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Elizabeth Hammitt describes LEED certification for EPB during today's Green Expo.

This story was updated Oct. 16, 2018, at 10:30 p.m. with more information.

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EPB may be in the business of selling power, but in its downtown headquarters the city-owned utility its more than 300 employees are trying to reduce their own power use and promote healthier, sustainable practices in the process.

The U.S. Green Building Council Tuesday presented EPB with its LEED Silver certification of the utility's 7-story downtown headquarters building, which EPB marked by sharing some of its best practices for sustainability with a Green Business Expo for area businesses.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the world's most widely used green building program and helped document and verify the energy and sustainability practices of a business and building.

EPB first achieved its initial LEED certification in 2013 using the LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance: Existing Buildings rating system — the first for an existing commercial building in Chattanooga. In addition to its work with LEED, EPB was also the first municipal utility to achieve PEER (Performance Excellence in Electricity Renewal) certification for improving efficiency, day-to-day reliability and resiliency of its power systems.

"As one of America's largest publicly-owned utilities, their use of LEED and PEER together helps set the standard for sustainable buildings and power systems," Mahesh Ramanujam, president of the U.S. Green Building Council said in a statement today. "By measuring and tracking the performance of our buildings, power systems, and more, we can continue to find new ways to create more sustainable spaces that positively impact our own health and well-being."

EPB launched its "Green Team" five years ago and works to involve all of its employees in recycling, ride sharing and other sustainability practices, documented improvements in air and water quality, waste reduction and transportation in its downtown facility to achieve the LEED certification, including:

* Energy savings of 5.85 million kilwatthours through lighting, heating and cooling efficiencies and controls.

* Water savings of 428,828 by improved water systems

* Green trips (ride sharing, walking or public transportation) saved over 7,000 miles, saving over $4,000 in fuel costs and burning 95,000 calories by walking and cycling.

* Reduced carbon emissions by 4,057 tons.

* Employee waste is 85 percent below the U.S. average (0.7 pounds per day at EPB compared with U.S. average of 4.6 pounds).

* Employees composted or diverted from landfill through recycling more than 43,252 pounds.

"We want this to be a great and healthy place to work and this helps us to make sure that we are healthy and sustainable in the way we do business, not just for our own employees but for the community we serve," EPB Chairman Joe Ferguson said.

Elizabeth Hammitt, the director of community and environmental stewardship at EPB, said promoting and measuring efficiency and sustainability has made all of EPB's employees aware of their actions and helped build pride in the utility's record of achievement. EPB must re-certify its LEED status each year and this year for the first time the utility added an expo to show others ways to be more energy efficient. Hammitt said that "aligns with our common interests for being good environmental stewards" and helps ensure the health quality of air indoors, where the average American spends 93 percent of his or her life.

Michael Walton, executive director of Green/Spaces and a board member for the Tennessee Green Building Council, said EPB is among more than 50 area businesses that have achieved LEED certification for their buildings in Chattanooga. Although gaining the certification can initially require some additional cost and effort to meet and document the improvements, Walton said surveys indicate that more than 90 percent millennial workers want to work for an employer who they feel shares their values and promoting sustainability helps businesses to be more efficient and attract better talent.

EPB built its current 140,000-square-foot headquarters and adjacent 500-car parking garage in 2003.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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