to save energy

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - An 84-year-old bank building that's been vacant for more than a decade is about to sprout back to life.

Project organizers say a "green roof" of dazzling wildflowers is one of many features that will make the $3.5 million Cleveland Environmental Center a unique integration of ecological principles and historic preservation.

"It's mixing the best of the old and the new," said Ed Small, president of Cleveland Urban Properties, a real estate company involved in the project.

While renovating the former Cleveland Trust Bank branch is costly, the projected energy savings are $500,000 within 20 years, said Sadhu Johnston, director of the Cleveland Green Building Coalition, a nonprofit group that promotes green development.

By January, the five-story building a mile west of downtown will provide office space for at least eight environmental groups and be a national model for green redevelopment, Johnston said.

"We're trying to bring ecological design to life in an older industrial city," he said.

Located in the heart of Cleveland's Ohio City, the building has a high ceiling and marble flooring on the first floor and a basement with ornately colored columns reminiscent of an Egyptian tomb.

"People are starting to realize the value of old buildings and decide that there's some worth," Johnston said.

He wants to show that historic buildings also can be environmentally friendly.

The bank's architecture will be blended with green features that seek to save energy, improve air quality and provide natural lighting.

The building's roof will be covered by wire mesh and 3 inches of soil where wildflowers will be planted. Aside from natural beauty, the green roof will last longer and cut air conditioning costs by staying cooler than a standard black rooftop, Johnston said.

"The temperature in the city can be 4-to 8-degrees higher because of black rooftops and concrete," Johnston said.

Other green features include a geothermal heating system, double-paned windows, solar panels and motion sensors that will turn on lights when people enter rooms.

About 10 percent, or 350 million square feet, of Germany's roofs are green, according to David Beattie, director of the Penn State Center for Green Roof Research.

But despite some high-profile U.S. projects, including Chicago's City Hall and a Ford assembly plant in Dearborn, Mich., green roofs haven't caught on much in the United States.

"There are progressive people here that are trying to create an environment for progressive-minded people," Small said of the Cleveland Environmental Center.

The city of Cleveland has provided $900,000 for the project with the rest of the money coming from numerous foundations.

The city invested in the project to help attract professional jobs and preserve the character of the neighborhood, said Greg Huth, Cleveland's acting economic development director.

"It shows that you can recycle an older building not only to make it environmentally friendly but make it useful for modern office uses," Huth said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)