Hillsborough County has become the first county government in Florida and only the third county in the U.S. to achieve Platinum LEED for Cities and Communities certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The designation recognizes years of hard work and initiatives to safeguard the environment and enhance the quality of life for Hillsborough’s residents, businesses and visitors.
The accomplishment is significant. The Platinum designation is the highest rating that can be obtained in the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Cities and Communities program.
While LEED is the world’s most widely used green building rating system, the comprehensive Cities and Communities certification looks far beyond one area. The extensive process judges how well applicants integrate sustainability into all aspects of the community, including environmental stewardship, fiscal responsibility and overall community prosperity.
The certification acknowledges the Hillsborough County government’s leadership in completing and planning practical, measurable strategies and solutions aimed at improving sustainability, the standard of living and the experiences shared by residents and visitors alike.
The review considered a wide range of areas, such as energy and water conservation, land use, solid waste management, community heritage preservation, cultural and recreational opportunities, social services, partnerships, equitability, innovative projects and more. Hillsborough County’s application included five years of data and information provided with the support of a long list of county departments and community groups.
Hillsborough County has implemented a vast array of sustainability initiatives, among them:
The county reduces its energy use and costs by operating a chiller plant that makes ice to help cool buildings, adding solar to county facilities and using LED lighting in buildings, parking lots, sports fields and all traffic signals. Neighborhood and corridor street lighting are transitioning to LED, in collaboration with TECO.
The Resource Recovery Facility converts burnable waste into electricity, generating power for several nearby county facilities and approximately 35,000 homes. Reclaimed water is also used at the facility, and metals are salvaged.
The county’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) is the largest local land preservation program in Florida, so far setting aside more than 65,000 acres, resulting in natural stormwater management, increased biodiversity, climate regulation, air pollution removal and passive recreational opportunities. The county also will receive nearly $1.5 million in revenue over the next seven years from carbon offsets provided through ELAPP preservation efforts.
Hillsborough County’s wastewater treatment achieves a higher water quality than over 90 percent of the wastewater plants in the nation. The county is a recognized leader in reclaimed water production, helping to conserve precious drinking water that would otherwise be used for irrigation and industrial purposes.
The county provides numerous education, health and social services programs such as healthcare plans and a healthy living program for residents with limited incomes, family and youth empowerment programs, resources for the homeless, inspection of child care facilities, programs for veterans and seniors, Florida-friendly landscaping classes and much more.
The county continues to transition its fleet to electric and alternative fuel vehicles. Seven electric vehicle charging stations are available to the public at county facilities.
The county-sponsored Solar Energy Loan Fund offers low-cost loan and project assistance to residents for energy efficiency upgrades and other sustainable home improvements, providing $1.6 million in loans to date. Solar United Neighbors is also county-sponsored, providing an annual opportunity for residents to join a solar co-op for group pricing; 573 residents have joined to date.
The LEED certification process was also a catalyst for the county to begin developing a Community Sustainability Action Plan. The county wants to hear from residents and business owners to ensure they have a voice in the process.
Visit HCFLGov.net/Sustainability to learn more about Hillsborough County’s sustainable projects and green initiatives and to complete the sustainability survey. Click on the link for the ‘Community Sustainability Action Plan.’