LEED certification’s hot topic for builders

Tuesday, January 22, 2008 at 2:10am

All new Metro buildings over a certain size have to be more energy-efficient under a law the Metro Council passed last year, but it’s private development that is leading the way.

The Pinnacle building, on the corner of Second Avenue and Demonbreun, across from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, is giving rise to the Nashville’s first major project to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.

Gary Everton, a principle with Everton Oglesby Architects, said the 29-story building would be even more energy efficient with a “green” roof.

“That green roof is about 60 percent of the area. We’re taking away what otherwise would be complete coverage,” meaning asphalt, Everton explained, “and we’re putting back green roof.”

The green roof will be above the parking area which accounts for about half of the building’s 1.2 million square feet.

The Pinnacle building, while also housing the law offices of Bass, Berry & Sims, will recycle its own water, too.

“We’re capturing all of that water and we’re using it for flushing toilets and urinals and for irrigation in the building,” Everton said. “You actually reduce the load on Metro’s water system by doing that.”

The Metro Council passed a law last year mandating that all new Metro buildings over 5,000 square feet and $2 million in construction costs be LEED certified. LEED projects in general cost more in construction costs, but many say the investment creates savings down the line.

Existing buildings undergoing renovations that are currently over cost and size thresholds also will have to be certified. The law passed in the late spring applies to all planning and construction done after Aug. 1, 2007.

While the bill applies to all Metro agencies, departments and boards, the legislation exempted the Metropolitan Board of Public Education, The Metropolitan Transit Authority and the Metropolitan Housing and Development Agency, all of which make major investments in capital projects. According to the Metropolitan Charter, those three agencies have autonomy over their own buildings.

However, Councilman Mike Jameson, who sponsored the original bill, said Metro Schools embraced the concept last month where he said it is especially needed.

“LEED certification and sustainable design doesn’t just mean energy savings. It means you’ve got a building that’s oriented towards sunlight, you’re not in dark cavernous classrooms anymore,” said Jameson. “[It] also eliminates some pretty noxious chemicals, paint fumes, and everything else you wouldn’t want your kids around.”

When the Council first passed the legislation, the Metro finance director’s office said it would cost the city from 1 to 15 percent more in construction costs, but Jameson defends the extra money.

“The rub for LEED certification is that there are additional costs. And most people just hear those words, and they stop considering it right there,” Jameson said. “But the benefit of LEED and sustainable design in general, is in the long run your operational costs are far less.”

The Metro Planning Department said there are no Metro buildings being LEED certified, but Jameson thinks the new convention center will have to be according to the law. Some other buildings in Nashville are already LEED certified, including several residence halls at Vanderbilt University.

The Pinnacle building is expected to be finished in December of 2009.

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