Some buildings tell a story about our past -- and our future.
Choctaw Station is one such building. Built in 1899 and named in honor of the Choctaw Nation of the southeast, the building represents an important moment in American history. Built a few short decades after the terrible violence of the Trail of Tears and the American Civil War, it served as a passenger depot for the new railway system that would help define America’s future.
The Choctaw, like most Native American tribes, have a long history of honoring nature and valuing sustainable practices. It was a matter of necessity in an America of the 1800s, where there was no assurance of a bountiful tomorrow.
Thanks in large part to this rail system that first connected our great country from “sea to shining sea,” we moved to a time when bounty still required hard work, but we now had so many more options to achieve it. We could move fruits and vegetables from where they were grown to where they were desired. Industrial products manufactured in the Northeast could be shipped to new markets in the Southwest. People could congregate in cities, assured that whatever they needed could make its way to their storefronts.
But that unfettered growth had its own impacts on the Earth that the Native Americans honored, and now, a century later, we’ve had to double down on a 21st century version of sustainability practice, looking for every way we can think of to save energy, save water and save precious resources.
And Choctaw Station again has a role to play. Not only does it stand as a link to our past, it also will show us a path to a more sustainable future. Today, thanks to a significant renovation and retrofit of this building whose base structure is more than 100 years old, Choctaw Station has been awarded LEED Gold for Existing Buildings. To my knowledge that makes it the oldest building in the state to be LEED-certified, joining other iconic existing buildings that have achieved LEED – the Empire State Building, the Merchandise Mart, and the Transamerica Tower, just to name a few.
That the building’s tenants would seek this achievement should come as no surprise. It houses the Little Rock offices of the Clinton Foundation, an organization that since its very beginning has been a staunch advocate for the role green buildings must play in a more sustainable future.
It also houses the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, whose core mission is to train the next generation of leaders for nonprofit, governmental, volunteer and private sector service, which is where sustainability leadership must take hold.
With energy and water savings of nearly 50%, these future leaders get an up-close-and-personal look at the public service contributions of high-performing building stock, and hands-on knowledge that any existing building in any community can be retrofitted to achieve higher performance. And I’m confident that they’ll be the first to apply those lessons to the benefit of us all.
Here’s a hearty Earth Day congratulations to the Clinton Foundation and the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Thank you for your leadership!