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Our view: 'Green' buildings sprouting over local landscape

LEED-certified construction is on the rise in Gwinnett and that's good for you, for the environment and for business.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is the U.S. Green Building Council's rating system for rating the world's greenest, most energy-efficient buildings. That means that architects, engineers and builders are figuring out ways to minimize a building's impact on Mother Earth.

And we're seeing more of it locally:

· Architectural firm Lindsay Pope Brayfield & Associates Inc.'s new office building on Pike Street is the first LEED-certified building in Lawrenceville.

· The builders of Gwinnett Stadium believe the 10,000-seat facility will qualify for LEED certification.

· And just down Buford Drive, the BrandsMart USA under construction will be the first retail space in north Georgia to qualify.

Larry Levine, vice president of store operations for BrandsMart, is passionate about being green. Environmental issues are a concern, but LEED certification makes business sense, too, Levine said.

"The building is sky-lit, so we save on electricity costs. Rainwater captured into a cistern system will be used for irrigation of landscaping and to flush toilets, among other uses," he explained.

The stadium employed similar principles when installing its water system. All irrigation, cleaning and toilet water used in the ballpark comes from recaptured water. Stormwater and wastewater filters through a 5,750-foot network of underground pipes and into a retention pipe 12 feet in diameter. This system is expected to save about 650,000 gallons of water per year.

The recognizable BrandsMart towers that dominate the building's appearance, are more than aesthetics. Those towers are part of an air exchange system that allows air to adjust before it is pumped into the building. This saves the energy needed to heat cold air or cool hot air.

Landscape designs called for drought-resistant plants that, once established after a growing season, won't require irrigation under normal rainfall conditions. Levine is so excited about the educational aspects of this green plan that he'll offer tours for children to learn how to be green.

Recycled materials were used during construction, and 95 percent of the waste generated during construction was recycled, Levine said.

Overall, about 35 different elements contributed to BrandsMart's LEED certification.

The Lawrenceville architects turned their new office building green through similar efforts that included installing a "smart" HVAC system that senses the local temperature and adjusts air flow as required, using low-flow plumbing fixtures that save more than 1,000 gallons of water per year per employee and using building materials with 41 percent recycled content.

Technology continues to improve the opportunity to lessen our impact on the environment. There's a lot of talk about the kind of "footprint" we're leaving here on Earth and fewer reasons for not doing something about it.

LEED-certified building is a way to lighten that impression. It improves your environment and your economics.