Chattanooga BlueCross BlueShield building wins green LEED designation

Chattanooga BlueCross BlueShield building wins green LEED designation

January 11th, 2012 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

A large solar array sits atop the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Gateway Building. The company held a ceremony at the building on Tuesday afternoon in honor of its LEED certification. The building was awarded the gold level of certification.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.

Jessica Crump's 6-year-old daughter can barely breathe some days.

Sydni has severe asthma. When air pollution is high, she often ends up wheezing.

So whenever Crump can clean up the environment, she jumps at the chance.

"I'm particularly passionate about it because of her," she said. "It affects her when we go outside and people are smoking or the weather's bad."

Crump is proud of her daughter, who's quickly following in her mother's footsteps and developing green habits.

The BlueCross BlueShield employee is also proud of her workplace, which announced it is adding its Gateway building to Chattanooga's list of 16 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified buildings.

The 300-employee support service building boasts low-flow water fixtures, a huge solar power system, efficient air and stormwater runoff systems and several other small features that help reduce the site's environmental footprint.

Buildings receive either normal, gold or platinum LEED distinctions. After $6.4 million in renovations, the Gateway building earned gold certification.

"I've been absolutely blown away by the breadth and the depth of these projects and the dedication of these people," said Bill Gracey, BlueCross's chief operating officer.

This building sits at the bottom of insurance provider's Cameron Hill LEED-certified business campus, which is the second-largest of its kind in the United States.

The distinction means huge energy savings for the campus, and huge energy savings for Chattanooga. Buildings account for about 40 percent of the world's resources use, according to Anj McClain, director of local environmental building nonprofit group Greenspaces. Buildings with LEED certification consume anywhere from 20 percent to 50 percent fewer natural resources.

"The energy use we see in our buildings is extremely high," she said. "As our energy costs rise, we're going to want buildings that use less energy."

Chattanooga is becoming a leader in the state for these types of buildings, according to Shari Meghreblian, deputy commissioner of the Tennessee Department for Environment and Conservation.

"Your brand out there is really being forward thinking and progressive," she said.