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April 1, 2012

Striking Environmental Gold in 2011 !

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Builders, architects and engineers in east Tennessee are raising the bar on construction techniques to lessen the impact on the environment and improve energy and water efficiency.  Fifty projects across Tennessee were awarded some level of certification in 2011 from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).  Four reached Platinum level, while ten of the projects in east Tennessee reached LEED® Gold certification.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a rating system developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).  It is the internationally recognized benchmark of excellence in design and construction relative to efficiency and impacts on the environment.

“Without question, it takes a team effort from initial design through the actual on site construction to achieve any level of LEED certification,” says Hickory Executive Vice President Chuck Alexander.   “While it’s great to achieve certifications, the real benefits of environmental design and construction are for people and communities.”

Alcoa-based Hickory Construction teamed with project engineers and architects to document the highly detailed reporting required by LEED evaluators.  The result earned two Gold certifications, and a third is pending for three east Tennessee facilities.  The 241st Engineering and Installation Squadron in Chattanooga and the Melton Valley Maintenance Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratories each earned Gold certifications.  A third project, the Fred Forster Squadron Operations building at McGhee Tyson Air Base is awaiting announcement of a Gold certification.  Each project must meet or exceed rigorous design and construction objectives governed by LEED.

“We made an effort to challenge ourselves,” says Ben Pinnell who helped lead project management in Chattanooga.  “The Air Guard project required that we reach LEED Certified level.  We took it two steps higher and earned Gold certification.  The McGhee Tyson project contained a LEED Silver requirement, but again, we made an extra effort to target a higher level of certification. ”

The three projects total more than 90,000 square feet of energy saving features including: horizontal ground loop geothermal systems, automated lighting controls, low flow water fixtures and low VOC materials such as carpets and paints.  Additionally, crews recycled construction debris and took advantage of regional and local recycled building materials.

“From our perspective, it is smarter to get ahead of the curve on positive environmental outcomes as it relates to design and construction,” says Chris Soro of C2RL, the project engineer on both the Chattanooga and McGhee Tyson facilities.  “Each project gives us another opportunity to learn more and apply those lessons down the line.”

According to data from the U.S. Green Building Council, 130 construction projects in Tennessee have earned some level of LEED certification since 2004.  More than 330 Tennessee-based projects have registered with the organization since 2002.

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