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Southface Eco Office: A Green Building that Can Prove It

| Monday August 24th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Photo: © 2009 Jonathan Hillyer/Atlanta

Photo: © 2009 Jonathan Hillyer/Atlanta

Talk about checking all the boxes on the green building list, literally. The recently completed Southface Eco Office has achieved Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, qualifies for Energy Star, EarthCraft Light Commercial certification and meets the 2030 Challenge launched by the non-profit group Architecture 2030. Whew, that’s impressive!

The building, located in Atlanta, Georgia, stands at three stories and encompasses 10,100 square feet and uses 84 percent less potable water and 53 percent less energy than a comparable building. Designed by Lord, Aeck & Sargent, the Eco Office was made possible by the collaboration of over 200 organizations donating their time, materials and financial resources towards the project, which not only serves as an office, but doubles as a demonstration and training facility, showcasing the possibilities for high performance buildings to reduce operating costs.

The Eco Office not only showcases green building materials, like salvaged wood and counter tops with high fly ash content, but demonstrates other unique technologies. Features of the building include efficient site orientation to achieve maximum daylight exposure and the utilization of exterior shading controls. A 6.4-kilowatt photovoltaic canopy supplies 7 percent of the building’s annual energy needs. Electrochromic glazing was included on the windows, which uses a low-voltage current to make clear glass opaque. A green roof was also included to reduce heat island effect, capture storm water run off and reduce air conditioning demand.

The roof’s drought resistant plants and native wildflowers manage storm water runoff by filtering and diverting water to the underground cistern, which can hold 14,500 gallons of water. The captured rainwater is used to save energy by cooling the air source heat pump condensing units and solar electric system. Each kilowatt-hour of electricity saved, saves approximately one gallon of water being evaporated at a power plant. An efficient storm water management system consisting of an additional 1,750-gallon cistern collects non-potable water for toilet flushing and irrigation activities.

A Dedicated Outdoor Air System that incorporates an evaporative cooler, energy recovery ventilator and liquid desiccant system is responsible for cooling and operates at roughly half the cost of conventional air conditioning.

The best part of the building is that Southface can measure the Eco Office’s performance through Lucid Design Group’s Building Dashboard, which provides real time and historical data on the facility’s resource use. Results can be viewed online at the Eco Office via an interactive touch screen. The dashboard measures and displays electricity consumption; daily kilowatt hours of electricity produced on site through photovoltaic array; daily gallons of water consumed and saved; and current rainwater levels in the building’s above-and below-ground cisterns. The performance of the Eco Office puts it among the top 9 percent of such U.S. buildings with regard to energy efficiency.

The Eco Office proves that effective green building by firms like Lord, Aeck & Sargent can result in designing and constructing buildings that live up to energy efficiency expectations. The firm’s Director of Sustainability, Jim Nicolow, states “The green building movement needs to move beyond intuition to validation. A necessity of high-performance design is the use of quantitative analysis to inform design decisions.” We couldn’t agree more.

Eco Office Fast Facts:

Construction cost: $242 per square foot
Annual energy savings: $7,450
Annual energy costs: $9,100
Comparable building energy costs: $16,560/year


Categorized: Green Building|

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  • Building Supplies

    Green ethics will continually become a greater and greater part of all our lives whether in the medium of construction or anything else. It’s great to see it embraced is such a positive manner.

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  • Jennifer

    It would be interesting to know the comparable current construction cost per square foot for a non-LEED building to be able to calculate the payback period, ie. how many years will it take in energy savings to offset the additional costs of construction (if there are additional costs).