Practicing green diplomacy
PANAMA. Many have seen and visited the new US embassy in Clayton, but few may know that when the US Department of State planned its new...
PANAMA. Many have seen and visited the new US embassy in Clayton, but few may know that when the US Department of State planned its new embassy in Panama City, it aimed to maintain the environment’s integrity and save energy costs in the process.
In what amounts to a “green” diplomatic effort, the US Embassy in Panama is the second American Embassy built to meet the energy and environmental standards established by the nonprofit US Green Building Council, according to a State Department article.
The USGBC awards four levels of certification for so-called “green” buildings. Panama City’s embassy has achieved the system’s most modest rating for sustainable features such as reduced water and energy consumption.
“From a builder’s perspective, the whole point of building is to reduce first costs, or the costs of producing a complete structure,” said Donna McIntire, sustainability program manager and founder of the State Department’s “green team,” whose mission is to limit inefficiencies in the use of energy and water at ambassadorial compounds.
“But green building puts more emphasis on long-term costs. The government will operate these buildings for 20, 30 years or more in some cases.”
She said that, in addition to being cost-efficient, the new embassy building is “good foreign policy.”
A quarter of the materials used in the $67 million project were purchased locally.
According to a USGBC report, the embassy’s energy costs are one-quarter below those of a traditionally built structure.
Water use inside the embassy is one-third what it would be in a typical building, and outdoor water use on its 17-hectare property is half what it would be with standard equipment.
After the 1998 al-Qaida bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the State Department’s Office of Buildings Operations (OBO) developed a standard design plan for new consular facilities, incorporating higher security but also environmentally friendly design elements.
Sixty-five complexes have been completed with the new design since 2001. After 2001, OBO hired American firm Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering P.C. to improve the environmental and energy features in the designs, and 31 projects are under way to meet those standards.
All new embassies will meet the USGBC benchmark.