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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Green Laboratory Sets New Standard

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities $12.2 million green laboratory can now also be called gold. The U.S. Green Building Council has granted gold-level LEED certification to the water and sewer departments Environmental Services Facility.

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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities’ $12.2 million “green” laboratory can now also be called gold.
The U.S. Green Building Council has granted gold-level LEED certification to the water and sewer department’s Environmental Services Facility.
 
That’s the second-highest rating under the USGBC’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, which uses points to evaluate a property’s design, construction and operations.
 
Utilities officials had conservatively hoped the offices off Billy Graham Parkway would achieve silver status.
 
Instead, USGBC determined during the verification process that the building was even greener, and rated it a level higher. Energy savings at the 45,226-square-foot facility have also exceeded expectations.
 
Officials targeted a 15% savings in electricity costs. Spokeswoman Erin Culbert says the results so far have been closer to 22%.
 
One founding member of the local chapter of the USGBC says the strong performance of the building sends two messages. “It’s easier to achieve than people think,” says Anne Jackson, a project manager and LEED specialist for design firm Perkins + Will in Charlotte. “And green buildings really do perform better than a ‘typical’ or average building.”
 
But the city’s first public building constructed under LEED may be its last.
 
Charlotte City Council members have shelved plans for a local green-building policy because of concerns over higher upfront costs.
 
And measuring the benefits to workers is difficult outside of anecdotal evidence.
 
About 80 employees in the utilities’ environmental management and lab services departments began moving into the building last April, consolidating personnel who had been scattered at four locations.
 
Many had moved out of windowless offices. That group includes water quality specialist Shannon Sypolt, who says of the new lab building: “I love looking out and seeing green.”
 
“It makes for a brighter work environment, even on a rainy day,” lab analyst Gina Kimble adds.
The Environmental Services Facility was geared for sustainability in details small and large, from site design to street lamps. Officials planned the parking lot to save as many trees as possible while minimizing the use of pavement.
 
The agency worked with the UNC Charlotte Daylighting + Energy Performance Laboratory on how to orient the structure to use the sun as a resource. Large windows and skylights, low cubical walls and glass openings in doorways and walls let natural light through the building.
The building’s white reflective roof also keeps the interior cool.
 
Street lamps point downward to conserve light. The use of natural vegetation curbs erosion while eliminating the need for irrigation.
 
Inside, parts of the building are lined with a shiny hypoallergenic floor covering made from flaxseed oil and pulverized wood. The department bought furniture vetted by the Greenguard Environmental Institute, which tests products for toxic emissions.
 
The nonprofit Forest Stewardship Council certified the wood used in doors and cabinets.
The extra cost of all of these environmentally sensitive elements?
 
About 2% to 3% more in hard costs, says Culbert, who adds that projections from 2005 estimated a payback on the extra expenses within 10 years.
 
Source: Charlotte Business Journal