Why Discovery Green is "Green"

Why Discovery Green is "Green"
Discovery Green stands as a beaming example of environmental best practices applied to a public project that has become the centerpiece of Houston’s downtown.” -- Mayor Annise Parker

As befits its name, Discovery Green is an environmental showcase in the heart of downtown Houston. From the earliest stages of planning, Discovery Green Conservancy committed to building a park that could meet the highest environmental standards while providing beauty and usability to the public. The park is designed to use the latest technology in “green” building methods, energy conservation, and sustainable, environmentally-friendly park operations. Discovery Green has earned a Gold rating from the LEED Green Building Rating System, which is the national benchmark for the design, construction, and operations of high-performance green buildings. 

Driven by a passionate commitment to sustainable design and operation, the Conservancy retained PageSoutherlandPage to manage the LEED certification process for Discovery Green. LEED credits are earned based on several criteria, including: site sustainability, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources used in construction, indoor environmental quality and innovation in the design process. Discovery Green’s high-performance green buildings were built to adhere to the strict LEED standards set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council at the Gold Level.

Discovery Green (with Green Mountain Energy, Discovery Green’s official green energy provider) uses electricity from 100% clean, renewable wind sources to power the park, which offsets carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution. By choosing renewable energy over traditional fossil fuel generation for the next two years, Discovery Green is estimated to avoid an additional 6.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide. That’s like planting 745 trees, enough to cover the 12 acres at Discovery Green nearly 4 times! We are one of 1,300 Green Power Partners recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who are using green power as an effective way to reduce the environmental impacts of electricity use.

Discovery Green has also achieved Corporate Lands for Learning (CLL) certification from the American Wildlife Council for the establishment and documentation of site-based education programs through providing exemplary conservation education experiences for the community.

Here are some of the specific reasons Discovery Green is so “green":

Sustainable Site

The location of a project can contribute to its “green” rating. Discovery Green is located in a dense urban center with access to public transportation, and it includes facilities for cyclists. Additionally, park construction included complete remediation of a brownfield site, and used methods for preventing pollution during construction. The park also maximizes open spaces and has procedures to manage stormwater.

The buildings in Discovery Green are oriented to maximize natural air flow through the park and to minimize solar heat gain for interior spaces, including the use of “open-air verandas” to help shade interior areas of the buildings. A dozen mature trees, including four large live oaks, were relocated to the property from sites threatened with development.

Water Efficiency

The park has a high-efficiency irrigation system, and it also recycles groundwater from the garage to help fill Kinder Lake. Additionally, high-tech, highly efficient restroom fixtures are important to minimize the use and maximize the efficiency of water usage at the park.

Energy & Atmosphere

Houstonians know all too well that cool indoor air requires lots of energy. However, the high efficiency air conditioning units in Discovery Green’s buildings use advanced refrigerants to cut down on energy needs. Additionally, the Conservancy has committed to secure its power from “green” sources. For example, solar panels donated by BP, and other efficient technologies are used to heat water, and solar panels are being used to generate electricity on-site. In fact, the two solar panel arrays (totaling 256 solar panels on to the Alkek Building and The Lake House) generate enough electricity to power the park’s office. 

Solar panels have been generating green energy for the park since their installation in late 2007. Yes, that is before the park even opened! Standard Renewable Energy, which installed the panels, has been tracking the solar power the panels are generating and, of course, the cost savings for the park. Between 2007 and Fall 2014, the solar panels have generated over 117,000 kWh resulting in over $24,000 in energy savings. That is the equivalent of planting over 10,000 trees!

Materials & Resources

Construction materials for the park have been recycled for use in future projects. Additionally, 20% of the materials used came from regional sources, and more than 60% of Ipe the wood used to construct the park came from sustainably-harvested forests. Ipe wood is a great choice because it’s amazingly strong, dense and naturally resistant to rot, insects and fire.

Indoor Environmental Quality

Lighting and air conditioning levels in all the buildings are consistently monitored, and all buildings allow maximum access to daylight and views for natural sources of light to create healthy indoor environments. And, finally, the Conservancy has committed to an education program and use of green housekeeping and landscape maintenance products.