New Suwanee City Hall to be 'green' building

SUWANEE - The city of Suwanee is building a new City Hall with an interesting and increasingly popular twist.

Designed to be the focal point of the city's town center, the cutting-edge, art-deco-style structure will be a high-performance "green" building.

In fact, city officials hope the new building will qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. LEED is a nationally accepted benchmark for high-performance green buildings. Gwinnett County has only one other LEED certified building, the new Environmental and Heritage Center at 2020 Clean Water Drive in Buford.

Buildings can earn LEED points in five categories: site planning, water protection and efficiency, energy efficiency and renewable energy, construction materials and resources and indoor environmental quality. Suwanee's new City Hall may earn LEED points by using daylight and natural views, recycling construction materials and properly disposing of construction waste, parking capacity, landscaping, wastewater technology, water-use reduction, use of regional materials in construction, collection of rainwater and use of more environmentally friendly materials in things like paint and ceiling tiles for the interior.

According to Scott Gordon of design firm BRPH, "Our efforts ... were centered on studying the region, the city, the site, the building's intended function and successful civic buildings from which the design ultimately emerged."

Mayor Nick Masino said of the innovative plan: "We're investing up front. In the long term, the money we'll save justifies the cost. This is something that's new to us in the Southeast. This is definitely a direction that we're headed."

"We want to lead by example," Masino said, adding he would like to see the city get to a point that a certain level of LEED certification is the city standard.

"The building itself is an eclectic mix of modern systems, classic materials and deliberate influences of historic architectural styles, which includes art deco," Gordon said. "The liberal use of glass in the grand foyer and city chamber maximizes daylighting and views and is symbolic of the city's commitment to conducting business in a transparent manner."

The use of a transportation theme also sets the design of Suwanee City Hall apart. According to Gordon, no other City Hall in the region has used the archetype of a train station.

Construction of the new building is expected to be complete by the end of 2008, according to former City Manager Hardin Watkins.