A green building pioneer 

Mary Lou LoPreste’s goal is simple: to ensure the water, the mountains and the earth she has always enjoyed will be around for her children and grandchildren.

LoPreste is probably most well known for her work on Sun Harbor Marina, a property she previously owned and managed in the San Diego Harbor. The marina complex was the first marina to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

When she first mentioned the idea of renovating the marina into a sustainable property, no one knew what she was talking about, LoPreste said.

The marina project, which was completed in early 2005 and was awarded LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council the following year, was truly ahead of its time. LoPreste said they recycled about 90 percent of the buildings that were taken down. The marina – which relies heavily on natural lighting – saves more than 35 percent on water and electricity.

Other green features included interior lights that automatically shut off after 9 p.m. and a smart energy system that will turn off the air conditioning if a window is open.

The stone used in the development was mined within 1,200 miles of San Diego. LoPreste opted to use recycled lumber and renewable building materials. At the time, using those types of materials cost LoPreste about 5 percent more than it would cost today because now they are more readily available.

“I believe we have to have renewable lumber,” she said. “Cutting trees is completely stupid and irresponsible and so disruptive.”

LoPreste no longer owns Sun Harbor Marina, but she still is spreading the green message around the country, working as a green building consultant, particularly encouraging marina owners to color their facilities green.

LoPreste is truly passionate about green building and urges businesses to look at how important it is to consider the aspects of building green. And yet her message extends to all businesses and individuals as she makes a case for the simple changes that have a big impact: recycling, switching to energy-efficient light bulbs or turning off the water when brushing your teeth.

“You have to open your eyes a little bit wider and see what the impact of billions of people can be,” she said. “Its’ awareness, awareness, awareness. We are in a global warming stage and people really need to wake up to that.”

As for her three grown children and four grandchildren, the activism runs in the family. Even her grandchildren conserve water or pick up trash when they are out taking a walk. “They are very aware of what’s happening,” she said. “You have to be the pebble that’s thrown in the water.”

LoPreste will share her message with anyone who will listen to the issues facing the global environment.

“I’d really like to give a sharp wakeup call to people and encourage people to stop thinking this is a transient thing, this devastation and global warming,” she said. “Just do one or two things that will make a difference. Start spreading the word. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but we all need to wake up and think about what we’ve experienced in our lives and ensure future generations have the same resources we’ve enjoyed.”

For more about Mary Lou LoPreste, visit her Web site.
(Photo courtesy/lopreste.com)

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