LEED Certification: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design
April 1, 2010
The Bank of Tuscaloosa Plaza is the first LEED certified building in West Alabama. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a set of voluntary guidelines of the nonprofit U.S. Green Building Council. The program uses a system that awards points for efficient energy use, water conservation and use of environmentally friendly and locally produced construction materials.
Several energy-saving features of the office building are designed to block heat from the sun. The plaza is equipped with a Thermoplastic Olefin roofing system with a top layer of reflective white material, which minimizes heat absorption during summer and heat escape in wintertime. The building also incorporated a flat solar shade which extends 20 feet from the southern side and 30 feet from the western side of the building. The floor-to-ceiling glass windows are made with Low-E glass technology with spandrel, which better insulates the structure while illuminating the offices with natural light.
Lighting fixtures, consisting of mostly fluorescent bulbs, use an automated control system that eliminates wasted electricity. The high-efficiency air-conditioning system is equipped with sensors that measure exterior and interior carbon dioxide levels and adjust the temperature automatically. The building’s low-flow toilets, with a modified gravitational pull, use less water per flush. The sinks and showers also use less water.
The landscaping features more than 30,000 native trees and plants such as red cedars, willow oaks, big blue liripes, red buds, and jasmine. The drip irrigation system is more efficient than a sprinkler system, as it reduces runoff and evaporation and applies the water directly to the root zone. The parking lot of the property also conforms to LEED standards, with its vortex storm drain system. The system uses centrifugal force to push debris and oil to the sides, and the waste stays in the vortex until it is removed with a vacuum system.
General environmentally-friendly aspects of the building support its LEED certification as well. There are showers on each floor and bike racks to encourage a green commute. There are also recycling bins on each floor and in the parking deck. Measures were taken to reduce outdoor light pollution, unused sky-glow and glare, which can have an effect on the habitat of the surrounding area and the overall visibility of the night sky. Outdoor lighting is dark-light compliant, with light shining down into the parking lot instead of upward. Addressing spacial concerns, the system incorporates tighter lighting targets and low-wattage lights.
LEED points were also awarded for using locally produced building materials, such as concrete, steel and glass. Wood used in the construction is under a responsible forest management system.