Simmering Mediterranean keeps it cool

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A five-story building in southern Athens is being hailed as possibly the most energy-efficient building in the world. Considering the public’s growing interest in green building, this structure could provide valuable lessons.

It combines several types of energy-saving technologies, uses no fossil fuel, and produces zero emissions. In addition, it meets 95 percent of its own energy needs with solar and geothermal sources.

The project is the result of a public-private partnership between Sol Energy Hellas, a private firm that provided twothirds of the funding, and several government entities including Greek ministries, universities, and research centers. The Associated Press calls it “the only building of its kind in Europe and possibly the world.”

From the outside, it resembles a typical block of apartments with some balconies and decorative iron railings. The roof, however, is covered with photovoltaic panels, and the basement is a maze of pipes, pumps, and dials. Heat exchangers lie buried in the walls and 900 sensors measure carbon monoxide, temperature, and humidity.

The initial costs for the various energy-saving technologies will be recouped within seven to ten years. Because of this relatively short payback period, the building will operate virtually free for most of its life span. Proof of the efficiency achieved by this project was clearly demonstrated this past summer. While temperatures in Athens rose to nearly 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the building’s interior remained at a comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which penciled out at a total cost of $14 per day—a fraction of what it would cost to cool a normal building of comparable size.

 

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Linda is responsible for the PERC web sites, media relations, the national journalism conference, and the media fellows program. She is author of Forest Fires, part of a series of  environmental education books for high school students. She also wrote and produced Square One, a newsletter that introduced grassroots environmentalists to market...
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