Public Sector Sustainability

The City of Bedford lies in the dead center of Dallas/Fort Worth and is, like most municipalities, suffering financial constraints that have no signs of letting up in the near future. Bedford is cutting costs as much as possible to stay viable, just as many local governments around the country are doing, but Bedford has finally taken a step toward sustainable practices concerning its brand new library. The library manager, Maria Redburn, was able to keep the library staff and operations from being outsourced in 2006 (with citizen and staff assistance); and with the help of city council a new library was built with environment, community and efficiency in mind.

The old Food Lion building had been left vacant for years on Forrest Ridge Drive in Bedford until the city decided they would re-adapt the building into the new Bedford Public Library. The city decided to make use of natural light with new windows that let in more light, but keep heat inside by using Low-E glass; where light is needed the library uses high-efficiency LED lights and fixtures with motion censors to stop wasteful energy use. Extra insulation has also been added to the walls and roof of the library to increase the buffer between inside and outside temperatures. The roof also features eco-traits such as photovoltaic solar panels and a white roof that reflects the sun light, both contributing to cutting and providing energy use. Outside the library are water efficient landscapes and a geothermal heat pump system under a field that aides in heating and cooling the library. All of the additional features mentioned were made possible by grants, alternative energy programs and the hard work of sustainable advocates within the Bedford community. Check out the real-time savings here: http://www.bedfordtx.gov/energy_efficiency/

As great as this is, the City of Bedford possesses many more facilities with absolutely no sustainable infrastructure or practices and this fact lends itself to  a fundamental problem: In a time when public sector is suffering, why are long-term/sustainable practices and development not at the forefront of municipal missions.

The City of Plano has decided to focus its efforts on sustainability by creating a brand new Environmental Education Center that costs the city absolutely nothing in utility costs. That’s right, the Environmental Education Center is completely powered by renewable energy and sustainable designs:

                

  • Architectural site orientation and layout plan for largest energy efficiency provided by roof overhangs & east-west orientation.
  • Rainwater harvesting, gray water recycling, low-flow water system and efficient irrigation endow great results concerning water conservation.
  • Utilization of site’s natural features by making use of nearby creek habitat and future discovery gardens.
  • Solar panels and natural lighting contribute to energy efficiency.
  • Use of recycled/renewable/nontoxic materials, such as low VOC paint, recycled carpet, tiles, fly ash concrete, glass and cradle to cradle furniture.
  • Interpretive displays, interactive programs, regional training site, workshops and public presentations encourage sustainable education.

With this center, Plano is able to provide private and public events at no cost to the city. This allows the Environmental Education Center to provide more and better quality services at less of a price. Autumn Dylan explained that the city has really embraced sustainable solutions and it is already starting to pay off; they’ve even created a green motto: “live green in Plano”. For more information contact: Sustainability & Environmental Services Customer Service – (972) 769-4150

In this economic climate cities taking on the challenge of revamping all facilities to sustainable buildings would be challenging, but wouldn’t it be in the city’s, tax payer’s and community’s best interest to make sure that all future buildings and developments be built and maintained to sustainable specifications? The less taxes spent on energy, the more funds available for services or savings in tax cuts.

True sustainability involves all components of an environment working together for the best results and this same theory can and is being applied to local governments. The North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG) formed in 1966 to establish equilibrium needs between 16 counties. These counties must work together in order to avoid redundancies, waste and problems in planning and development. The NCTCOG, with its 240 members, have taken it upon themselves to work in community services, emergency preparedness programs, research & information, public affairs and primarily transportation.

Mindy Mize and Whitney Vandiver both work in the transportation department of the NCTCOG and are very passionate about increasing traffic efficiency. Along with traffic running smoothly they also pursue emission lowering strategies in order to attain federal funding programs. The NCTCOG is aware of population growth estimates and understand the need for solutions that need to be implemented today.The Regional Transportation Council of the NCTCOG has begun strategies for lowering traffic congestion and emissions; these include ride sharing and public transportation provided by Dart, TRE and The T services. Traffic is a very complicated in areas of funding, logistics, infrastructure and emissions. The NCTCOG is there, voluntarily, to provide commuters with avenues for better traffic and greener drive.

In the future it might be favorable for the NCTCOG to focus on mass public transportation in order to truly exemplify sustainability. Cities and counties cannot implement ample actions such as this, but when all of these counties come together anything is possible.

References:

Maria Redburn, Bedford Public Library Manager http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6535070.htmlhttp://www.governmentsustainability.co.uk/http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=11513

Autumn Dylan, Environmental Education Center     http://plano.gov/Departments/HR/Pages/employment.aspxhttp://www.plano.gov/Departments/Environmental%20Services/Pages/EEC.aspx

Mindy Mize & Whitney Vandiver of the NCTCOG                                http://www.nctcog.org/trans/index.asp#

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