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Chesapeake Bay Foundation spent extra to make its headquarters eco-friendly

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's building features a variety of different green technologies, from waterless toilets to cork floors.

The price tag for the headquarters was $17 million - $3 million to purchase the property and $14 million to bulldoze the crumbling resort and build the 28,000-square-foot building. The foundation paid a premium of $46 more per square foot for green measures.

Alternative energy gadgets cost more in 2000 than they do now "because the technology is cheaper, more available and more efficient," Winchester said. Maryland media magnate Philip Merrill, who was found dead in the bay years later after an apparent suicide, donated $7 million.

Foster and Winchester claimed that the extra cost was recouped with energy savings within eight years. They spoke in the Merganser conference room, with their backs to oversize windows that looked out on the bay. Waves crashed against the brown sand beach, driven by a hard winter wind. Thin rays of sunlight slid through shale-colored clouds and lit the ice-cold water.

But it was toasty indoors because of the 300-foot deep geothermal wells that pumped the Earth's heat indoors and warmed water for the kitchen and restrooms. Sensors measured warmth from the light shining through the windows and automatically adjusted the thermostat.

It costs $200 a day to heat and cool the building, a projected savings of $62,000 per year. Other sensors gauged the sunlight and powered off overhead lamps to conserve energy.

After Winchester said she hoped that others would duplicate the foundation's effort, Foster put his head in his hands and said the environmentally responsible path is long and hard.

"You see this?" Foster said, natural light gleaming on his bald spot. "I had a full head of hair before this started."


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