SANTA MONICA, CA - January 22 - Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio will join producer and environmentalist Laurie David to dedicate NRDC's (the Natural Resources Defense Council) new David Family Environmental Action Center and Leonardo DiCaprio e-Activism Zone. The dedication will take place Thursday, January 22, 2004 at 10:00 am. Mr. DiCaprio and Ms. David are both members of NRDC's Board of Trustees.
The Action Center and e-Activism Zone are on the ground floor of NRDC's new Southern California office, which the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) this week awarded a "Platinum" rating, recognizing the highest possible achievement in sustainable design. The environmental advocacy group's building is now the "greenest" in the country.
Named for actor, director and environmentalist Robert Redford, the building combines cutting-edge technologies and materials with elegant, energy-efficient architecture to create a showcase for green building design and to promote environmental activism.
"We aspired to build the most environmentally friendly office we could, so it feels terrific to have the Green Building Council award us their highest rating," said NRDC president John Adams. "This project shows others what is possible, and it is already helping to propel the green building revolution."
The storefront Action Center, sponsored by Ms. David and her husband, TV writer/producer Larry David, comprises museum-quality exhibits on issues such as global warming, ocean pollution, everyday toxins, and green building solutions. An overhead timeline places environmental milestones in historical context. The Center also sells outdoor clothing, gear and accessories made from sustainable materials, including recycled plastic bottles and organic cotton. The public space was conceived because of a local requirement for ground-floor retail to promote pedestrian activity.
"They told us the first floor had to be retail," said Ms. David, "and it turned out to be kismet: because of that requirement we now have this magnificent public space that's helping us mint new environmental activists."
The e-Activism Zone includes four high-speed Internet terminals linked to NRDC's activist network, enabling users to learn about environmental issues of immediate concern and to influence public debate instantly by sending messages to government and corporate officials.
"Nearly five hundred thousand NRDC online activists have sent over five million messages on key environmental issues over the last three years," said Mr. DiCaprio, whose own foundation raises awareness about global warming, endangered species and alternative energy sources. "Online activism is an incredibly powerful tool for protecting the planet, and the purpose of the e-Activism Zone is to keep expanding its reach."
NRDC campaigns director Ruth Hunter created the Action Center and e-Activism Zone with a handpicked team of museum and exhibit professionals from the Getty Center, the California Science Center and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
"We found the top experts in the field and paired them with our own environmental program staff, and the results are pretty exciting," said Ms. Hunter. "The exhibits are dramatic and informative; they pull you in and make you want to get involved."
The design team was led by Tim McNeil and Leta Wong Sherman, and included Jude Jansen, Cassie Carter, Michael Rigsby, Susan Cho and Nicole Trudeau.
"The Action Center and e-Activism Zone will enhance our relationship with the public and help us put down deeper roots in Southern California," said Mr. Adams. "We never could have accomplished this without the early support of Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurie and Larry David, and a terrific friend and supporter of NRDC, Gil Friesen."
NRDC's office building achieved the "Platinum 2" rating this week by pushing the envelope on environmental design and construction techniques. It uses 60 percent less water than a standard building of its size by capturing and filtering rain, shower and sink water to irrigate landscaping and flush toilets. It reduces electricity consumption 60 to 75 percent by maximizing natural light and using efficient fixtures and appliances, task lighting, dimmable electronic ballasts, occupancy sensors and extra insulation.
The building also meets 20 percent of its electricity needs through rooftop photovoltaic cells. The structure uses only recycled or recyclable materials, and 98 percent of the materials left over from dismantling the original building on the site and constructing the new one were reused or recycled.
"The value of this building as a demonstration project cannot be overstated," said Christine Ervin, president and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council. "As green building continues to go mainstream, NRDC's Southern California office will serve as a clear and measurable example of sustainable design and construction for other building projects to emulate."
The design, by Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists -- featuring a durable composite clapboard exterior with three "lighthouse" atria -- improves indoor environmental quality and reduces reliance on artificial cooling and lighting. The site is near public transportation, neighborhood amenities, and regional attractions including the Third Street Promenade. The project was managed by Tishman Construction Corporation, whose chairman and CEO, Daniel R. Tishman, is an NRDC Trustee.
"Operating commercial and residential buildings consumes over 40 percent of the country's energy -- twice as much as passenger cars and trucks," said NRDC senior scientist Rob Watson, a driving force behind NRDC's building. "If all commercial buildings in the U.S. were as efficient as our Southern California office, the country would achieve 70 percent of its Kyoto Protocol obligation."
The special environmental systems, reviews, materials and building processes added approximately 15 percent to the cost of the building, according to Mr. Watson, but he estimates those costs will be recouped in three years or less because of resource savings and productivity gains.