It's the Green House

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The Independent Online
First Edition

NEXT time John Major stays with the Clintons he may find himself walking on broken glass and using loos made of old plastic milk bottles. For the President is planning to turn the White House green.

Steps to make the 202-year-old building 'a showcase of environmental design' were announced by the President late last week. The measures aim to halve the White House's use of resources.

The new environmentally correct seat of government is to be modelled on an eight-storey brownstone building on a corner of Broadway, New York, which has been turned into an ecological exhibit as the headquarters of a conservation group, the National Audubon Society.

Tiles made of recycled light bulbs pave the halls. The floors are made of re-used newspapers, and lavatories have some furniture fabricated from old plastic bottles. The building is full of natural light: artificial lighting automatically dims when the sun comes up, and switches off if no one is moving in a room - leading the conservationists to jump up and wave their hands after being plunged into darkness at their desks.

The Society, one of the oldest green groups in the world, has cut its building's energy use by 60 per cent, at a saving of dollars 100,000 (66,000) a year.

The President's five-year programme, which will cover the White House and the Old Executive Office Building - half a million square feet of office space in all - will start with the installation of double glazing and energy-saving light bulbs. Last week the Clintons took delivery of the first 'Golden Carrot' refrigerator, which cuts energy use in half while eschewing ozone-depleting CFCs.

Dr Amory Lovins, an adviser on the greening of the White House, says it will end up 'even better than the Audubon building'. But he is more pessimistic about 10 Downing Street.

'I have been in quite a number of government buildings around the world,' he says. 'No 10 is the least efficient that I can recall, with the possible exception of one head of state's office in Asia.'

Where was that? 'It would not be tactful to say.'