published Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Going green on M.L King


by Amy Williams
  • photo
    Staff Photo by Matt-Fields Johnson
    Rafael Leal, supervisor for J.R. Construction, lays brick at the new building at 615 M.L. King Blvd. The brick was recycled from the building that stood on the same site and was demolished for the new building.
Audio clip

James Faris

James Faris tore down an old building on M.L. King Boulevard so he could put up a better building. Mr. Faris, who owns Quest EcoBuilders, began demolition on the former American Legion post at 615 M.L. King Blvd.

In its place he has built a new, energy-efficient building and used much of the old building in the process.

"It's just the right thing to do," said Mr. Faris, of his decision to put up a new building.

He is attempting to have the project meet the guidelines of the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification, making him the first builder on M. L. King Boulevard to do so, said Anj McClain, co-director of green building initiative GreenSpaces.

The new two-story building is made of brick and eco-friendly siding, and will have eco-friendly windows, flooring and cabinetry throughout. Mr. Faris plans to use half of the 9,000 square feet for his offices and turn the rest into apartments.

There will be four apartments in all, each about 1,000 square feet. He's not yet sure how much he will charge to rent the apartments, but he expects them to make ideal living space for downtown workers.

"I was trying to come up with the highest and best use for the property, and I felt that was best," he said.

He estimates he will have invested about $600,000 in the project by the time it is complete around the first of 2010.

The decision to make the building green came with its challenges and a slightly bigger price tag than a traditional project, about six to 10 percent higher for many of the items used in the building. Mr. Faris, who also owns the Space House on Signal Mountain, used many of the same materials in the new project that worked so well in the Space House.

The experts at GreenSpaces worked with Mr. Faris and local architect Jay Caughman as they designed the building. Since Mr. Caughman was unfamiliar with the LEED system, GreenSpaces coached them through the process.

"Quest EcoBuilders came to GreenSpaces committed to constructing a green building on M.L. King, and they chose an architect that was not familiar with the LEED certification system, but he recognized that in order to get this job he would need to educate himself," Ms. McClain said. "The architect and Quest used GreenSpaces as for education and information, furthering our mission to be a green building resource to the community."

Mr. Faris also credits GreenSpaces with helping him find much of the materials needed for the building.

"They have been an invaluable resource in all of this," he said.

The group helped Quest divert 81 percent of the old building from the landfill, meaning that only 19 percent of the demolished building ended up as trash. In addition to reusing the original brick, the concrete from the foundation will be re-purposed in a future commercial project, Mr. Faris said.

"We ended up reusing some of the original wooden beams inside, too," he said. "The way the plans were drawn, we are generating very little waste."

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