Rural Areas are Slow to Adopt Green Building Practices

Author’s Note: While I usually report on green building developments in the Pacific Northwest, today I am examining green building trends in my own geographic region, Southeast Ohio. The architect for the LEED project discussed below is my husband, Don Dispenza.

Nationwide, there are currently more than 12,000 building projects pursuing LEED certification. But in economically depressed regions, there are still only a handful. For example, in Southeast Ohio, defined as an eight-county region in the Appalachian foothills, there are only two registered projects on the USGBC website. In areas such as this, which have a minimal amount of new construction overall, increasing a project’s cost by building green is rarely considered.

An exception is the Chamberlain Office Building in Athens, Ohio. The building’s owner, Russell Chamberlain, is a local real estate agent whose desire to build green stems from his own personal value system, and also from the belief that that investing in LEED certification will differentiate his company as being a progressive one. The project is expected to achieve a LEED Silver rating.

One thing that made certification of this project a challenge is the fact that it is only a 3,000 sq. ft. structure.

“Doing a small LEED commercial project is more difficult than doing a large one, because there is no volume discount,” says project architect Donald Dispenza, LEEDap, of Panich, Noel, and Associates.

The building is expected to earn points in all six LEED NC 2.2 categories, but the designers concentrated most heavily on Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, and Materials & Resources.  The new office is situated on a previously developed site, and to improve stormwater management, an existing parking lot was replaced with a pervious paved plaza. The architects followed a prescriptive path to achieve energy savings, eliminating the need to spend money on energy modeling. The designers also tried to use local resources as much as possible, but according to Teny Bannick, LEEDap, also with Panich, Noel and Associates, the remoteness of the geographic region again created an obstacle. “It is harder to source things here. Small local or regional manufacturers aren’t as likely to track their products for such things as recycled content, toxicity, and renewability. That makes it difficult to fulfill the documentation requirements for LEED regardless of the size of the project.”

Images Courtesy of Panich, Noel and Associates

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