Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on September 5, 2008
Is it possible for a gas station to be green? Can a place designed solely for the dispensation of the stuff we don’t want to breathe actually be good for the environment? That’s like asking if a crack dealer can have a good heart.
But here in L.A., BP’s Helios House professes to be just that. Not great for the environment, mind you — it is, after all, still a gas station — just “a little better”, as one of the two billboards looming above proclaims. It’s a hard pellet to swallow in a city that abuses gas more than any other, but BP’s big green experimental petrol station has endeavored to be as green as possible in terms of its design, building materials and use of resources. Their press release states that “Helios House is testament to BP’s commitment to balancing society’s need for energy with a responsible approach to the environment and is focused on two principles: sustainability and environmental education.”
There’s no question about its aesthetic merit. Helios House has such a unique design that it’s not immediately recognizable as a gas station. A futuristic overhead canopy dominates the view, evoking a handsome, otherworldly structure that asks more questions than it answers. But it’s more than just a pretty face according to abundant amount of literature begging to be read on the site. The canopy is made from fully recyclable uncoated stainless steel and houses a living roof of grass and plants that not only reduces the need for heating and A/C, it takes CO2 from the air and lessens rainwater runoff — all things nature would be doing if the building hadn’t been built in the first place. The water that does run off is first used to water the station’s plants and then filtered of gas and other pollutants before it emptying into the ocean.
Also on the canopy are enough solar panels to produce the amount of power needed to run two or three average sized American homes.
The paint used throughout the structure is a special low-VOC variety — to ensure that you won’t be poisoned by the station’s tint while you’re pumping your gas.
And there’s a whole lot of recycling going on. At least according to the station’s ubiquitously placed printed propaganda. Decorating the restrooms are tiles made from post-consumer recycled glass, while inside the sinks and toilet seats are made from a material that’s 60% post-industrial aluminum scrap. Outside, the wood used is from sustainable wood farms and the concrete is made with crushed otherwise unrecyclable glass rather than sand…
And if that weren’t enough, there’s a place to recycle your old toxic cell phone.
At night, the pumps light up with colors that slowly fade from blue-green to gold and back again. And in an effort to cut down on energy costs, Helios House uses high efficiency LED bulbs because (according to one of their flyers) “The Department of Energy says that if the lights we use for holiday decoration alone were replaced with LED lights, it would save 2 billion kilowatt-hours of energy — enough to power the city of Richmond, Virginia for the whole year.”
Staffed by specially trained personnel, Helios House wants to inform BP customers about how they can do their part to protect the environment by offering small, safe lifestyle tips which can be demonstrated on-site.
Did I mention the printed materials? Apparently it’s not enough to simply have a safer, more unique fueling experience. You must also read a lot about it so you can tell your friends and they, too, can come to Helios House.
Education or shameless self-promotion? Go check it out and decide for yourself.