Most energy-efficient embassies in the world

As we have just celebrated Earth Day, it is good to remember that Earth Day is not action; it is a call to act. Organizers across the globe have worked to mobilize millions under this year's theme of "green cities" with the goal of creating a healthier environment. As ambassadors to the United States and Finland we are proud to respond to that call, leading two of the most energy-efficient embassy buildings in the world.

In 2010, the Embassy of Finland in Washington D.C. became the first embassy building in the United States to receive the prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification.

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Initial steps included aligning the embassy's power consumption to coincide with key operating hours, significantly reducing power usage outside these times.  It installed energy-efficient, light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures and configured existing space to make optimal use of natural light.  Occupancy sensors further reduced energy waste in individual offices, and recycling was made a top priority. As a direct result, electricity consumption decreased by 50 percent and gas usage by 65 percent, translating into a $150,000 decrease in annual bills.

The U.S. Embassy's Innovation Center in Helsinki is the only diplomatic facility in the world to achieve LEED Platinum status. Careful restoration of the 1914 exterior preserved the historic appeal, while adaptive re-use of the interior space utilized high performance American technology to maximize comfort and energy efficiency.

It is the first U.S. diplomatic facility with 100% LED interior and exterior lighting. Natural ventilation, triple-glazed windows and city-provided district heating and cooling (with chilled water sourced from the Gulf of Finland) are upgrades that reflect U.S. commitment to the environment.  New floor to ceiling windows offer sweeping views of the Baltic Sea while bringing in natural light.  Combined, these elements save 46% on energy costs for the U.S. government and earn 20-33% annually on the high performance energy investments.

Our embassies are centers for broadening business and commercial ties, enhancing technology cooperation, promoting cultural exchanges and deepening our respective bilateral relationships.  They also demonstrate our commitment to a healthy planet - our response to today's call to action. We recognize there is much to do, but we are hopeful that our efforts will inspire other organizations to adopt best practices, including investing in high performance, environmentally smart, energy efficient technology.

A future of shared prosperity requires our everyday commitment to adopt personal practices and technologies that transform our relationship with our environment.  In this increasingly urbanized world, our embassies demonstrate that whether in new buildings or old ones, moving to high performance in the built environment is profitable, healthy and smart.  It is also the key to a thriving, prosperous future on our shared planet.

Koukku-Ronde is the ambassador of Finland to the United States and Oreck is the ambassador of the United States to Finland.

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