Architects, builders, construction managers and corporate planners are beginning to realise that energy-efficient buildings are not only politically correct but they are also cheaper to operate and offer a healthier environment for workers. These advantages are being  demonstrated by such structures as the Natural Resources Defense Council headquarters in New York City, the Environmental Defense Fund building in Washington, the Internationale Nederlanden Group Bank in Amsterdam and a regional government centre now under construction in Marseilles.

Even the famous Wal-Mart chain is getting in on the act. The retailer is designing an ‘environmental store’ in Lawrence, Kansas, that could become the prototype for all future Wal-Marts. This first model will be built mostly of wood and concrete block-materials that require 33% less energy to produce than steel, and feature an elaborate, high-efficiency  lighting system enhanced by skylights that use holographic films to spread daylight evenly over the space. The store will have its own recycling centre so that shipping boxes never have to leave the site.


And for the ultimate in recycling, the entire structure is designed to be converted easily to housing in the event that Wal-Mart decides to leave the building. The motivation for going green is sometimes idealistic, sometimes materialistic and usually a little of both. There is no question that traditional office structures are environmentally wasteful and destructive. In the U.S., such buildings account for one-third of the  nation’s peak electricity consumption: they are costly to operate and will become even more so when new energy taxes go into effect.

Furthermore, office air conditioners, together with the manufacturing processes used to make building materials, emit nearly one-quarter of all ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. Of more immediate concern to  workers is the miserable quality of the air they breathe. Because of their design and the synthetic materials they employ, between one-third and one-half of all commercial buildings are filled with polluted air, in some cases 100 times as polluted as the air on the other side of the windows.


As awareness of such problems grows, so does the movement to go 35 green. The headquarters of the National Audubon Society is another example of energy-efficient buildings. It carries a little more than half the air conditioning capacity that the buildings of its size have. Furthermore, the building employs the latest lighting technology, including tiny sensors that adjust office illumination depending on  whether or not people are actually using the room and how much light is streaming through the windows.

Another key part of Audubon’s plan was to look at construction materials. For instance, subfloors were made from homasote, a recycled newspaper product; floor coverings were fabricated from  recycled glass; and reception desks were built of mahogany that was harvested in a manner that does not destroy rainforests.

Audubon’s chief scientist, Jan Beyea says, “We did our job”, and adds that the facility’s overall success comes from being concerned about several hundred little things, each of which by itself seems to be rather unimportant.



A. Mark the best choice.

1. Line 12, ‘prototype’ means .

a) environmental store c) well-designed mcdei b) high-efficiency material d) first model

2. Line 39, ‘illumination’ means . a) capacity b) lighting c) employment d) conditioning

3. Line 45, ‘mahogany’ is .

a) a kind of plant b) something that is found on reception desks

c) a recycled product d) something that may destroy rainforests


B. Mark the statements as True (T) or False (F).

1. The construction of the regional government centre in Marseilles has not finished yet.

2. Waste produced in the Wal-Mart environmental store will be put in boxes and carried to ships.

3. The air conditioning capacity of the National Audubon Society building is more than that of the buildings of its size.

4. According to Jan Beyea, the Audubon Society was unnecessarily concerned about little things.


1. What are the advantages of energy-efficient buildings?
2. What is the function of holographic films?
3. What may happen to the ‘environmental store’ if Wal-Mart decides to leave the building?
4. How will new energy taxes affect traditional office buildings?
5. Why are air conditioners in traditional offices harmful for the environment?
6. Why is the air in some commercial buildings polluted?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *