A little better ... but how much?
I drove by it three or four times before I realized what it was: a gas station. Unrecognizable as such from a distance, BP's new Helios House gas station -- of which there are a few in Los Angeles -- aims to be, as the billboard rising above it proclaims, "a little better." It's green in just about every way a building can be green (excepting the fact that its sole function is the sale of fossil fuels). But hey, at least they're trying! Here are a few of the stations innovative features (via Treehugger):
Water: Helios House exceeds current environmental standards for on-site collection, filtration and distribution of water; canopy collects rainwater for irrigation; rain and site water are filtered to prevent hydrocarbons from polluting groundwater.
Heat: Helios House is designed to minimize the "heat island" effect. The green roof is landscaped with drought tolerant plants, reducing the need for heating and cooling systems, minimizing rainwater runoff, and re-oxygenating the air through CO2 absorption (carbon sink).
Light: 90 solar panels produce enough energy to power two to three homes which is equivalent to just over 5,000 lbs/year of CO2 generation reduction. Energy-efficient lighting in the canopy area uses 16 percent less electricity than traditional stations.
Materials: The site utilizes farmed wood from renewable sources; bathroom tiles utilize 100 percent recycled glass; signage is made from stainless steel scraps from the project; all stainless steel used on site is recyclable.
Cell Phone Recycling Center. Cell phones can be dropped off at Helios House, where they will be safely recycled instead of going to a landfill.
LED Lighting. Light emitting diode bulbs are used in signage and throughout the station, saving about 50 percent of the energy of fluorescents or metal halide bulbs. LEDs also last 60 percent to 80 percent longer than conventional bulbs.
Photocells and Timers. Lighting throughout the station uses multiple circuits and sensors to automatically switch electric lights on or off as needed through a 24 hour cycle. This will save about 400 kilowatt hours (kwh).
Natural Light. The design of Helios House makes use of natural light as much as possible, saving about 1,400 kilowatt hours each year.
Low VOC Paint. Ordinary paint releases VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) into the air. The paint in Helios House is Low-VOC and better for the air.