Environmental Excellence Awards

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Arizona Forward recently gave out its annual environmental excellence awards to numerous projects throughout the state. Diane Brossart, president and CEO of Arizona Forward, will tell us about the award winners.

TED SIMONS: It's considered the academy awards of the environmental community. It's Arizona forward's annual environmental excellence awards, and it was held this past weekend in Phoenix. Here to show us some of the big winners, Diane Brossart, president and CEO of Arizona forward. Good to see you again.

DIANE BROSSART: You as well.

TED SIMONS: How is it going?

DIANE BROSSART: Going great. You did a fabulous job Saturday night.

TED SIMONS: Thank you very much. As I say every time when I host this thing, it's such a joy because everything that is presented is positive. And everything that is presented makes you proud of Arizona.

DIANE BROSSART: It's very inspiring. I think it is the most inspiring thing we do, and this year, first year, completely statewide with all of the categories. We had entries from literally from all over the state of Arizona. 18 of which were outside of Maricopa County where this program has had its roots. This is the 35th year of the program. We were really excited.

TED SIMONS: And most people, again, know of valley forward, but valley forward is now Arizona forward.

DIANE BROSSART: It is. In 2012, we got a new name and new logo, new bylaws and new board.

TED SIMONS: You kept the award as a Crescordia. I think we need to let people know what a Crescordia is.

DIANE BROSSART: It is a Greek term. It means to grow in harmony. We are looking at projects that balance economic growth, environmental quality, or the built and natural environment, if you will.

TED SIMONS: Who can enter? Who is judging?

DIANE BROSSART: Anybody can enter. We select a panel of jurists for their expertise in each of the award categories, building and structures, site development, environmental stewardship, art, media. There's a range of categories. Panel of nine. The president and CEO of Arizona community foundation was our lead judge this year and he did a fabulous job. It was a hard choice. We had over 125 entries this year. It was tough.

TED SIMONS: Let's get to some of the winners. Big winner was this streetcar down in Tucson. Talk to us about that.

DIANE BROSSART: Very exciting to see Tucson rise to the top of the program with their streetcar project. And it is as important for moving people around as it is for the environment because it's low emissions, but also the economic development, the development that occurs around those stations. I understand that they have 15 new -- 15 new housing units and tons of restaurants that have opened up around there. It is the first made in America streetcar in 60 years. So, lots of firsts with it. It has revitalized downtown.

TED SIMONS: That was basically the president -- that's the best in show award.

DIANE BROSSART: Best of show award.

TED SIMONS: Let's get to some of the other big winners. Team Arizona, Colorado river shortage drought preparedness.

DIANE BROSSART: I was listening to the guest talking about water. Especially relevant. Arizona is a leader in water management. We are not in the same situation that California finds itself. But the drought is in the 17th year, and if there is a shortage of Colorado river water our state's entitlement will be the first to get cut. Instead of waiting to see what happens, our water providers and leaders have stored nearly 3.5 million acre feet of Colorado river underground in basins and they can retrieve that if they need to. It was a partnership of central Arizona project, department of Arizona water resources, the water banking authority and bureau of reclamation working together collaboratively to ensure that Arizona has a good supply in the future, regardless of the drought.

TED SIMONS: Yeah.

DIANE BROSSART: That's a good thing. And our governor is going to Israel soon to meet with leaders there. Another water leader, I think, that's really impressive, and Arizonans need to be aware of these issues and invested in them.

TED SIMONS: Okay. Another winner, MARIPOSA land port of entry. Talk to us about this.

DIANE BROSSART: A joint studio project. It is incredible. The entry in Nogales is one of the busiest and oldest ports in the United States and processes more than 2.8 million northbound vehicles each year. It was built in the '70s. It needed modernization and expansion. There was growth in international trade, and vehicle volumes, and they completely redid this port of entry. LEED gold certified. 55 acre site. It welcomes people on both sides of the border.

TED SIMONS: Absolutely -- it really is nice.

DIANE BROSSART: Connected by a garden that runs all of the way through it. It is beautiful. One of the hallmarks of studio development -- buildings could be beautiful and should be beautiful.

TED SIMONS: Absolutely, port of entry. U of A old main restoration won an awards.

DIANE BROSSART: This is a historic preservation award. I did not know this. Maybe you knew this. You learned it Saturday night. One of the first building -- named on the campus of U of A. My understanding it looked every bit of the 124 years and it needed restoring and preserving. They did it in a sensitive way to maintain the historic features leaving the existing envelope intact and using as many of the features as possible. It is the oldest LEED certified building in the state of Arizona. It is a model for sustainable historic preservation.

TED SIMONS: Reminds me of the renovation, ASU, same thing, older buildings, you have to take care of them. You have to love them. It sounds like this one's been loved very well. Museum of northern Arizona, easton collection center.

DIANE BROSSART: Yeah, we're heading north now for -- this is an amazing project. It houses the museum's precious objects. It is really an important building for what it does, and they have a spectacular living roof -- you can see on top, native plants, colorful lobby floors made of locally-sourced concrete. It is sustainable. It's beautiful. Photovoltaic solar panels on it. And all of the resources were from Coconino County this is LEED platinum, high level of certification. They had a native American Indian advisory committee that gave recommendations and kinny kin construction services that did the project integrated a lot of those recommendations so that the facility had several symbolic and functional elements designed to make the native American community feel at home in the structure. Beautiful.

TED SIMONS: Nicely designed and obviously very efficient. Solar thermal hot air technology was a winner as well.

DIANE BROSSART: It is. Unlike the valley where it is warm and toasty year round, the northern Arizona has real winters. Bone-chilling winters there. And they have their share of heating bills. This is a cost-effective solar thermal air panels developed by NAU, Northern Arizona University, and solar THERMIX. Don't ask me the technical side of this, however, I will tell you renewable energy like solar and wind can reduce net electricity use -- this has great potential on a larger scale. It was a really neat project. And the solar heaters for northern Arizona's Native American community, they have 18,000 homes there without power.

TED SIMONS: Oh, my goodness, yeah.

DIANE BROSSART: This could be a really good thing.

TED SIMONS: I think the biggest applause of the night went to the next one, which may be the last one we get to. Arizona trail associations gift to Arizona. Folks love hiking trails, and this is great stuff.

DIANE BROSSART: This is an amazing project and it was 30 years in the making. And it encompasses 800 breath-taking miles of environmental excellence protected by an act of Congress. It is now complete and open to anyone who wants to enjoy Arizona's biodiverse environment. I learned this through the program. I learn all kinds of stuff that is really fun. Dale, a flagstaff educator wants Arizonans to learn about the environment and thought the outdoor classroom was the best tool and technique. It took thousands to build this trail. Largest volunteer project in the history of Arizona. It is -- it's just totally amazing. It goes from Mexico to Utah.

TED SIMONS: Yeah, the Arizona trail. Before you go, it seems like every year, it is amazing, innovative projects every year. Things are happening out there.

DIANE BROSSART: And we all need to take a look at that and feel good about it. So often we talk about what is wrong with Arizona. And there is a lot right about it. We are a leader in sustainable design and we should all be very proud of that.

TED SIMONS: Congratulations. It was a great show. I thought the host did an amazing job.

DIANE BROSSART: He got rave reviews. 600 people there.

TED SIMONS: 600 folks. Beautiful event. Wonderful location. Congratulations once again.

DIANE BROSSART: We couldn't do it without the outstanding support of SRP.

TED SIMONS: Thank you -- all right. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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Diane Brossart: president and CEO of Arizona Forward

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