Green, environmental friendly, sustainable. For some people, these words are associated with images of glitzy solar panels or slumming it in the wilderness.
Well, fear no longer. Environmental experts want to make things as accessible as possible. And they want to start right here. Tempe is becoming a mecca for all things green.
A summit of eight environmental experts met on Monday following the grand opening of Das Haus Pavilion, a German-made model house built to demonstrate the benefits of green construction. The pavilion is the latest in a series of steps Tempe has taken to encourage progression into a green lifestyle.
The panel of experts, made up of professors, government directors and sustainability executives, took part in a three-hour discussion based around the introduction of green technology into modern Arizona homes.
Tempe was chosen as one of 12 cities in the U.S. and Canada to host the pavilion. For this group of experts, gathered from around the world, the city is becoming the ideal place for green development.
Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman said in his opening remarks that Tempe “has been working on sustainability for a long time now.”
He mentioned that, after developments such as the retrofitting of Tempe City Hall and building the new First Solar building on Tempe Town Lake, this was the next step for the city.
Duke Reiter, senior vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Architecture at Arizona State University, says the school has been doing everything it can to reinforce Tempe’s green status.
“ASU brought Das Haus here, and with the new addition of the PowerParasol on lot 59, we are producing more solar energy than any other school in the U.S.,” he said.
“It takes time to convert a sprawling city like Phoenix into a more green-friendly place,” Reiter said. “However, change is happening at the macro level and that is where the change starts. The opportunity to change on an individual level is still there.”
Jane Pane, an architect who came to the event to learn how to integrate the new technologies into her works, feels support for the initiative is growing.
“It is no longer about borrowing foreign technology,” she said. “It is becoming a fundamentally American philosophy. Tempe is like a blank slate compared to developed cities like Chicago. Environmentalism has a good chance of success here and it can mobilize the global architectural train.”
“Tempe is very supportive of new technologies,” said Rene van den Hoevel, managing director of the German American Chambers of Commerce. “We want to educate the general public about energy efficiency and the latest German technology, and there was no other place we wanted to choose to host this event.”
The pavilion is a sleek prototype house that focuses on energy-efficient living and the benefits of solar power, as well as to demonstrate the ease of implementing these into everyday life. The pavilion acted as a base for the panel’s arguments, and is meant to be an entry-level look into modern sustainable living.
The German government commissioned the house and its North American tour in order to promote the latest in German sustainability.
Van den Hoevel says they hope this move will encourage widespread sustainability to America, a country considered behind when compared to those in Europe.
“In Germany, sustainability is a part of everyday life; it is the status quo of technology,” he says. “In America, we need to instill that going green is not just cosmetic. We need to show them that it is about making changes deep down, and we want to make them care.”
Tempe’s green future has no sign of stopping. The city has applied to host the 2013 Solar Decathlon, a nationwide university house-building competition. The event is hosted annually in Washington, D.C., but is looking for an alternative, sunnier location for the future.
It’s something Duke Reiter feels could be a game changer: “We would become a new center for solar construction.”