By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Work on courthouse moving along
10.13 old courthouse
Mark Fitzpatrick of JT Turner Construction shows some of the work being done in the historic Effingham Courthouse. - photo by File photo

Work on the historic Effingham County Courthouse continues, with an eye toward the future and correcting the problems of the past.

Commissioners approved, by a 5-1 vote, seeking LEED certification for the historic courthouse, which is undergoing extensive renovations. LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design —s erves as a third-party national certification program and is a recognized benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance buildings, said county project manager Adam Kobek.

“We believe we can be the first historic courthouse in Georgia to be LEED certified,” he said.

As part of achieving LEED certification, the renovation will reduce waste in landfills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower operational costs and conserve use of water and energy, according to Kobek. The LEED levels are certified, silver, gold and platinum, with a 100-point scoring scale to determine the levels.

Kobek said the historic courthouse could achieve silver level.

“A 2 percent investment up front will yield over 10 times the return on the investment over the life cycle of the building,” he said. “The county will be spending less money on operational expenses.”

Mark Fitzpatrick of JT Turner Construction said the building itself — by being situated in the middle of a business and commercial district — can earn points by cutting down on the amount of vehicle traffic and emissions. Many of the credits in LEED result from being in walking access to multiple amenities.

“LEED to me as a contractor is really taking us back to the principles and practices in place when this building was originally constructed,” he said. “It makes wise use of the resources. Add to that it’s geographic location in the middle of the community, it achieves many of the credits at no additional cost.”

There are also credits for using local materials in its building and the design and materials to be used can cut down greatly on the amount of energy the building consumes in the future.

“You can expect to see a significant reduction in the amount of energy used,” he said. “You’ll be able to get real data once you fire up the systems.”

Fitzpatrick said a project in Savannah his firm has worked on also had LEED silver certification and expected to cut its energy use by 30 percent.

“They’re closer to a 70 percent savings in energy reduction,” he said.

Platinum, the highest level, may be out of the county’s reach, however.

“You’ve got to do a lot of fairly extensive technologies and use a lot of recycled materials,” Fitzpatrick said.

A gold level may not be out of reach, he said, but it’s a large investment and its payback will be much further down the road.

“It may still be something you want to consider because you may want to continue to use the building in 100 years,” he said. “If it’s 20 years, maybe not.”

The county will be tapping into its $290,000 contingency fund for LEED certification and for asbestos removal and other structural problems that needed to be addressed.

“Structural integrity can be an issue and needs to be examined, as well as the safe removal of possible harmful materials,” Kobek said.

Asbestos was found in several areas, especially in the material that holds down the tile in the 1979 addition.

Together with the LEED certification, the county will have about $222,000 left in its contingency fund for work on the old courthouse. The budget for the project is $2.93 million.

“These were existing conditions that could not be foreseen until we got to the point we were taking down walls and thoroughly inspecting crawl spaces,” Kobek said.