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Chatham Co. Health Department Achieves Elite LEED Gold Status

April 21, 2014

Rain barrels stand on either side of the front doors waiting to collect water that will irrigate the native plant materials. Lights turn off automatically if no one has been in a room for a certain amount of time so energy can be conserved. Water is heated using solar energy, and bamboo, a rapidly renewable material, has been used instead of woodwork.

Once upon a time, including those features in a public health facility would’ve been a fleeting thought. Today, they are just a few of the design and construction characteristics that have made the Dr. Martha B. Fay Public Health Center/Chatham County Health Department the only health department in the Southeastern United States and only one of a handful of health departments throughout the entire country to achieve Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status.

Architect Patrick Shay unveils the LEED Gold certificate with Coastal Health District Health Director Diane Weems, M.D., and Randy McCall, Ph.D, Chatham County Health Department Administrator.

LEED is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high performance green buildings. LEED certification offers third party validation of a project’s green features and verifies that the building is functioning at high energy efficiency. LEED is a points-based system where building projects earn LEED points for satisfying specific green building criteria. The number of points the project earns determines the level of LEED Certification the project receives. LEED certification is available in four progressive levels: certified, silver, gold, and platinum.

“The LEED program was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to make sure that there is rigorous science, engineering and verification behind claims that buildings and building technologies are ‘green,’” said Patrick Shay, senior principal with architecture and urban development firm Gunn Meyerhoff Shay which designed the building and spearheaded the LEED certification. “The Gold level is the next to highest level and requires a very high level of performance in energy and resource conservation, and healthy interior environment, so achieving this level is a very important accomplishment for current occupants and future generations.”

Building the 33,000 square foot, state-of-the-art environmentally friendly facility, which opened its doors in May 2013, not only made good financial sense but has also proved to be more efficient for clients who use health department services.

 “Green facilities such as the health department don’t cost any more to build and we should actually see cost savings in the long run as a result of the building’s efficiency. In fact, we just received a check for more than $12,000 from Georgia Power for our energy innovations,” said Chatham County Health Department Administrator, Randy McCall, Ph.D. “As a result of our working toward LEED Gold, we’ve created a space that is more inviting and comfortable for our clients. Additionally, our patient flow efficiencies have increased tremendously, leading to faster service.”

So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how environmentally friendly is the new facility? It’s easily a 9.5, said Shay. And he believes that one day, it will hit 10.

“The building could only be much better if it produced as much energy as it consumed, making it a “net zero” building,” he said. “The current building has infrastructure in place so that solar photovoltaic panels can be installed in the future to do just that.”

“The building could only be much better if it produced as much energy as it consumed, making it a “net zero” building,” he said. “The current building has infrastructure in place so that solar photovoltaic panels can be installed in the future to do just that.”

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