The Finnish embassy in Washington has been awarded a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, making it the first embassy in the United States to bear that distinction.
The embassy, which opened in 1994 on the site of an old mansion overlooking Rock Creek Park, was designed by Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen of Heikkinen-Komonen Architects. The building was awarded an Energy Star certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2008, and then in 2010 became the first foreign diplomatic mission in Washington to receive a LEED certification, then at the "gold" level.
When it came time to renew the building’s gold LEED certificate, embassy officials set their sights higher. Changes and modifications include:
- Adjusting the building’s operating times to correspond with its use and occupancy, cutting down on wasted heating and cooling.
- Replacing facets with more efficient models that use only half a gallon per minute, and showerheads that use only 1.5 gallons per minute.
- Having the property manager more closely monitor the use of electricity, gas, and water. A sharp spike can mean there is a problem that can be addressed immediately.
- Eliminating the use of plastic cups, plates, and cutlery.
- Purchasing three bicycles for staff members to use instead of taxis, and encouraging employees to share rides whenever possible.
Embassy officials say the changes are already paying off, with the building using 50 percent less electricity and 65 percent less gas than it did in the mid-2000s.
"Our embassy has gone from green to gold, and now platinum," Ambassador Ritva Koukku-Ronde said in a statement. "All this reflects Finland’s strong commitment to environmental sustainability."
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