In Menlo Park, the headquarters of a multi-billion-dollar foundation is cooled with melting ice instead of air conditioning. In San Jose, a computer company linked its irrigation systems to local weather stations so they automatically adjust as the weather changes. In Los Gatos, a nuns’ retreat center uses compacted straw for walls, recycled newspaper for insulation and a roof planted with greenery to keep the building cool. At Sixth and Howard in San Francisco, a new public housing project has solar panels, recycled steel and non-toxic paint. The California Academy of Sciences center will be the next big green building in The City. Nationwide, the amount of new construction certified by the US Green Building Council as meeting strict environmental design standards has increased from 8 million square feet in 2000 to more than 775 million square feet today. Architects are pulling out all the high-tech stops to design buildings that consume less energy and water, use recycled materials, and keep employees healthy and productive with lots of natural light, good ventilation and fewer toxic paints and adhesives. The buildings cost roughly 5 percent more to build, but quickly result in savings on electricity, water, and improved employee productivity. We look at the architects who want to save the world one blueprint at a time.
Amy Miller is a documentary filmmaker and the Supervising Producer and Partner at Spine Films, a boutique production company specializing in science, natural history and art content. Prior to joining the Spine team, she worked at KQED as the Series Producer of “QUEST”, a multimedia science and environment series. She was also a staff producer for two other KQED series, “SPARK” and “Independent View.” For her work in television, she’s earned multiple honors including ten Emmy awards and two AAAS Kavli Science Journalism awards. Feature Producer/ Director credits include “Saving Otter 501” for PBS NATURE and “Let All the Stories Be Told” which aired as part of KQED’s “Truly California” series.