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Courthouse sets a standard

POSTED: September 26, 2011 6:02 p.m.
Photo by Calli Arnold/

Effingham County commissioners from left to right Steve Mason, Vera Jones, Bob Brantley and Reggie Loper, far right, along with Mark Fitzpatrick, chair of the Savannah chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, and Denise Grabowski, state chair of the USGBC, show off the Historic Courthouse’s LEED plaque.

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The Effingham County Historic Courthouse received a long-awaited award Monday afternoon, sealing local leaders’ commitment to preserving the past with an eye toward the future.

The Effingham County Commissioners were presented with the LEED Gold Certified plaque for the restoration of the Effingham County Historic Courthouse.

“If you think about this structure,” said Mark Fitzpatrick, chair of the Savannah U.S. Green Building Council branch as well as a member of the build team with J.T. Turner Construction, “its original design, it was designed for daylight and thermal control…We’ve come full circle. What we’ve found, I think, for me, is that LEED really is old school. It’s the best practice.”

Mark McDonald, president and CEO of Georgia Trust Historic Preservation, commended the team for their efforts and said that he was “very pleasantly surprised” with the result after taking his first tour of the facility.

“I haven’t seen anything that could havebeen done any better,” he said. “You’ve really done a fabulous job and we want to thank you for what you’ve done. And to do it to LEED standards is really another sign of your stewardship and careful planning that you all share together.

“Historic preservation and environmental stewardship and the sustainable building movement are such natural partners.”

McDonald said that historic preservation is about honoring the past but also maintaining structures as part of American culture for future generations to enjoy.

“Although we love the past and we honor it,” he said, “it’s really about the future. It’s about making sure our children and our grandchildren can enjoy the benefits of buildings like this, the great culture that we’ve built in America, and more over, about the environment and that we’re leaving a world that is a fit place to live, a place where our grandchildren are going to have opportunities.”

Denise Grabowski, Georgia Chair for the USGBC Board of Directors, said the Historic Courthouse disproves a misunderstanding that historic buildings had to be gutted to be sustainable.

“In fact, the most sustainable building that we have is one that’s already built,” she said. “We’ve gotten very reliant on new technologies have forgotten about a lot of the basics of design, so LEED really encourages that whole building understanding that is reflected in so many of our historic buildings.”

Some of the building’s sustainability and conservation achievements include: 34 percent reduction in energy use and 86 percent of waste was diverted by reusing and recycling the material.

Grabowski said that the benefits LEED standards go well beyond water conservation and energy efficiency. She said studies have shown that absenteeism goes down and productivity in office buildings and schools goes up in buildings with lots of natural light.

“So there’s a lot of trickle down benefits of LEED buildings that aren’t always understood,” she said.

“But for such a public building and such a true symbol of Effingham County, being LEED certified is really fantastic and just a great illustration to the community.”

The project was budgeted for basic certification, but was able to achieve Gold status, which county project manager Adam Kobek credited to the team’s determination to “maximize points at every turn.”

“It’s wonderful,” Kobek said. “It’s a long time coming. The commissioners had the foresight to look out for sustainability and environmentally friendly design and to have it go above and beyond our goals from certified to LEED Gold just makes it even better.”

Commissioner Reggie Loper, who is the only commissioner who saw the project from start to finish and also served on the committee that oversaw the details of the project, said that his goal was always to preserve as much of the original courthouse as possible.

“I’ve lived here all my life,” Loper said, “and I wanted to keep the old courthouse as much as it was when it was built years ago… I love it. I think we did an excellent job.”

The Effingham County Historic Courthouse Project team includes: the Effingham County Board of Commissioners, J.T. Turner Construction, Hussey, Gay, Bell & DeYoung–engineers and architects, Greenline Architecture, Dulohery Weeks and Trident Sustainability Group.

Kobek said that he hopes the courthouse will serve as an example for sustainable building and restoration in future projects throughout the county.

“Whether it’s LEED certified or just sustainable design,” Kobek said, “keeping things in mind that will give tax payers a larger return when it comes to energy efficiency and water efficiency, that’s the main goal of setting this examples.”

About LEED
Developed by the U.G. Green Building Council, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings are intended to provide building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. Since its inception in 1998, the USGBC has grown to encompass more than 14,000 projects in the United States and 30 other countries.

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