What Makes Us Green

Geothermal Wells

Geothermal wells take advantage of the earth's constant temperatureUnder the gravel parking area, geothermal wells go 300 feet into the ground to take advantage of the earth's constant temperature (about 54 degrees). The wells provide for one-third of the Center's energy needs.

Natural Ventilation

Natural ventilationNatural ventilation takes advantage of the Bay's breezes to cool the building without relying solely on air conditioning. When sensors determine that the outdoor climate is suitable, the mechanical system shuts down, motor-operated dormer windows open, and "open window" signs signal staff that they may open their windows.

Less Electricity

Southern exposure for light & warmth and prevailing winds for natural ventilationTo reduce the need for electricity, the building is situated to receive maximum southern exposure for light and warmth and to take advantage of prevailing winds for natural ventilation. Using the sun's heat in the winter and natural ventilation during warm months, the heating and cooling systems do not run on an average of 33 percent of the year.

Solar Power

Solar panelsPhoto-voltaic panels produce a portion of the building's energy needs by converting the sun's rays to electricity. Solar hot water heating further reduces electricity demand.

Natural Light

Natural daylight from the southern window wall illuminates the entire building, substantially lessening what is usually an office's most expensive energy cost. Outdoor trellises provide shade in the summer. Also, an open office layout allows daylight throughout the building, minimizing dependence on costly artificial light and providing more efficient heating and cooling.

Insulated Panels

Structural insulated panelsExtremely efficient structural insulated panels used for the building's walls and ceilings reduce energy demands and costs. The panels have a foam core that is four to eight inches thick, use considerably less wood than conventional framing, and have a very high insulation value.


Rooftop cisterns capture rainwater for useRooftop cisterns capture rainwater for use in irrigation, gear washing, fire suppression, hand-washing, mop sinks, and desiccant unit make-up. Re-using rainwater reduces the need to draw from groundwater wells or municipal water systems, and decreases runoff to the Bay and adjacent Black Walnut Creek. Water consumption at the Merrill Center is 90 percent less than a conventional building.

Composting Toilets

Composting toiletOur composting toilets use no water at all. Human waste is composted naturally to produce topsoil for our landscaping. This saves water and reduces the load on sewage treatment plants that contribute nutrient pollution to the Bay.

Recycled and Renewable Materials

Parallam beams and trusses are an example of recycled & renewable building materialsWe used numerous recycled material to construct the building. Cork flooring and wall panels come from cork oak trees. Cork, which is harvested without killing the tree, regenerates in seven to nine years. Bamboo, used for the stairs and and flooring in the lobby, can be harvested every three to five years and replenishes itself naturally. Posts, beams, and trusses are made from Parallam (strand lumber made from fast grown wood). Galvalume (recycled steel panels) is used for the siding and roofing. Other wood in this building (decks, plywood, and all dimensional wood) is either certified by the Forest Stewardship council (FSC) or drawn from sustainably managed forests. FSC forests are managed to conserve biological diversity, protect endangered species and their habitats, and encourage forest regeneration and succession. The ceiling tiles are made from 78 percent recycled mineral wood and cellulose fiber, the rebars are made from 95 percent recycled steel, and the particleboard is 100 percent recycled and recovered wood fiber.

Fewer Chemical Vapors

Bamboo lumber is just one example of a building material with no or very low Volatile Organic CompoundsIndoor air quality is enhanced by choosing building materials with no or very low Volatile Organic Compounds, such as natural linoleum, cork, and bamboo, and paints and adhesives. These reduce chemical vapors and create a healthy working environment.

Healthy Habitat

Restored onsite habitat for wildlifeCBF has restored onsite habitat for wildlife by planting native trees, underwater grasses, restoring wetlands and meadows, and creating a sanctuary oyster reef.


Bioretention stormwater treatment systemStormwater passes through a bioretention stormwater treatment system in the form of manmade wetlands to filter water before it enters the Bay or the adjacent Black Walnut Creek.

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