The Business of Building Green

Date: October 14, 2011

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What’s good for the earth is good for the bottom line

By Molly Moore

When dentist Kendalyn Lutz-Craver decided it was time to move out of her leased, musty office and build her own structure, she had three building goals in mind. She didn’t want the building to be square, she wanted all patients to face a window, and she wanted to minimize her office’s environmental footprint.

Now Lutz-Craver and her Cornerstone Dental Associates staff practice in a graceful white stone building that is also the first building with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in Cleveland County, N.C.. Architect Mark Patterson estimates that greening the building added just 5 percent to the overall tab, an investment he expects will be returned within five years because of increased efficiency.

Building green was cost-effective for Cornerstone Dental Associates. Photo by Nicole Mosley

Carolyn Dankowski, plant manager at PepsiCo’s Blue Ridge Gatorade facility, enjoyed the LEED process. Facility designers originally targeted LEED Silver but were pleasantly surprised to achieve Gold. Gatorade’s facility in Wytheville, Va., manufactures four products including Propel Fitness Water and Sobe Teas, a workload that requires heavy water use and heating and cooling massive quantities of liquid. Dankowski says energy-efficient water features, including state-of-the-art water heaters and coolers and a regeneration system that captures heat to reuse later, have taken a bite out of energy bills as well as saving 100 million gallons of water annually.

“We’re using 15 percent less gas, 30 percent less electricity, and 20 percent less water per gallon of Gatorade produced,” Dankowski says, using the plant’s favorite unit of measurement.

In addition to lowered energy bills, businesses are finding that green buildings bring not-so-obvious benefits. Mountain States Health Alliance — an Appalachian hospital system with 13 healthcare centers — will open their third LEED-certified facility in April. Franklin Woods Community Hospital in Johnson City, Tenn., their first green facility, includes among other features an emphasis on natural light, which according to Herbert is conducive to healing. ‘We hope that patients will enjoy their visits as much as possible and think of us when they’re choosing an elective surgery or having a baby,” says Ed Herbert, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at MSHA.

At Cornerstone Dental, Lutz-Craver gave every patient a window seat, a decision which also benefits her employees.

“I don’t have a staff member who doesn’t have a daylight view, [and] it really improves the day-to-day grind,” she says. Lutz-Craver says the building upgrade has translated into fewer allergies among her staff. And Herbert notes that MSHA’s employees enjoy the comfort of new cork floors.

“LEED is not just a recognition, it’s a great way to measure how much you’re helping the environment as you build,” Herbert says.

Of course, buildings can be ecologically responsible without a shiny LEED label. Mountain States Health Alliance appreciated the benefits of natural light at their new green hospitals so much that they have incorporated daylighting into renovations in older facilities.

Recycled renovations

Our Daily Bread's bar features four types of wood repurposed from an old homestead. Photo by Molly Moore

When Sam and Jennifer Parker, owners of Our Daily Bread delicatessen in Boone, N.C., wanted to update their restaurant, they found that unveiling the building’s historic features enhanced the space without requiring new materials. Underneath ugly acoustic tile, plaster and drywall they discovered original Italian ceiling tiles and brick walls.
The Parkers chose reclaimed barn wood for the restaurant’s tables and used Forest Steward Council-certified heart-of-pine wood to ensure that the cafe floor came from a responsibly-managed forest.

And their new, slip-resistant kitchen floor? It’s seamless, durable, fire-retardant and 100 percent recycled thermoplastic PVC, welded to fit the floor space and provide a bathtub-like splashguard at the base of the walls.

Sam Parker said that while the overall renovations to his restaurant were expensive, it didn’t cost much more to use sustainable materials. “You’ll find some [green building materials] that are pretty comparable and competitive in pricing,” he says.

Building budgets

In Chattanooga, Greenspaces co-director Anj McClain says people often assume that it costs 20 percent more to meet LEED standards. In reality, however, it costs a mere two to five percent more to use sustainable materials and construction practices.

Official certification, however, can add significantly to a project’s cost — Lutz-Craver paid a hefty fee for a LEED consultant on her building. That’s why groups like the Chattanooga nonprofit Greenspaces provides incentive funding to help commercial projects cover administrative costs of LEED construction.

About half of the projects Greenspaces is involved with are renovations and half are new construction.

“We encourage reusing a building,” McClain says. “It’s really the greenest thing you can do.”

How Architecture Can Lead to Energy Efficiency

“Maximize passive qualities. Use deciduous trees on the side so you have their leaves in summer and light in winter. Let things work without technological fixes.” — Luke W. Perry, Adjunct Instructor, Appalachian State University Department of Technology and Environmental Design, N.C.

“By performing. There is no better advocate than a building that actively demonstrates its performance, such as lower utility costs or harnessing energy and water.” — D. Craig Rushing, Architect/ Builder/ LEED AP, Lexington, Ky.

“Design a building that optimizes daylight and reduces the need for artificial lighting. That reduces energy bills.” — Anj McClain Co-Director, Greenspaces, Chattanooga, Tenn.

“Roof overhangs or window-shading devices on south facing windows can reduce ventilation and air conditioning loads during the summer and decrease heating loads during the winter. ” — Brian Bumann, LEED AP, The FWA Group, Charlotte N.C., Chair of the USGBC Southeast Regional Committee

“We can design responsibly by specifying materials that require less energy to produce, use, and reuse.” — Oscar E. Sorcia, American Institute of Architecture Students member, a Junior at Appalachian State University

One Response

  1. […] days for their employees. For example, a new dental office in Cleveland County, NC, has noticed decreases in allergies and sick days after moving into a LEED-certified building that gives employees access to natural […]

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