoCentre, the Living Building, is an example of just that; how people can live and work in harmony with the environment and construct a practical and necessary office structure which actually enhances and beautifies the environment.”

Other features in this extraordinary project will include such things as the following:

1. A mock trial courtroom with jury facilities;

2. A full, complete and state-of-the-art video conference center;

3. An exterior made of recycled Chicago brick;

4. Countertops which look like marble but which are made entirely of recycled materials – primarily crushed bottled glass and environmentally sensitive concrete to mimic real marble;

5. A view for all building personnel of “both” the interior Biolarium and gardens and outside;

6. A state-of-the-art workout gym and fitness center;

7. The piston system operating the central elevator will use a technological innovation form of operating oil which is “vegetable based;”

8. The furniture throughout the building will be made primarily from either recycled and reused materials or from lumber which is Forestry Services Certified (coming from “select cut” forests) as opposed to “clear cut” forests;

9. The interior drywall will be made from recycled and reused products.

The main office occupant of the building will be the renowned trial lawyer firm of Romano Law Group. John F. Romano, a partner in the firm and former President of the Academy of Florida Trial Lawyers, as well as former Chairman of the National College of Advocacy, had this to say, “There is no second chance when it comes to the environment. We either do it right in this century, or it may well be ruined forever. This is why builders, developers, contractors, owners, community leaders and elected officials must make an all-out effort towards ‘building green’ from this day forward. The concept of simply flattening a parcel of land and then loading it up with steel and concrete is at best wrong and, at its worst, immoral! We are looking forward to creating this “Living Building” to prove that business can coexist with a comfortable working environment while addressing environmental concerns and needs, sustaining energy, recycling water and providing for a happy, healthy environment for those working within the building.”

Tentative/interim timetable:

April 11, 2005 – Building vacated by law firm.

April 12 – May 23, 2005 – Building to be utilized by local law enforcement and related agencies, including Lake Worth Police Department, Lake Worth Fire Department, and Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for practice and rehearsal sessions, hostage rescues, fire curtailment, etc.

May 24 – September 15, 2005 – “Dismantling” followed by demolition (with actual demolition to commence in August 2005). This “dismantling” includes removing all items in or on the building which can be reused and/or recycled. The dismantling procedure requires observation and log documentation for LEED purposes.

July 2006 – Groundbreaking; construction commences

May, 2008 - Target construction completion date

June, 2008 – Move into building

December 4, 2008 – Grand opening celebration and events

This is how the building looked about two weeks ago. It can be seen at the south west corner of Lake Avenue and H Street.

A little more clarification re the previous post...

It's my understanding the Messrs MacNamara and MacCualey will be continuing their lawsuit regarding the ground lease and development agreement with Greater Bay. I also understand that there is a hearing scheduled on the 26th of this month before the judge. This in the face of the changes in wording as described in an earlier post here that make the lawsuit moot. This shows that little will satisfy the litigants - ever - and they continue to block an entire community's progress in rebuilding its unique beach property.

And, instead of asserting a leadership role that "gets us all talking again", the District #3 Commissioner voted against the changes of the wording in the agreement as somehow she thinks...?

Well, what could she be thinking?

I would like to see some sign of original thought coming from this Commissioner (I know she is capable of this) that upholds her duty to protect the City's financial and legal interests (not a select few of her supporters).

As far as Commissioner Jennings, who voted the same way, that is something we have come to expect from her anyway. One need only to read today's Palm Beach Post article to have an understanding of her motivations.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Commission Approves Changes in GB Agreements...

But Commissioner Golden (along with Commissioner Jennings) voted "no" on making the changes. She thought that if the "citizens" hadn't sued, we wouldn't have made the changes. Well, there are more productive ways to spend money than to spend it on attorneys - citizens and the city alike. And there are other ways to encourage changes and edits to legal documents.

Here was the perfect chance to protect the city's interests by eliminating the cause of a lawsuit. This commissioner wanted the lawsuit and the attorney fees to continue stopping progress on beach improvements. Is that showing fiduciary responsibility?

I guess the puppeteers are taking turns at the reins:

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Reciting Facts:

These are my responses to a series of questions and mis-statements of fact as it relates to important issues facing our city. This post was made by yours truly on another local Internet forum. I thought you would be interested. Apparently, that which is not possible or highly unlikely is still being proferred as truth. Myth-making is a fine art and well-established in our humble city.

Person A
- I am surprised with you. You are an intelligent person and should be able to separate fact from fiction. But I will give you credit for helping create the myths that propel some of the decisions being made in this City - on both sides of the dais.

Re the Smith property, per the latest Judge's ruling, the property has not been rezoned and retains it County zoning designation. Had it been rezoned to the City category of MF20, doing the math results in the possibility of 80 units. That was not an acceptable outcome. The P&Z and the Commission also required that the property owner enter into to an agreement with the City to limit development to 10 units an acre, along with other very important conditions. Those conditions run with the land. Without that agreement, they would not have had my vote. Nothing has been built there. The property owner still needs to come back and go through the site plan review process and ask for a special exception to build townhouses. That is not likely to happen in this market and may be years off. My prediction: The property will be de-annexed into the County and we will have less control over what happens on the property over the long term. We have already seen the confusion possible with public safety calls in your neighborhood where it is not clear, in panic situations, what is in and out of the city limits.

You know, I would really like to sit down with you and go word-by-word through the Beach and Casino zoning district. Whatever is NOT identified as a permitted use cannot be built - period. The proposed zoning for the beach is not broad at all. It is one of the most restrictive in the city. People look to you as an informed person and it concerns me that you could easily mislead people through material misrepresentation of the facts.

The city has turned down variance requests before. If you like, I can look up as many examples as it takes to satisfy your curiosity.

Greater Bay cannot "flip" the property to anyone without the approval of the City Commission. The City Commission and the Department of Community Affairs would have to approve any further change in the future land use or zoning for the property - if the project were to be transfered to another entity and they wanted to do something different than what the zoning would allow. By the way, nothing like that has been proposed.

We would not have to acquiesce to anyone regarding the zoning of the property. There is no "dirty little secret."

The City has turned down condos and hotels at the beach. The proposed Beach and Casino zoning district doesn't allow either of them. The former Mayor that you mentioned was the FIRST one to rule out a hotel at the beach as part of those proposals when it got to the City Commission. I have a copy of a Palm Beach Post article if you would like to read it that says so.

No one will be able to build a condo or a hotel, period.

Person B- At one moment you suggest that the CRA should expand its boundary to include the beach and in the next accuse the CRA of wasting money. I believe the reason that the beach was not included in the CRA was that it wasn't a source of a significant tax base generation for use in tax increment financing.

I agree that the City Commission and Mayor take the easy way out on many issues in our city. Unfortunately, the millions in waste you talk about (and I have no doubt that the figure is higher) is just that - wasted. Unidentified and uncontrolled spending has set this city back in many ways - but that mis-spent money cannot be retrieved. It's gone. I had an idea that we identify all the "savings" from instituting a special fund we could dump this "found" money into, but that just is not how city budgeting works.

Have a nice day.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Frozen-in-place at Grand Central Station

This is an organized "Freeze" held recently at Grand Central Station in NYC. Performance art.

Sunday, February 3, 2008