Earlier today, a dedication ceremony was held at the Southface Eco Office in Atlanta, Ga. The building achieved LEED Platinum certification, is EnergyStar rated, and is EarthCraft Light Commercial certified. Additionally, the building meets The 2030 Challenge guidelines. The 2030 Challenge was created to address the concern that commercial buildings are a major consumer of energy. The ultimate goal of the challenge is for new buildings and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030.

The Southface Eco Office was built to be an educational tool to showcase sustainable commercial building practices and products. Dennis Creech, Southface executive director, describes the building in more detail:

“As a result of generous donations to Southface from many manufacturers and service providers, the Eco Office is a virtual Noah’s Ark in that we have two different examples — and often more than two — of just about every building element including multiple flooring materials, lighting technologies, toilets, roofing materials, and more.”  Source: Southface Eco Office

Although performance data reporting has only recently been mandated by the USGBC, the owners of the Eco Office decided to make its real-time and historical performance data available online. The building’s electricity consumption, solar electricity production, water consumption, rainwater reuse, and graywater reuse data is all available through the Lucid Design Group’s Building Dashboard.

In order to achieve LEED Platinum certification, a plethora of green building and design features were used. The building uses a photovoltaic array that was salvaged from a gas station, has a 1,937 square foot green foot, a high performance lighting system, and a high-tech window glazing system to switch glass from clear to opaque to conserve energy while maintaining views.

Lord, Aeck & Sargent designed this cutting-edge green building. The architectural firm is one of the leading eco design firms in the nation and has been designing green buildings before the trend became so popular.

I’ve discussed Lord, Aeck & Sargent here on MNN before. The company designed the Harris A. Smith Building, a building on the campus of Clemson University that will likely become the school’s first LEED Gold certified building.

Meg Needle, also based out of the Atlanta Lord, Aeck & Sargent office, recently received the Green Roof Professional (GRP) accreditation. Needle was part of the first group of professionals to receive GRP accreditation from Green Roofs for Healthy Cities.

I had the opportunity to interview Jim Nicolow, AIA, LEED AP, the Director of Sustainability at Lord, Aeck & Sargent. One of my questions centered on the decision to make the building’s performance data available online. The performance data mandate in LEED v3 is a huge step for the USGBC. It is important to know that the green buildings these firms are designing and constructing can live up to the energy-efficient expectations. The decision to place Southface Eco Office’s performance data online, where everyone can access it, was a very forward-thinking move and one that I applaud.

Speaking on the importance of green building performance data, Nicolow said:

“The green building movement needs to move beyond intuition to validation. A necessity of high-performance design is the use of quantitative analysis to inform design decisions. We have developed in-house energy modeling and daylighting analysis capabilities to enable the energy implications of design decisions and alternatives to be assessed, and helping the design team to make research-based decisions and arrive at an optimal design. The industry is moving in this direction, but the next critical piece of information is performance data that will allow correlation of the quantitative analysis predictions with actual performance. We’re really excited about the opportunity to use this data from the Eco Office.“

Lord, Aeck & Sargent is already in the midst of its next large-scale, cutting edge green building. The firm is working with the University of Utah on the 200,000 square foot James L. Sorenson Molecular Biotechnology Building – A USTAR Innovation Center. The project should be completed in late 2011.

Photos © 2009 Jonathan Hillyer / Atlanta.

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