Eco-friendly buildings

Eco-friendly buildings

May 31st, 2009 by Amy Williams in Businesstopstory

Staff Photo by Tim Barber City Forester for the City of Chattanooga, Gene Hyde, left, talks with Greenspaces co-directors Anj McClain, center, and Jeff Cannon at their work station inside the East Main Street business.

Just halfway through their three-year green building initiative, the leaders of Greenspaces are well on their way to exceeding their initial goal.

When Anj McClain and Jeff Cannon began the program in January 2008, they wanted to change the way Chattanooga built buildings, and in that short time they already have.

The initial goal was 20 LEED certified buildings in three years, and so far the group has blown that out of the water. To date Greenspaces is helping 21 buildings to work toward LEED certification, and they are not done.

"There's no slowdown whatsoever in us being involved in projects," said Mr. Cannon, co-director of Greenspaces, which initially received about $2 million in funding from RiverCity Co., Benwood Foundation and Lyndhurst Foundation.

In addition to helping the city's downtown become more eco-friendly, Greenspaces also has helped turn green into a much-used phrase in Chattanooga's building community.

"Education and awareness are two of the biggest things (the initiative has accomplished)" said Ms. McClain, Greenspaces co-director. "And that has been a brilliant effort between what we've done with the incentive fund and what we're doing here in the resource center."

In the time since the center opened, Ms. McClain estimates around 2,900 people have come through the doors, including visitors for events, meetings and tours.

Earlier this month, the former Hamilton Hotel building on Cherry Street became the first building in Chattanooga to achieve LEED certification, which provides independent verification that a building project is environmentally responsible, profitable and a healthy place to live and work, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Cherry Street project was the first downtown building to receive help from Greenspaces last year, and since then buildings from one side of downtown to the other have begun working toward LEED certification, including the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee campus, a new Carmike movie theater at Broad and Third streets, a new dormitory at Baylor School and a host of new residential developments in the area.

By the summer, Ms. McClain said five more downtown buildings will achieve certification including the new Outdoor Chattanooga building, Greenspaces building on Main Street, the Two North Shore shopping center and Northwest Georgia Bank.

Scott Smith, president and chief operating officer of Northwest Georgia Bank, said he is proud the bank is part of the green effort locally, and he hopes it will produce a more sustainable community.

"We all have to bear our city's history of neglect concerning environmental issues, but in the last couple of decades, and especially in the last couple of years, the local paradigm of eco-thinking has shifted considerably," he said.

With the help of forward-thinking leaders from government and organizations like Greenspaces, RiverCity Co., Benwood, Lyndhurst and many others, that momentum is reaping rewards for the Chattanooga area and its residents, he said.

Greenspaces' next goal is working to bring more solar panels, waterless urinals and green roofs to buildings in the area - all elements of LEED building. So far, waterless urinals already have been installed in places like the Tennessee Aquarium, Terminal BrewHouse, Miller Plaza and the Chattanooga Nature Center.