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"Climate change, carbon emissions, greenhouse gases, green design–call it what you will. The need to change how we inhabit the planet to avoid catastrophic consequences is now widely accepted…in the year ahead I plan to work with the AIA board’s Sustainability Discussion Group to aggressively advance sustainable design and the key role the AIA can and our members must play to engage the great challenge confronting our generation–the future of our planet." – RK Stewart, FAIA, Principal at Gensler, AIA President
Back in December, the USGBC awarded Sweetwater Creek State Visitors Center the coveted Platinum level LEED-NC, making it just the 20th building in the world to receive the USGBC’s highest certification. Sweetwater was designed by Gerding Collaborative, an Atlanta-based architecture firm, to reduce the building’s potable water usage by 77% and energy usage by 51%. At these numbers, when compared to a similar building, Sweetwater avoids about 27 tons of carbon emissions annually. Plus, there’s the financial case for the building. Sweetwater was completed at $175 per sf, which I understand is highly competitive for the area.
In the words of Dan Gerding, AIA, Managing Principal of Gerding Collaborative, "The Sweetwater Project is a great example of how a new way of looking at design is good for the building’s owner, good for the people who use the building on a daily basis, and good for the environment." His firm walks the talk. About 70% of the firm’s technical staff is LEED Accredited (LEED-AP).
The building has a slew of classic green features such as a 10.5 KW photovoltaic array, vegetated roof, composting toilet system, drip irrigation system, and rainwater collection system. Also, for the architects out there, Sweetwater is one of the first LEED-Platinum buildings to be designed using 3D "virtual building" technology, Archicad 10. I understand the technology allowed different members of the team to visualize the project in context to provide design and technology solutions more effectively than if the project were designed with the typical 2D approach.
Sweetwater Platinum LEED Design Press Release