Once known for dirty air and pollution, downtown Chattanooga soon could look a lot greener if a group of city leaders have their way.
“We have got to change the way we build buildings in this city,” said Jeff Cannon, who has worked with the downtown nonprofit redevelopment group RiverCity Co. for several years before taking on the initiative called Greenspaces.
Mr. Cannon was referring to the energy consumed by buildings in the United States, which amounts to about one-third of the nation’s energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, use of raw materials and output waste, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.
The Council defines green design as significantly reducing or eliminating the negative impact of buildings on the environment and on occupants. Some building features that could be considered green include reusing old materials in a new construction or using materials from nearby.
Greenspaces will help to encourage builders to make commercial — and eventually all types of construction — less wasteful and more environmentally friendly, officials said.
Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell-- Nelson Pettit of Thousand Hills Cattle Co. prepares a staircase to paint at the new offices of River Street Architecture at 714 Cherry St.
The three-year, $2 million Greenspaces initiative started in January is funded through grants from RiverCity Co., Benwood Foundation and Lyndhurst Foundation. The project’s goals include an educational awareness campaign and a resource center to teach developers and homeowners about the latest environmentally-friendly materials and methods.
Greenspaces also will provide funding to help commercial builders construct sustainable buildings with features such as making use of old, unoccupied buildings.
Ashley Katz, a Council spokeswoman, said a green building as one that is a high performance building and more environmentally responsible, healthier and productive than others.
The first project done through Greenspaces is under way at 714 Cherry St. downtown. When completed later this month, the building will be the first in Chattanooga certified according to the Council’s Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Design standards.
Ms. Katz likened the LEED design guideline to a nutrition label of sorts for a building.
“It shows how much energy is being used in the building, how much water is being used, what the building is made of and where the materials came from,” she said.
The nearly 100-year-old Cherry Street building is the future home of River Street Architecture and once housed the Hamilton Hotel. A portion of the $1 million price tag to renovate the three-story structure is funded by Greenspaces.
“We are paying 100 percent of all the elements needed to take the building green,” Mr. Cannon said, declining to release specific figures.
Greenspaces is working with the architectural firm as well as the building’s owner, Fidelity Trust Co., and the builder, GenTech Construction, to implement green features such as low-flow plumbing fixtures and high-efficiency heating and air-conditioning units.
In addition to working with developers and builders, Greenspaces is partnering with city officials to implement some of its goals.
Gene Hyde, a city forester who also heads Mayor Ron Littlefield’s green committee, said Greenspaces fits in nicely with the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Act signed by the mayor in 2006. Since the initiative is just in the beginning stages, Mr. Hyde said the parties have not yet worked out details on how the city will work with Greenspaces.
When the Greenspaces initiative ends in 2011, Mr. Cannon said there will be 20 LEED-certified buildings downtown, some of which are already in the works. Those projects include new construction and major renovations.
“My hope is that we have 40 (LEED-certified buildings) by the time it is completed,” he said.
But the project’s benefits will not end once the three years is up.
The resource center’s director, Anj McClain, hopes the center will be a place where developers, architects and builders, in both the commercial and residential industries, can learn more about green building and work together to implement green projects. The resource center will open in the next few months and will be housed in the Greenspaces building on Main Street, which will be completed in March.
On the Web:
By the numbers:
39 — percent of energy use buildings account for in the U.S.
12 — percent of water consumption buildings account for in the U.S.
68 — percent of electricity consumption buildings account for in the U.S.
38 — percent of carbon dioxide emissions buildings produce in the U.S.