The city of Rock Hill has to consider the bottom line when planning how many energy-saving features to include in its new operations center. But we suspect if city officials take the long view, there will be little difference between being green and saving green, as in cash.
Two months ago, the Rock Hill City Council voted 4-2 to sign on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. Rock Hill thus became the fifth city in the state to sign the agreement, joining Columbia, Charleston, Greenville and Sumter.
Now that the city is approaching the startup on a planned $18 million operations center, the agreement has become part of the discussion. So far, however, no city officials have specified what, if anything, the city has committed to do to meet the terms of that agreement.
Caution at this point may be wise. It appears that most of the guidelines included in the agreement are voluntary, so the city is not under the gun to use specific methods or materials in building the new operations center.
But local environmentalists are urging the city to go all out to earn a rating for the center as a "green building" -- officially known as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Why build a building for the last century, they ask, when tumultuous change is occurring in the ability to create environmentally friendly buildings?
Local environmentalists also urge the city to serve as a good example to the rest of the community. If the city shows it is serious about greener building practices, maybe local contractors and private citizens will follow suit.
City Manager Carey Smith has stated that, while no plans have been made yet to pursue the green rating, the center will include a number of energy-saving features under any circumstances. That could mean low-energy lighting, greater use of available light, solar panels, an in-floor heating system, low-flow efficiency toilets and recycled materials in construction -- all features available to the average homeowner.
But if city officials investigate the options -- and we hope they do -- they are likely to find that many environmentally friendly features pay for themselves over time. Some can be expensive up front but save money overall by lowering energy use.
Winthrop University's new Lois Rhame West Center is a case in point. It is one of the first buildings in York County to get the green rating.
Earning the designation added four months to the building schedule and increased design costs by 2 percent, and construction costs by 2 percent to 4 percent. But university officials expect to make up those costs within about 10 years as savings on energy add up.
Startup for the new center is behind schedule because of delays in finding a 30- to 40-acre site, and construction costs are likely to rise as weeks pass. So, we understand the pressure the city is under.
Nonetheless, we hope planners take the time necessary to review green options and try to incorporate as many of them as possible. They could save money overall and set a good example in the bargain.
Green features for city's new operation center may pay for themselves over the long run.
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