The environmental movement is really a human rights movement, St. John architect Doug White said Tuesday as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – in conjunction with the St. John-based Island Green Building Association – kicked off its “Our Islands Our Future” green building seminar.
On White’s list of rights to which everyone is entitled, he included clean air and water. A way to obtain that is by green building, he said.
“We are trying to change the way we live,” he told the 30 people gathered at the University of the Virgin Islands St. John facility in the Marketplace shopping center.
White said that if environmental, energy and food security are a secure, then economic security will follow.
With about 1,000 vacation villas on St. John, the island’s need for green development is obvious, he said. One of White’s slides showed that during rain storms, sediment turns the water brown below the Peter Bay development on the island’s north shore. Peter Bay is home to mega homes, with most of them rented out to vacationers.
“What you do at your home has an impact on reefs and oceans,” he said.
In that same vein, he urged people to take a good look at how much house they actually need while they’re in the planning stage.
White had myriad tips for building in a way that helps protect the environment and makes sense for the tropics.
“Use permeable surfaces to minimize runoff,” White said, showing a slide of a driveway made of permeable concrete.
The idea is to keep the water on the property rather than flowing downhill to the bay, he said.
Improperly installed silt fencing used at construction sites to keep dirt on the property is a particular annoyance for White. He said he often sees them with the bottoms “blowing in the breeze” rather than dug into the dirt.
Noting that one-third of home waste is compostable, White urged people to develop a place on their property for yard waste so it doesn’t have to go to the landfill.
“Just pile it up,” he urged.
He also is a big proponent of composting kitchen waste, which should not be mixed with yard waste, he said, because the yard waste doesn’t readily compost.
With many homes, particularly vacation villas, featuring air conditioning, White said that if you don’t insulate roofs in such homes, you’re wasting energy.
He had an array of figures handy and said that pool pumps could account for 20 percent of an electric bill.
White also spoke about light pollution and said that bright lights shining outward are interfering with wildlife.
“As well as shining in your neighbors’ eyes,” he said.
In response to a question from the audience, White said that while the upfront costs for environmentally friendly things like solar hot water and electricity – as well as energy efficient appliances – is higher initially, in the long-run, they will be cheaper because they save on operating costs.
Bill Willigerod, president of the Island Green Building board, said that the organization provides consulting services for home builders and owners who want to adhere to green building techniques.
White noted that the island’s landfill at Susannaberg is supposed to start closing by 2018, with the job done by 2022. However, he said there is no plan in place for that to happen.
Lisa Marie Carrubba, who heads NOAA’s Caribbean office in Puerto Rico, said similar seminars will be held on St. Thomas and St. Croix.
Island Green Building has put together a pamphlet on Residential Tropical Green Building Certification Program. Even if certification is not the goal, it’s filled with a lengthy list of tips to point you in the right direction. The pamphlet is available at Island Green Building’s ReSource Depot on Gifft Hill Road and at the organization’s website at http://www.igbavi.org/green/?page_id=27 .
NOAA developed an “Our Islands Our Future” CD with similar information. The information is available at the Island Green Building website at http://www.igbavi.org/green/?page_id=340.