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Finland’s U.S. embassy gets gold star for green makeover

Finland’s embassy in Washington, D.C. is doing its bit to reduce North America’s greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.


Photo courtesy of Embassy of Finland

Finding ways to decrease environmental impact of its beautiful building on Massachussetts Avenue, Washington’s “Embassy Row,” and its day-to-day operations has resulted in preventing greenhouse gas emissions equal to the electricity use of 90 American households, the embassy said in a statement this week.

In recognition of its efforts, Finland’s building has become the first embassy to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit which seeks to promote green building practices.

In meeting the stringent gold LEED certification standards, the embassy has been retrofitted to become a truly carbon neutral building, the statement explained.

“In order to reflect Finland’s commitment to environmental sustainability, finding ways to decrease environmental impact of the building and its day-to-day operations has become a priority for the embassy staff.

“The results have certainly been worth the efforts. A comparison of the annual average energy spending between 2002 and 2004 shows an extraordinary decrease of U.S. $150,000. The building’s electricity use decreased by 50 percent and gas by 65 percent.


Photo courtesy of Embassy of Finland

“Retrofitting our embassy building demonstrates that we Finns strive to be active but energy efficient members of our neighborhood and the greater D.C. community,” said Finland’s ambassador, Pekka Lintu.

“By maintaining this demanding status, the Embassy of Finland is supporting a range of important initiatives by local U.S. companies that offer green jobs for the growing green workforce,” Lintu added.

“We hope that our adaptation of green principles and our commitment to the well-being of people and the environment will inspire other foreign missions to view their opportunities in this field.”

The embassy’s energy consumption was reduced significantly by adjusting the operating system to correspond with actual use and occupancy, the embassy explained.

“Temperature set points were determined to moderate the use of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. A free-cooling system halved the use of electricity-powered cooling, and a new heating system allowed for more fine-tuning of the building’s energy use. Light fixtures received more energy-efficient light bulbs and toilets and faucets were fitted with water-saving devices.”


Photo courtesy of Embassy of Finland

Policies were implemented to ensure sustainable practices: Occupancy sensors were installed in offices, recycling became a major priority, and all procurement became subject to environmental considerations.

Used furniture and other durable goods were donated to local schools and organizations. All cleaning supplies were replaced with environmentally sound products, and low-impact chemicals were introduced in site maintenance such as gardening.

A stringent non-smoking policy was implemented, and garage space was re-designated to encourage staff to cycle to work or use hybrid vehicles.

“While energy efficiency has led to significant financial savings, this was not our primary objective. Our most important goal was to make the building as environmentally friendly as possible, and by doing so create a showcase to increase awareness around energy-efficiency issues among our visitors and the many organizations we deal with each day”, Ambassador Lintu said.

The embassy was awarded the Energy Star in September 2008 by the Environmental Protection Agency, marking the first time an embassy had earned this label in the United States. The Finnish Embassy is also a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange where it voluntarily offsets any remaining carbon emissions.