Green Building at Heifer International

I had a chance to visit the headquarters of Heifer International, an aid organization committed to ending world hunger. Ray White told me a little bit about the organization and what measures they took when building the headquarters to make it as environmentally friendly as possible.

Ray White – Heifer International is a solution to world hunger and poverty. We have projects in 57 countries around the world where we teach people how to become self-reliant by giving them livestock and training in how to use those livestock. It may not sound like much, but a cow or a couple of goats can actually transform the lives of a family living in a developing country.

We realized over the 60 years that we have been working, we really need to be doing things in an environmentally sustainable way. It's very important that we do everything so that you don't degrade the environment. Everything Heifer does, we have to be environmentally sound. We expect that of our people in the field. We expect people who receive animals from Heifer to practice environmental sustainability. We would be hypocrites if we did anything else.

We planned our headquarters to be as environmentally sustainable as we possibly could make it. We also wanted the grounds around it and everything here to be contributing to environmental soundness, to making a fine, nice environment. It's nice for the employees because it's a great environment to work in.

One of the most impressive features about this building is this moat behind me. It actually acts as a way of capturing all the water that falls in the site. So, we don't put anything into the city sewer system. We don't burden that system with our water. We also use the water to irrigate or keep all these plants alive. Another thing is, we capture the water that falls on the roof. The roof is actually a swimming pool liner and all the water drains into inlets and then goes to a 25,000-gallon water tower on the other side of the building. We use that and the radiant heating system that supplements the sun power that comes from all those windows. One of the exciting things is when you see the utility bills for this building because they are so low. We really have about half of the use of energy of a regular building.

One of things you may notice about the outside of the building is we have these light shelves and light shades that protect people who are sitting near windows from having direct sunlight fall on their workstation. If you have a cube that's right in the middle of the building, you still get reflected light from the light shelves that bounce it in through these high windows above the light shelves right into their workstation as indirect light, so everyone has really pleasant indirect lighting at their workstation.

There are things that you can't see about this building that contribute to the environmental sustainability of it. All the materials are recycled or recyclable. 90 percent of the steel is recycled steel. The furniture and furnishings inside are made of recycled materials.

We are really having a lot of success with all of the different features here in the parking lot. This parking lot also collects water that goes into our retention pond that's at the end of the building and then it comes back into the constructed wetlands and helps flow right past our building and all these materials help eat oil and things that come off the parking lot. So, it's all contributing to making things cleaner and greener.

You can see the wild flowers that we have. All these flowers are actually selected because they are local. They are here to serve a purpose. They keep things green and clean and a lot nicer than they would be if it was just a bare parking lot.
 

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