published Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Chattanooga: Unum garage to go green


by Brian Lazenby
Audio clip

Richard Meadows

  • photo
    Rendering of Unum parking garage going green.

Unum is seeking LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for a $20 million parking garage for its employees.

"We have submitted our initial application for design and as we go through the project we will be going through the process of trying to get the building certified," said Richard Meadows, Unum's director of corporate facility operations.

Construction should begin next month on the six-and-a-half-story structure.

"We are working on a budget of $20 million," he said. "We are currently out to bid on the project, so that number could change or shift over the next week or so."

The garage will be built on a lot bordered by Fourth, Walnut, Fifth and Cherry streets and will hold 1,450 cars.

The U.S. Green Building Council certifies buildings that meet a strict set of environmental guidelines.

Mr. Meadows said the garage will have bicycle racks, provisions for alternative transportation and preferred parking for low-emissions vehicles.

It will be built minimizing the effects on the environment, he said.

"The benefit from a corporate standpoint is it is the right thing to do," Mr. Meadows said. "Trying to construct your building in an environmentally sustainable method makes business sense. To our customers, employees and shareholders, it is important to them that we are operating in a sustainable manner."

Mr. Meadows said all the asphalt and concrete from the existing site will be recycled, and the new structure will be built with concrete containing fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal.

Officials said Schearer Contracting will oversee the project.

The garage will be connected to Unum's West Building by a pedestrian bridge and will tie into a series of other improvements the Chattanooga-based insurer has undertaken.

Unum spent $1.5 million renovating the atrium in the West Building. The company also recently completed a parking lot at the corner of sixth and Market streets.

The new parking deck will open the way for the future sale of most of Unum's surface parking used by its nearly 3,000 employees here. Unum officials said no land sales have been made yet and likely won't until the garage is finished.

The parking lot at Market and Sixth streets is now being used by Unum employees, but when they begin parking in the garage, Mr. Meadows said the lot will be converted to paid public parking.

The garage is scheduled to be complete sometime during the fourth quarter of 2010, he said.

Future plans include a green space in front of the East building where a parking lot now sits.

"We are incorporating sustainable elements into our existing operation," Mr. Meadows said. "Not only in our garage but with the way that try to operate our facilities day-to-day."

Earlier this year, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission approved Unum's request to close the 200 block of East Fifth Street as part of its campus plan. Unum dropped a request to close a portion of Walnut Street after drawing opposition from court officials and emergency personnel over concerns of access to the Hamilton County Courthouse, which is a block away.

What is LEED?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design green building rating system is a third-party certification program and the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings.

Source: U.S. Green Building Council

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