green|spaces Honored as Tennessee's First Platinum LEED Certification Project

Thursday, February 11, 2010

green|spaces, a not for profit initiative founded "to change the way that Chattanooga builds," has been awarded the first LEED Platinum certification in the state of Tennessee.

The Platinum designation, awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council, signifies that green|spaces achieved and exceeded the highest level of green design certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. LEED measures a construction project's use of strategies to benefit sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, indoor environmental quality and innovation in design.

The level of performance achieved in these categories is separated into four performance tiers, with Platinum certification honoring the most environmentally sound and energy efficient structures on the planet, officials said.

"green|spaces was formed to address the lack of green building awareness in Chattanooga and the surrounding region," said co-director Anj McClain. "In the past year and a half, we have helped five Chattanooga buildings achieve LEED certification, with 22 more currently in process. So we wanted our own offices to be a model of what it is truly possible to achieve."

"One of the great benefits of the LEED system is that everything is measured, documented and proven," said director Jeff Cannon. "It's not just about big ideas and good intentions. In a time when many claims for sustainability or community benefit are about hype, certifications like LEED are essential. In order to truly change the way a community thinks and acts, actions must speak at least as loudly as words."

The offices, located at 63 East Main St., were built in 1910 as a mercantile building to serve crowds moving through Terminal Station. They sat largely unused when green|spaces signed a lease in 2008. In the two years since, a great deal of revitalization has occurred in the neighborhood surrounding and the area has become a thriving Chattanooga community.

"Main Street separates the business district from the Southside's historic manufacturing past and current residential and commercial rebirth, but is able to embrace them both," said Ms. McClain. "It was the perfect place for green|spaces to work out its mission."

The building itself, with few existing walls and an ideal orientation for daylighting, was essentially gutted during the project, with as much of the demolition material put to reuse, as possible. Innovative examples include large steel beam repurposed as a stair stringer and wood joists used as stair treads and miscellaneous framing. Scrap wood strips from a nearby millwork shop were constructed into a bookshelf. The building's entry canopy was constructed from cedar timbers that were salvaged from a nearby barn, and building scraps from the entry canopy construction were then utilized to build the meeting tables for the space.

The space also benefits from systems including a rigorous approach to daylighting and geothermal heating - making the 2,400-square-foot green|spaces offices more than a model of responsible renovation, it was stated. They are also a working example of smart occupancy in daily practice.

The geothermal loop-based system, with heat transfer loops buried in the utility easement outside, draws heat from the ground in winter and disperses heat into the ground in summer. This system, along with a combination of compact fluorescent and LED lighting, has achieved an energy savings of 48% over the same building built to today's efficiency standards. Rainwater is also captured from the roof, filtered and used for the toilet, sink and shower for one bathroom. The second bathroom pumps gray water from the sink to the toilet tank. Low flow and optical sensors round out an aggressive water-saving design strategy, utilizing 81.4% less water than the same building built to today's code standards.

Daylighting was another overall design goal. The storefront, on the building's southern exposure, was designed to provide shade but includes a light shelf that bounces light deep into the space. The light shelf, windows on the eastern façade and two skylights provide enough daylight that electric light is rarely needed during the daylight hours.

The space was designed to accommodate two full-time employees and two interns from UTC with office and support space. The remaining space is a large flexible area with movable educational displays, used for workshop and seminar education about environmental products and practices. Since green|spaces opened the doors in 2008, nearly 4,000 people have visited to learn about green building.

Officials said, "The success of any LEED certification depends on the close collaboration of owners, consultants and contractors. The green|spaces team included Cornerstone Automation, Collier Construction and many others, under the watchful eyes of sustainable design firm Palmer Built Environments. Throughout the process, the green|spaces directors were involved to ensure that their own project met their broader goals."

"Our project shows that green design is doable, and it's not expensive, debunking myths that people continue to believe about LEED and LEED Platinum," said Mr. Cannon. "These claims simply are no longer true. Our offices stand as yet another example in Chattanooga of high design with low impact. Chattanoogans can come by our space to see for themselves what is possible."

green|spaces is a two-part initiative, providing incentive funding for commercial projects in Chattanooga to be built and certified under the LEED rating system, and a resource center for commercial and residential projects, showcasing the best eco-friendly materials and methods. The organization is helping Chattanooga to eliminate the dividing line between urban park space (eco-beneficial) and buildings (eco- harmful) to create buildings that are green|spaces, it was stated.

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