The latest news in the Green Building Movement is the introduction of the EarthCraft Light Commercial regional green building certification program to Virginia. This rating system is designed for new or renovated commercial buildings that are 15,000 square feet or less. The EarthCraft brand is familiar to those living in Virginia due to the popularity of the single family and multi-family rating systems that have been in the state for a number of years. This new program, EarthCraft Light Commercial, expands the EarthCraft opportunity for small-scale or light commercial buildings to have a more affordable third-party recognition of sustainable design and construction practices.
While the EarthCraft Light Commercial program pilot phase is being orchestrated out of the Southface Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, the program has come to Virginia. Triple C Camp’s “Nest” in southern Albemarle County has achieved EarthCraft Light Commercial Building Certification, the first building to do so outside the state of Georgia. Triple C Camp has long been dedicated to teaching kids, adults, corporate groups, and community groups the value of living in harmony with nature. The construction of the new “Nest” gives a physical center for this environmental outreach effort. The “Nest” is an exhibit for green building and a functional learning space for those attending camp. Designed by The Gaines Group, PLC, an architectural firm named “best green designers” in 2008, this building incorporates energy efficient building envelope and systems, durable long lasting materials that don’t off-gas hazardous chemicals, water conserving fixtures, ecologically sensitive site work, construction waste diversion from the landfill, and resource efficient design and building elements. Most important to any building owner, the design of efficient systems used in this project will save money. As camp director “H” says, “We are simply doing it right, to show the kids how it can be done, so they can teach their parents.” The Nest features a long list of sustainable design strategies including a tree preservation plan, diversion of 95% of the construction waste from the landfill, high efficiency windows and doors, tight envelope, high performance HVAC system, no and low VOC glues, paints, caulks, and sealants, appropriate shading, dehumidification system, and efficient plumbing fixtures.
Among the many benefits of EarthCraft Light Commercial certification are: third-party evaluation and technical guidance, an expedited documentation process (less paperwork and more in-field documentation), full project administration from registration until final certification, and better overall building performance, including:
- An integrated systems approach
- Environmentally conscious design and construction applications
- Efficient use of natural resources: water, energy, and building materials
- Potential utility cost savings, due to reduction in demand for water / energy
- Improved indoor air quality and a comfortable working environment
- Tighter building envelope and ductwork (as confirmed through on-site inspections and performance testing)
The EarthCraft Light Commercial program has been in Pilot Phase development for several years and has awarded certification to 7 of its 11 pilot participants. The program, based on the EarthCraft House residential program, which has certified close to 10,000 single and multifamily homes in the Southeast, was developed by Southface. This program offers another option for buildings looking at LEED NC certification or Green Globes certification. Similar to the EarthCraft Homes program, the Light Commercial program offers an intensive level of support during the design and construction process, focusing on the energy and water efficient design strategies specific to smaller commercial buildings, as well as prescriptive measures that enhance builder education on sustainable construction practices. This program is particularly well suited to office buildings, retail showrooms, community centers, club houses, churches, and other commercial building projects 15,000 square feet of less.
The architectural firm for this project, The Gaines Group, PLC is no stranger to firsts in the green movement. They also designed the first LEED certified project in Central Virginia, the 10th LEED for Homes certified project in the country, the first Net-Zero home in Central Virginia, the first LEED NC Industrial project in Central Virginia, and one of the first six EarthCraft Homes in Virginia. The Gaines Group has a comprehensive Environmental Stewardship outreach program where they engage not only clients, but also the community through teaching green design and construction courses, providing pro-bono lectures to community groups and schools, and offering pro-bono green consulting for select non-profits. Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, the firm also has a Harrisonburg, Virginia office.