As beautiful as Utah is, it has a serious pollution problem, particularly in the winter when emissions from power plants and cars and the full range of human activities conspire with Mother Nature – the weather and the unique topography of the Salt Lake City area – to trap air in the Salt Lake Valley. According to the Desert News, “Pollution has been linked to cognitive decline and depression. Some physicians even estimate that Utah’s air kills 2,000 people every year and takes two years off of your life.”
So when a building comes along that doesn’t contribute to pollution, it’s a pretty big deal in Salt Lake City – and that’s why the spectacular new Salt Lake City Public Safety Building has won the 2013 Outstanding Award in Pollution Prevention from the Utah Pollution Prevention Association and Clean Utah.
The 335,000 square foot complex (that includes the secure parking garage) is home to the city’s police, fire and emergency operations departments. City voters agreed overwhelming to pay $125 million to build it.
According to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, a typical building the size of the Public Safety Building would produce around 2,670 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, some of which contribute to smog and all of which are implicated in the warming of the planet, which itself has been linked to increased smog.
The Public Safety Building will produce about one-fifth that amount – 524 metric tons – and that amount will be offset by the building’s solar power system. So, voila, net-zero, a goal set by Salt Lake City’s progressive mayor, Ralph Becker.
What gives this building its special powers? According to the Desert News, in addition to the solar panels (and an offsite solar farm), it takes advantage of natural lighting with abundant and strategically placed windows … uses LED low energy lights, taps into a solar hot water heating system and its energy use is tracked by a monitoring system.”