Developers around Mississippi investing in 'green growth'

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Published: August 28,2006

After attending a Jackson real estate conference in mid-July, “Buildings for a Sustainable Future: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” featuring keynote speaker Paul von Paumgartten, metro-area builders, developers and property owners were buzzing about strongly considering “green” issues for their projects.

“Everybody around here is very interested now in the concept of what can be done to reduce their load on utilities in new construction and in modifying existing buildings,” said

Chris Wheeler, general manager of the Amsouth Center in Jackson for Stirling Properties, an event co-sponsor that manages more than eight million square feet of commercial properties including local and regional shopping centers, office buildings and business parks. “Everybody has placed a bigger emphasis on what the consumption is and how a facility is perceived and how the clients and tenants can be better taken care of. Also, the environment has become a bigger issue. Landlords are interested. Of course, it’s not a new issue. It’s been slow to catch on in the South. It started out on the west coast and has moved around and we’re just catching up.”

Paumgartten, director of energy and environmental affairs for Johnson Controls Inc. shared how “thinking green” pertains to hundreds of different aspects of a building, from how productive people are in a particular setting to the nuances of lighting and the usage of electricity, water and other elements that affect the environment.

“The idea is to provide a better work environment for your clients and to produce a more environmentally friendly facility,” said Wheeler.

Stirling Properties is pro-actively “greening” its buildings. “Asbestos was, of course, abated a number of years ago. Now we’re doing things like lighting upgrades, for example, using high intensity efficient bulbs that contain no fluorocarbons, and incorporating hands free kits in the restrooms that save water usage by 30% to 40%. We’re doing chiller upgrades that save 35% to 40 % in electricity and water usage. We’re actively going after the ‘green building’ tag.”

The real estate management company is also focusing on air quality because “the productivity of a worker is directly affected when he’s healthier,” said Wheeler. “We have double filtration systems in some of our facilities here. Sometimes, making minor changes like using ‘green’ cleaning chemicals can make a very big change in the working environment.”

A bonus: new tax incentives for reducing energy and water usage in facilities.

Earlier this year, a group of industry leaders established the Mississippi Green Building Council interest group, led by Perry Richardson, an architect with Canizaro Cawthon Davis in Jackson.

“The conference in July got a lot more people interested in the council because everyone realized there was so much interest in general in green buildings,” he said.

The interest group is now an “organizing group” with officers in place. The Department of Energy-endorsed U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has recognized the Mississippi chapter, which is in the process of incorporating, with plans to be a “provisional chapter” by year-end. Members include architects, interior designers, developers, lobbyists, Entergy Mississippi and Mississippi Manufacturers Association.

The USGBC developed a rating system called LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which offers four levels of accomplishment based on how well a building performs on a checklist of five major areas: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

“The concept is to make the idea of green buildings a more tangible measurable quantity so you can determine how green and how sustainable a facility is rather than just saying it’s environmentally-friendly,” said Richardson. “The council also tries to put some science behind the concepts of ethical ideas and show return on investment.”

The mission of the Mississippi chapter is to provide a forum and opportunities for the exchange of ideas, information and awareness of green building principles and practices in the state among design, construction, real estate communities and the public in general and to promote activities that expand green building practices in the state and partner with other state building and environmental organizations for coordination of green building efforts among other local organizations and institutions.

“The Building Owners and Managers Association is also very interested in this because energy has gotten to be such a big problem and there are issues with things like cleaning a building in ways to prevent further contamination,” said Richardson. “The real drive is coming from the public at large. They want more environmentally and sustainable buildings, but they don’t know how to get them, so we’re trying to respond for the professional community.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at Lynne.Jeter@gmail.com.

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