Standout Projects: Top-in-Hemisphere Green Merits

The eight-story, 85, 000-square-foot Perkins + Will Office Building at 1315 Peachtree may be located in Atlanta, but it was Alabama company Brasfield & Gorrie General Contractors at the helm of the project, which earned the highest LEED for New Construction rating to date in the northern hemisphere.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), developed in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council, promotes sustainability and “green” construction. The LEED 2009 NC rating begins with a certification rating of 40 points and ranges up to the platinum rating of 80 points or greater.

“We knew early on that they wanted to receive the platinum rating, ” says Brasfield & Gorrie’s Jason Weeks, Atlanta resident and project manager for the Perkins + Will Office Building.

When working on the Perkins + Will Office Building, Brasfield & Gorrie planned to use their fundamental understanding of the point system to pursue as many construction-related points as possible. Sustainable concepts were incorporated into the design of the building, as well as the methods of construction. The building achieved 95 points, winning all points that were submitted for review. More LEED platinum projects are slated for this year, but to date the Perkins + Will Office Building holds the honor of being the highest in the northern hemisphere.

“LEED is the foremost green building certification process. It is a comprehensive way to track and earn points for projects, ” Weeks says. “LEED certified projects are becoming more commonplace because they are driven by end users who are familiar with LEED and look for that in a building.”

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The architect firm/owners wanted to achieve the highest level of certification. As project manager, Weeks knew that at least 30 percent of those points would have to come from Brasfield & Gorrie as the general contractors. It was important to Weeks to make sure that all subcontractors and vendors understood the importance of green building, even in the planning phase. Throughout the process, quick decisions and fluidity were paramount. Perkins + Will were located only one block away, so they were able to make many trips to offer input and document the process. The history of the building, which was a former financial firm, also was important to Perkins + Will.

All plumbing and electrical systems were replaced, with most of the new features designed around efficiency. A radiant heating and cooling system was installed in the building, the first of its kind in Atlanta and only the second in the country. Radiant capillary mats located in the ceiling drive hot and cold water, instead of using central heat and air. Two micro turbines located on the roof, fueled by natural gas, produce electricity, reducing the carbon footprint of the building by 68 percent. A by-product of the turbines is heat, which is captured by the adsorption chiller. This, in turn, produces the cold water needed for the radiant capillary mats. Motorized interior and exterior solar shades also help keep the building cool. A 10, 000-gallon underground cistern was installed to capture rainwater for use with low flow toilet fixtures. The result of the attention paid to the water and plumbing allowed the building to reduce its dependence on municipal water by 78 percent.

As part of the effort to receive high LEED ratings, ceiling tiles, carpet, light fixtures and other materials were salvaged and donated to local schools, Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofit organizations. An on-site construction office was built out of 50 percent recycled materials. When construction was complete, the materials used to build the construction office were recycled again and used in another project.

The outdoor terrace also presents a great backdrop for the conference room. 

Logistics were a special challenge. A temporary pedestrian walkway left very little room for crane staging. The entire exterior had to be removed, while the Fulton County Library, located on the bottom floor of the building, had to remain open.

“We did that with careful planning and implementing a temporary plywood wall system to keep them dry, ” Weeks says. 

The project value was $11.5 million, which Weeks says is relatively small compared to the scope and complexity of the work. After working on the project for 13 months—approximately 97, 000 work hours—the project was complete by spring of 2011.

In addition to the platinum LEED rating, the project also placed first in the Sustainable Design Practices and Construction categories at the 2012 Associated General Contractors Build Georgia awards, as well as the Urban Land Institute’s Development of Excellence award.

“LEED was a trend five to 10 years ago, ” Weeks says. “Now it’s a mainstay in the marketplace.” 

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Laura Stakelum is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Dothan.

By Laura Stakelum

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