CHICAGO (CBS) — Environmental stewardship; something a suburban park district took to heart and the taxpayers. Northbrook recently finished a nearly $18 million workout facility.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside the environmentally conscious project that is meant to save cash in the long run.

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It looks and sounds like a gym, but at the Techny Prairie Activity Center, “feeling the burn” carries a double meaning.

Architect Matthew Duggan said, in just six weeks, the building’s 833 solar panels have produced “enough power to power nearly five homes for an entire year.”

Duggan, vice president at Wight & Company, said the energy gains on the roof are only part of the environmentally conscious design at the Northbrook Park District facility.

“What we’re trying to do is design a building that is airtight around the perimeter; kind of putting this warm blanket around the building,” he said.

That means extra thick insulation, and energy-efficient windows, along with installing motion-sensitive lights, picking a special heating and air conditioning system, and orienting the building for maximum sunlight. All of these choices help reduce waste and bring down energy consumption.

“I mean literally thousands, tens of thousands of decisions are being made around the table all the time,” said Molly Hamer, executive director of the Northbrook Park District.

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The goal is be a “Net Zero Energy” facility: pump out enough electricity above to cancel out what’s being used to pump iron below.

“Even on a cloudy day like today, we are able to generate more power than we’re using in the facility,” Duggan said.

Visitors can monitor progress through an educational wall installed in lobby.

The very first round of data just came in for April 1 through 15:

  • Actual consumption: 12,045 kwh
  • Actual generation: 18,647 kwh
  • Net April actual power use: -6,602 kwh

“We saw a negative number, which is exactly what you want to see, and that’s great,” Hamer said.

That success needs to continue, and not just for the future generation.

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Forty percent of a nearly $2 million energy grant from Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation is held back until Northbrook Park District can prove “Net Zero Energy” for 12 consecutive months.

Lauren Victory