Unseen Green

Many eco-friendly features of our green buildings are hidden inside the walls, in the boiler room, or in plain sight.


Most people associate eco-friendly buildings with solar panels, green roofs, and other highly visible features. However, most of the green features of our buildings are less easy to see. We use recycled, locally sourced, and sustainably produced building materials, most of which are either inside the walls or look the same as typical building materials that are less sustainable. Efficient heating and cooling systems do a lot to reduce energy use but are hidden away in the basement or attic of a building. Insulation and weatherization are also important for energy efficiency and unseen once building construction is complete.

Hidden in Plain Sight

Library book shelves
Carpet installation plum gar rec center

Many eco-friendly materials look and feel the same as traditional materials but have a much smaller impact on the environment. When we build or renovate a library, recreation center, or other facility, we use recycled, locally-sourced, sustainably harvested, and non-toxic materials. For example, the shelves at Gaithersburg Library are made from wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council to be sustainably harvested. The playground at White Oak Recreational Center is cushioned with recycled sneaker rubber. We design building interiors with the full life cycle of materials in mind. For example, we install carpet in squares, allowing us to strategically replace only the pieces that are worn or stained. We also use non-toxic adhesives and paints to improve indoor air quality and protect human health.

Hidden From View

steel at Gaithersburg library
insulation at Gaithersburg library
Air barrier repair

Many eco-friendly features are hidden within the walls of our buildings. We maximize the amount of recycled and sustainably harvested steel, plastic, concrete, wood, and other building materials used to construct or renovate public facilities. We also maximize the amount of building materials that are locally sourced. Using materials manufactured and distributed nearby reduces greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption required to transport them to the building site. Also hidden within the walls are sturdy construction and insulation that reduces the need for heating and cooling. We thoroughly inspect each building and carefully seal any gaps to make sure it is well insulated.

Energy Efficiency Behind the Scenes

MCAS - Magnetic Bearing Chiller
EMS demonstration
EnergyCAP demonstration

Energy efficiency includes a lot of equipment, maintenance, and management that is hidden from view. Heating and cooling systems alone can account for a quarter of a building’s energy use. Highly efficient chillers and boilers combined with properly sealing and insulating the building do a lot to improve energy efficiency. This equipment is typically hidden from public view in a basement, attic, or on the roof. Just as important to energy efficiency are the people who maintain and control this equipment behind the scenes. Staff with the County’s Division of Facilities Management change air filters frequently, dramatically improving heating and cooling system performance and saving energy. In addition, more than 80 County buildings have automated building controls that allow technicians to monitor and adjust building temperature, humidity levels, lighting, and more to save energy while keeping people comfortable and safe. Also, Office of Energy and Sustainability staff closely monitor utility bill data for all of the County’s buildings to identify opportunities for refined building management and upgrades to reduce energy and water use.