Sunday, July 21, 2013

green|building a better Chattanooga

Consider the following dilemmas:
  • You have a business.  You have a brain.  You have a certain green consciousness.  But your company doesn't even have a recycling program, much less a sustainability plan.
  • You want a green job. You have decided to get certified as a type of building energy auditor known as a HERS rater.  But you don't have the startup capital for some of the most expensive tools of the trade, such as a blower door or a duct blaster.
  • You have arrived at the threshold of the American Dream: about to build a house.  You have a tight budget. You have a certain green consciousness.  But you are not sure you have the money to build an energy efficient home. 
But if you live in Chattanooga you have all of this.  And more.

Green|spaces is a sustainability hub for the city -- an incubator, facilitator, and promoter of best practices in green building, as well as eco-friendly living and working in general.  This nonprofit organization has been one of the main vehicles for making Chattanooga's widely acclaimed economic revitalization a distinctively green enterprise.

With the sensibility of a true architect (not surprising, with more than a few on their Board), green|spaces starts from the premise that how we build, live in, and work in buildings has enormous consequences well beyond the quality of the buildings themselves.  While their brand of sustainability is grounded in green building, green|spaces also consciously integrates economic and social sustainability into its programs.  "Anything less is, well, unsustainable," explains Development Director Dawn Hjelseth.

Green|space's three main program areas address the above dilemmas:
  • Green|light is a third party certification of green business practices.  "This program doesn't require companies to change their core business model, but rather asks them to address everyday operations," said Program Director Tesia Gorka Jones. "We verify that companies complete a set of tasks - everything from starting a recycling program to carpooling to changing lightbulbs - that gives them a direct path to greening their company in a way that grows their business."
  • Home Energy Rating System (HERS) energy audits and training of HERS raters: Chattanooga's recent change in building codes requires all new construction to pass a third party blower door/duct blaster test for tightness of the building envelope.  This positions the nonprofit to be a key source of technicians and technology for builder compliance.  Green|spaces offers HERS rater certification classes, Duct Envelope Tightness (DET) verifier training, as well as blower door and duct blaster rental.
  • The better built program is a third party green building verification for new construction.  This home-grown set of standards was developed by local architects, realtors, contractors, and homeowners to address sustainable materials, methods, site planning, water efficiency, indoor air quality, and energy efficiency.  The homes are built by certified contractors who attend a two-day training.  The houses must test out at a 75 or lower HERS rating. Overall, the better built bar is not as high as a LEED certification, but the "better builders" say their homes will be at least 25% more energy efficient than a new house built to standard codes.

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