Although completed and open since October 2011, a joint-venture building owned by the Alabama National Guard and Alabama Army Reserve got its grand opening celebration today and was honored as the first building in the state to be named a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified “platinum project.”
“It’s like a checklist, or a point system,” said Chris Miller, chairman of the Alabama branch of the U.S. Green Buildings Commission, on the building’s platinum ranking. “There are certain items and criteria a building needs to meet in order to achieve that ranking.”
The commission is a a nonprofit which advises builders on how to create the most energy-efficient structures.
Miller said projects seeking a platinum ranking have to take a “holistic approach” in the design, construction and maintenance of a building. While being great for the environment is an added benefit to a highly efficient building, the selling point is typically the cost.
“You’re giving the owner an efficient building that doesn’t cost them an arm and leg to operate,” Miller said.
Some of the cost saving and efficiency features of the Reserve Center are straightforward and simple, like lights that turn off automatically when a room isn’t in use. Others are more complex and innovative such as the geothermal system, which uses underground pipes to heat the building’s water.
“The geothermal system itself saves the building so much money in operating costs,” said Leah Allen-Cooper, the marketing coordinator with JMR Architecture in Montgomery, which designed the building. “It nearly cuts the energy savings in half.”
Alabama Army National Guard Col. Brian Barrontine, the construction facilities maintenance officer at the Reserve Center, said the technical innovation incorporated into the structure is only part of what makes the Reserve Center unique. The building, which acts as a training facility for the Guard and Army Reserve, was itself an efficient solution to creating one facility for dual roles.
“Frankly, it’s just good use of the taxpayer dollar,” Barrontine said of the $6.7 million building, which came in under its estimated $7 million budget. “We need more buildings that are going to last. There are some buildings right now we can’t afford to use.”
At Thursday’s ceremony, Barrontine thanked several partners who helped in the building’s construction, including JMR Architecture and Whorton Engineering.
While the Reserve Center is the first building in the state with the platinum ranking, Miller said there are more than 80 projects in the state working with LEED standards to obtain the ranking.
Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.