(SAVANNAH) – Green building in Savannah is growing, with an increasing number of environmentally friendly projects completed or in the works, and more local professionals becoming trained in the requirements.
There are triple the number of LEED registered projects in Savannah this year, with nine registered projects this year versus three registered projects in 2006. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is the internationally-recognized standard for high performance, low water and energy use buildings awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The importance of a LEED certification is that it provides third-party verification that green design and construction practices were actually used and implemented, and helps make sure they don’t fall out during value engineering.
“Green building in Savannah is really taking off,” said Tommy Linstroth, president of the Savannah Chapter of the USGBC and Head of Sustainable Initiatives for Melaver, Inc. “This year, we’ve seen the City of Savannah and SCAD both registering projects for LEED certification. Those are two of the largest holders of real estate in the area, and if they are pursuing LEED, it really demonstrates how valuable green building and LEED certification is.”
Savannah now has six LEED certified projects, including two new certified projects in 2007. A registered project is in the planning or building stage, whereas a certified project is a completed project that the USGBC has examined and certified.
The Savannah area now has 105 LEED Accredited Professionals (LEED APs), a 20 percent increase from 2006 and a 100 percent increase since 2005. The Savannah Chapter of the USGBC held four LEED training seminars this year, with more than 200 people in attendance. LEED APs have demonstrated a thorough understanding of green building practices and principles and familiarity with LEED requirements, resources, and processes. Individuals receive LEED accreditation from the USGBC after receiving training and passing a rigorous exam.
“Whereas a firm used to have one LEED AP on staff, it is more and more becoming a requisite for employees of design firms,” Linstroth said. “And it is not just coming from the head of the organization – oftentimes it is coming from the client, who more and more are asking for LEED buildings.”
According to the USGBC, an average LEED project has seen a 30 percent reduction in energy use and a 30 to 50 percent reduction in water use. Some federal agencies, including the General Services Administration, the Department of Agriculture and NASA have required Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for all new construction, and many more encourage it. In addition, a growing number of state and local governments, including Washington D.C., are requiring or encouraging green building.
The monthly meetings held by USGBC-Savannah, which are free and open to the public, draw an average of 70-90 people each month. Including special events, the USGBC Savannah chapter had more than 1600 attendees at events throughout the year.
The number of Savannah-area national members of the USBGC tripled since 2004, with 34 national members here, including seven more this year. The group also has more than 125 local members.
Honor Hutton, a LEED AP and engineer with Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co., said her company has seen an increase in interest in green building over the past year in residential, commercial and industrial projects.
“It’s really hit every sector for us,” she said. “It’s exciting – we’re expanding into a new market.” She expects more engineers at Thomas & Hutton will become LEED Accredited Professionals in the future, with at least one professional for each of the five offices.
Like her grandfather who founded the company in 1946, Hutton is from Tybee and loves the coast. She stated that Thomas & Hutton has always been committed to the community, and the company realizes that this means taking care of the environment. Thomas & Hutton is prepared to utilize cutting-edge methods to help the environment while maintaining its successful business tradition.
Developers have been telling her company they want to do green building, Hutton said. They realize they will protect the environment while also helping their public relations and their sales, she said.
“A lot of the interest in green building is due to companies like Melaver showing that not only can you develop sustainably but you can make a profit,” Hutton said. “Many new companies as well as Savannah’s traditional entrepreneurs are following suit. It’s the next thing here.”
The Savannah Chapter of the United States Green Building Council is dedicated to promoting sustainable design and green building throughout the Creative Coast. The group meets monthly on the fourth Tuesday of the month (except December). The meetings are free and open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend. The USGBC-Savannah Chapter seeks to educate the public on the long-term benefits of green building and how sustainable design can be integrated or implemented into one’s life.
AT A GLANCE:
New LEED certified projects in 2007
Shops 600 at Abercorn Common – LEED Core and Shell Silver
Starland Condos – LEED Core and Shell Gold
3 LEED registered projects in 2006:
Park Place Outreach Home – Youth Center
9 LEED registered projects in 2007:
4 West Liberty St
Arnold Hall, SCAD
ILA Pension and Welfare Building
JW Buckley and Associates Offices
Jones St Residences
Oakridge Fitness Center
Savannah Country Day Lower Middle School
SCI Cultural Center