TAMPA — Hillsborough County is the first county government in Florida and only the third in the U.S. to achieve platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in its leadership in energy and environmental design program (LEED) for cities and communities.
The platinum designation is the highest rating in the program that judges how applicants integrate sustainability into all aspects of the community including environmental stewardship, fiscal responsibility and overall community prosperity.
The certification acknowledges 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 county said in a released statement.
The review considered energy and water conservation, land use, solid waste management, community heritage preservation, cultural and recreational opportunities, social services, partnerships, equitability, innovative projects and other areas. Hillsborough County’s application included five years of data and information provided by multiple county departments and community groups.
Among the county’s sustainability projects:
- Reducing energy use and costs by operating a chiller plant that makes ice to help cool buildings, adding solar panels 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.
- Converting burnable waste into electricity at the resource recovery facility, producing power for r several nearby county facilities and approximately 35,000 homes. The recovery facility also salvages metals and uses reclaimed water.
- Administering the county’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program, the largest local land preservation program in Florida. It has preserved more than 65,000 acres.
- Achieving a higher water quality at the county’s wastewater treatment system than 90 percent of the wastewater plants nationally.
- Providing education, health, and social services programs for residents with limited incomes;, family and youth empowerment programs; resources for the homeless; inspection of child care facilities; programs for veterans and seniors and Florida-friendly landscaping classes.
- Transitioning the county fleet toward electric and alternative-fuel vehicles. Seven electric vehicle charging stations are available to the public at county facilities.
- Sponsoring a solar energy loan fund for residents install for energy efficiency upgrades and other sustainable home improvements. It has loaned $1.6 million. Solar United Neighbors also is a county-sponsored program, providing an annual opportunity for residents to join a solar co-op. So far, 573 residents have joined.
The county also is developing a Community Sustainability Action Plan and residents and business owners can learn more at the county’s Web site at HCFLGov.net/Sustainability.