Southface’s opens Eco-office as model of sustainability

By Maria Saporta

Southface has many reasons to celebrate today’s opening of its Eco Office.

The Eco Office is a demonstration model of what Southfaces has been preaching for decades — that we can build more energy-efficient buildings that use much less water than conventional buildings.

So it was with green fanfare that Southface had its “vine-cutting” ceremony. Founder Dennis Creech, who is Southface’s executive director, said the vines came from the yard, and that once cut, would be put into their compost pile.

Southface also used the occasion to celebrate becoming a LEED Platinum building with a score of 57 points. LEED is a certification program of the U.S. Green Building Council that measures the energy, water and environmental attributes of our built environment.

Architect Tony Aeck, whose firm won the design competition in 2003, said he was “extremely proud” to have particpated in designing a building that has achieved such great results — particularly with the “two cornerstones” of energy and water efficiency.

For example, the 10,100 square foot building at 241 Pine St. uses 53.3 percent less energy than a similar building constructed to code.

More significantly, Southface uses 84 percent less water than a comparable conventional building. The building captures the rain water in cisterns and uses that for irrigation and toilet flushing. It also has a system that treats all the solid waste in the building and uses the bacteria-free product as fertilizer.

The building has so many green features, it’s hard to name them all. It has a green roof on its fourth floor with a photovoltaic solar array that supplies about 10 percent of the building’s energy needs.

The building, which cost $2.45 million, was funded with support from many of Southface’s partners — the Kendeda Fund, the Home Depot Foundation and the Turner Foundation, to name a few.

Another interesting aspect of the project was that is was built by a consortium of construction companies that normally compete with each other — DPR, Hardin, Holder, R.J. Griffin, Skanska and Winter.

As Creech said this morning just before cutting the vine with his fellow dignitaries: “We are open for business.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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