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23 April 2007
JSU Trusees Vote to Build an Environmental Education Center in DeKalb County
According to Green Building Standards

Repeated here in its entirety.

Green's the thing for building projects in area

Environmentally friendly designs are a growing trend
Saturday, April 21, 2007
News staff writer
The Birmingham News

Alabama lags the nation in developing environmentally friendly buildings, but a crop of new projects across the state and the Birmingham metro area could change that.

Green development practices are a growing trend among developers who say they lead to another type of green - money saved in operating and maintaining those buildings.

From designing with the sun in mind to constructing with sustainable materials, green methods help cut utility bills and improve productivity, all while being gentle to the Earth.

Earlier this week, the Jacksonville State University Board of Trustees voted to build an environmental education center in DeKalb County according to green building standards.

The move was fitting before Earth Day on Sunday, said Pete Conroy, director of the JSU Field Schools. Officials hope others follow the model of the $6.2 million Little River Canyon Center.

"I hope that we can make the case that this is not some trivial, tree-hugging metaphor for environmental protection. This is truly a good business decision," Conroy said.

The standards to be used in the project are part of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System, a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, Alabama has just two LEED-certified projects - Homewood Middle School and a NASA building in Huntsville.

California leads the country with 95 such projects. Among Alabama's Southern neighbors, Georgia has 32 and Florida has 14.

In the Birmingham area, high-profile projects aiming for LEED certification include Colonial Brookwood Center in Homewood and two downtown projects - the new Social Security Administration Building and the redevelopment of the former Federal Reserve property.

Savannah, Ga.-based Melaver Inc. is planning to renovate the Federal Reserve building and add a 19-story tower with a hotel and office space, a project worth about $95 million.

Melaver is no stranger to LEED projects, Chief Operating Officer Colin Coyne said. The company developed the first LEED-certified shopping center in the country and the only such McDonald's.

Green design elements differ by project, but he expects the Birmingham site to use creative stormwater management methods, such as capturing stormwater runoff to hose down sidewalks.

A green-roof technique, which consists of rooftop gardens, is expected to help capture more rainwater and reduce solar heat gain.

Green design also plays a role in a building's internal features, Coyne said, since environmental factors affect workers.

For example, reducing columns inside a building helps increase workers' direct line of sight to natural light, which improves productivity and saves money for an employer, he said.

Coming soon ...:

Colonial Brookwood Center is the first LEED project for Birmingham's Colonial Properties Trust, said David Fullington, vice president of leasing. The $40 million office and retail development at Colonial Brookwood Village plans to welcome its first tenant July 1.

LEED elements in Colonial's project include glass and roofing materials to improve efficiency, as well as the reclamation of asphalt at the site, Fullington said.

"We want to be a very responsible developer, and we think that it will be important to future tenants," he said. He noted that being in a LEED-certified building was important to Southern National Gas, which is moving from downtown to the new office.

Roald Hazelhoff, director of the Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham-Southern College, said developers are buying into the LEED trend because there is such a potential market for energy efficiency.

"Developers are starting to realize the cost of operating the building is higher than the cost of building a building," he said.

Big developers who compete for projects nationwide are leading the local trend, because many of their potential clients, such as the federal government, require LEED certification.

The challenge is getting the smaller firms and homebuilders associations to catch on, he said.

Building savings:

For Melaver, green development costs only slightly more than regular construction, less than 1 percent more for a basic LEED-certified building, Coyne said. The difference is made back in operating and maintenance costs.

A first-time LEED developer may see higher up-front costs because there is a learning curve to the process, he said, but again, other savings should make up the difference.

The biggest hindrance to LEED is ignorance, he said.

"But that ignorance is dropping quickly," he said. "LEED buildings are becoming accepted and demanded by tenants more and more. I think five years from now, the companies who don't build their buildings to LEED specifications will stick out."


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