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VOL. 35 | NO. 26 | Friday, July 1, 2011

Piedmont’s Nashville facility given Gold LEED certification

By Hollie Deese

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Though it was completed in April 2010, the Tennessee Operations Center facility of Piedmont Natural Gas was just issued a “gold” rating from the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED rating system.

An especially difficult level to achieve, everything from the type of adhesive used to lay carpet to the preserved wetlands surrounding the property went into gaining certification for the Century City facility.

“LEED certification was a desirable thing for us, and we felt like it was really fit well with our culture and our product,” says David Trusty, managing director of public relations at Piedmont Natural Gas. “Natural gas is a very environmentally-friendly fuel and we thought this makes some sense.”

Piedmont already had some experience with LEED, as its Tarboro, N.C., center had previously received a “silver” rating. “When we made plans for the Nashville facility, we wanted to go a little bit higher,” Trusty says. “While it was finished in 2010, the planning and design was taking place as far back as 2008.”

The building has also won numerous design awards, including the Urban Land Institute’s Excellence in Development Award 2011, the 2011 Middle Tennessee Office Development of the Year Award from the Nashville chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and a McGraw-Hill Best of 2010 Award of Excellence for Architectural Design.

The roughly 50,000-square-foot building is a huge reduction in space over the previous 140,000-square-foot MetroCenter facility, an intentional decision to make the most of the space available. A five-acre wetland adjacent to the property was conserved during construction, complete with walking trails and observation decks are in the works.

Onsite bio-ponds help manage storm water runoff, with the assistance of resident beavers. A partial green roof helps reduce heat gain, making the mechanical systems run more efficiently. Also on the roof, 30-gallon cisterns collect rain for use in onsite irrigation, which Trusty estimates saves 700,000 gallons of domestic water each year.

“Along those lines, all of our plumbing fixtures are low flow to help conserve the use of water,” he says. A shade system around the building moves with the sun, controlling the amount of direct sun the building gets. “It provides for more constant, more consistent indoor air temperature and mechanical system efficiency. And when that shade is going up it gives you nice view out to the wetlands.”

If it sounds like a nice place to work, that was part of the point. Trusty believes work is greatly affected by environment, so the building is designed so all offices, including those on the interior, receive direct, natural sunlight. “We wanted the working environment for people to have as much natural light as possible while minimizing heat gain,” Trusty says.

Parking lot lights run on solar, a green cleaning service is employed and the recycled building materials were shipped from no further than 500 miles away. Automatic dimmers lower the LED lights, and the HVAC system monitors carbon monoxide levels. There is even a natural gas refilling station on site. And now, the building is going to be a blueprint for further building upgrades and construction in Piedmont’s future.

“Our desire is to be good stewards of the resources that are there for us and that includes economic resources and social resources,” Trusty says. “Piedmont’s view is that our country is going to need energy sources of all kinds. Natural gas isn’t going to be the only answer by any means. There is a role for renewable, a role for nuclear.

“But let’s not forget natural gas.”

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