BlueCross wins LEED Gold certification

BlueCross wins LEED Gold certification

March 4th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

In the center of the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee campus in Chattanooga is a courtyard for employees to enjoy. The glass windows allow sunlight to filter into the building, which saves on heating costs.

Photo by Jenna Walker/Times Free Press.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has won the LEED badge for its $299 million headquarters, becoming the largest such project in Tennessee to land gold certification and the second biggest nationally.

"Our master planning goals always included sustainability, innovation and wellness," said Bob Worthington, the Chattanooga-based health insurer's chief strategy officer.

A BlueCross official estimates that going for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design goal cost the company 1 percent to 2 percent extra to raise the 950,000-square-foot headquarters.

But Dan Jacobson, the insurer's vice president for properties, said the insurer is saving about $3 million to $4 million annually in energy, water and other areas over what it had been spending on 10 to 12 locations before consolidating those to Cameron Hill.

Total energy savings at the new corporate campus, downtown Chattanooga's largest ever office project, is about 30 percent, Jacobson said.

To earn LEED certification, BlueCross hit U.S. Green Building Council performance measurements in environmental and human health, sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, material selection and indoor quality.

Worthington said BlueCross' efforts not only better control energy costs, they also help transform the work environment.

BLUECROSS' GREEN FEATURES

• Efficient lighting and other features save estimated $265,000 annually

• Ultra low-flow plumbing fixtures, water-efficient irrigation and low water-use plants save 20 million gallons annually.

• Stormwater runoff cut by 15 percent

• Significant recycled material used in carpet backing

• White or light roof membranes reflect heat

Source: BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

The campus that houses more than 3,000 workers offers daylight and views from 90 percent of its space because of its high-glass building material, according to BlueCross.

The facilities provide improved indoor air quality for workers by using under-floor air distribution and ventilation rates 30 percent higher than required by code, the company said.

Concerning lighting, the company is saving a couple of hundred thousand dollars annually by using energy-efficient sources and fixtures, Jacobson said.

BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Danielson said that while lighting is 17 percent of a typical office's electric bill, the figure is 8 percent at the new headquarters.

Danielson said much of its night lighting is in stairwells, which the company is required to keep on all the time.

Jacobson said the decision to go for Gold LEED status grew out of discussions by company officials and building designers.

"We were focused on being good stewards of limited resources," he said.

WHAT'S LEED?

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system by the U.S. Green Building Council offers four certification levels for new construction - certified, silver, gold and platinum. The levels correspond to credits accrued in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.