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Europe's Greenest Building Takes Shape on Lake Geneva

It's only fitting for an environmental organization to work in an environmentally friendly office. But one NGO is going further: it's in the process of constructing Europe's greenest building.

Drawing of the IUCN's planned headquarters on Lake Geneva

The IUCN's green headquarters is set to open by the end of next year

On the shores of Lake Geneva, ground is being broken -- for a ground-breaking building. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is building its new headquarters on the shores of Lake Geneva in western Switzerland.

“Our aim is to show the Swiss building industry and perhaps the whole European building industry that you can build with less money, but in a sustainable way, and that it doesn’t cost more than a normal building -- perhaps even less,” said the IUCN's chief administrator Merja Murdoch, who is overseeing the construction project.

Environmental soundness is taken into consideration, even in the smaller details -- like with the use of recycled cement and special technology that circulates the air in each office space, said Alison Rowles, IUCN’s director of global operations. Recycled office chairs are also in the works.

The new headquarters, to be completed by the end of next year, will be completely energy-efficient, too, explained Murdoch.

“Energy will be created by the geothermal heat that we get from the ground," she said, "and photovoltaic panels on the roof will create the electricity we use for lighting and for our computers.

"If we produce more than we need, the rest will go into the rig,” she added.

Out to win the prize

Model of the IUCN's planned headquarters on Lake Geneva

Even the office chairs inside will be recycled

The IUCN is aiming for official recognition for its efforts -- what’s known as platinum approval from the United States' Green Building Council, the highest of the group's four certification levels.

"If you really have a committed plan, which we do, and you have a committed design-team, which we do, it is very doable within the project requirements (to achieve platinum), but it is not easy,” said Michael Holz, a consultant architect on the IUCN project.

IUCN also has plans for the area surrounding its new headquarters. What's now just a huge mountain of earth next to the construction site will soon be made into a meadow, which should offer more than just a nice view for employees.

"The idea is that some very rare species of irises might take up here," said Murdoch. "We hope so.”

As far as the view goes, workers also have Lake Geneva and the Alps just outside their windows, which will be equipped with a sun-shading system that allows them to control how much light comes in while still enjoying the view.

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