Eco-friendly Columbia City Hall promotes Earth Hour

Tuesday, March 22, 2011 | 7:29 p.m. CDT; updated 12:15 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Bamboo walls, colorful recycled blue glass mixed in concrete, and carpet and chairs made out of recycled materials are some of the sustainable features present throughout Columbia’s City Hall. The environmentally friendly features are part of the city's steps toward trying to be more environmentally friendly and keep materials out of landfills.

COLUMBIA — Bamboo walls, recycled-glass counters and office chairs made from recycled T-shirts now have a place in Columbia City Hall.

To promote Earth Hour this coming Saturday, the city’s sustainability director, Barbara Buffaloe, led a tour Tuesday to show off the “green” aspects of the addition that opened in March 2010.

The building has received LEED Silver certification, acknowledging its energy- and resource-efficiency.

Buffaloe pointed out these details on the tour:


  • A water-efficient landscape design has a drip-irrigation system that uses rainwater, rather than a sprinkler system.
  • Bricks help absorb stormwater to prevent runoff.
  • The path from a garden to the front door was built with recycled blue-glass bottles and concrete.


  • Durable terrazzo flooring uses recycled glass and plastic and releases no volatile organic compounds, gas emissions that may have adverse health effects.
  • Walls are bamboo — a rapidly renewable resource that grows to its height within 10-15 years.
  • Front-desk countertops contain recycled glass, some encased in resin and others in concrete.


  • Textiles from chairs and carpets are made from recycled T-shirts and other used textiles.
  • Sensors control lights automatically when someone enters or leaves a room.


  • Dual-flush toilets provide an option to lift the handle and release less water or push down to release more.
  • Automatic sinks have low-flow water sensors.


  • The carpet is arranged in tiles, so high-traffic or damaged areas can be replaced without removing the entire carpet.
  • Lighting areas are controlled separately.


  • The roof is synthetic rubber that reflects sunlight to keep the building cool.
  • Walls are recycled steel.
  • The basement has a gym and shower so employees do not have to leave the building to work out, thus decreasing automobile use.

Buffaloe said these changes have dramatically reduced the amount of energy used in the building. Water usage has been cut in half at City Hall.

“It’s a really big deal, and we have over 250 employees in this building,” Buffaloe said. With water alone, "we are saving tremendous money on our utility bills and also reducing our demand.”

Total cost to build the addition and renovate the Daniel Boone Building, formerly a hotel, was around $22 million, Buffaloe said. Total payback time is an expected 7-10 years.

Buffaloe predicts the city will eventually develop solar technology on the roof of City Hall to generate power for Columbia. But for now, citizens can increase awareness for energy conservation by participating in Earth Hour at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

Earth Hour originated in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. Residents are encouraged to turn off non-essential electricity and lighting for one hour.

Monta Welch, founder of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition, said that last year participants saved the equivalent of power that would run 70 homes for a 24-hour period.

She hopes residents will be able to take away a more significant message.

“The purpose is really to change and do these things ongoing all the time," Welch said. "The reason we’re participating in Earth Hour is because we’re trying to make a difference about global sustainability and climate change issues.” 

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