Back in 1995, I obtained my CDT [Construction Documents Technologist certification] when I was working at an architecture firm in Ohio that focused on designing retail facilities like malls and car dealerships. Since the job required a lot of overtime and weekends, I started looking into another career and called Southern Adventist University (SAU). The only opening at the university was for an architect with AutoCAD experience—the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

When LEED reached the Chattanooga area back around 2000, I thought it was a fad. But it really grabbed a hold down here, and the city has run with it. The riverfront development seems to be aiming toward LEED, and Chattanooga’s Volkswagen factory is the only automotive manufacturing facility with a LEED Platinum certification in the world. So there’s really a domino effect going on here.

Most recently, since the SAU president decided on creating a more sustainable campus, he encouraged me to pursue my LEED AP BD+C certification, which I received in June 2012. All of Tennessee is going this way, so I decided to jump aboard the bandwagon. Hopefully, I will soon be able to utilize my LEED AP credentials as the campus continues to incorporate sustainable energy and building practices.

About: Fred Turner, AIA, CDT, LEED AP BD+C, is the corporate architect at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee, where he has worked since 1996. Turner strives to create intuitive designs that allow newcomers to guide themselves simply and smoothly through the building. His position gives him a channel to protect the campus’s natural environment, maintain fresh air, conserve water, save energy, and use materials and resources in a responsible way. His main hope is to contribute whatever he can toward “this gift of God’s world.”

Five years ago, when the university announced its intention to create a more eco-friendly campus, the costs of alternative construction were very high. The investments required kept administrators and many local contractors apprehensive of new green ideas. However, as sustainable design became more commonplace, a change in attitude could be seen both in consumers and on campuses like ours. As technology has improved, costs continue to drop, so the return on investment is greater than ever.

One of the first steps we took was to change T12 fluorescent lights to T8s. And in the last couple of years, we’ve been trying to move toward high-efficiency fluorescents and LEDs. But not all of our projects are on that small of a scale. In March 2012, we installed 832 solar panels on a warehouse roof, which is one of the largest solar panel arrays in the Chattanooga area.

Right now, we’re wrapping up the renovation of the presidential wing of our primary administrative building, and we’ve been able to integrate a ceiling-mounted VRF [variable refrigerant flow] HVAC system. Compared to PTAC units, this system saves much more energy and does a better job of circulating air.

“When LEED reached the Chattanooga area, I thought it was a fad. But it really grabbed a hold. There’s a domino effect going on here.”

During additional efforts to implement sustainable features, we have come across certain challenges. We tried to create a geothermal exchange, but when we drilled down, we hit a lot of cavities in the bedrock and realized it wasn’t feasible to continue. Another example is that right now we are talking to the landscape department about the possibility of harvesting rainwater from roofs for irrigation; however, maintenance and logistical questions are slowing that conversation.

With record enrollment, classroom space is at a premium. A lot of professors say we need more buildings, but actually, we are simply under-utilizing existing space. We can definitely save on energy and cost of new construction if we reassess our current spaces, which is why we’ve hired a consulting firm to help us with this analysis.