What Makes Us Green
Under 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 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.
To 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.
Photo-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 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.
Extremely 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 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.
Our 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
We 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
Indoor 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.
CBF has restored onsite habitat for wildlife by planting native trees, underwater grasses, restoring wetlands and meadows, and creating a sanctuary oyster reef.
Stormwater 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.