Old meets new: Jackson Street Building recognized as environmental leader

Written by: Laura James @laurajames225 for The Red and Black

The Jackson Street Building, home of the College of Environment and Design at the University of Georgia, became the first historic building on campus to receive LEED certification.

Originally built in 1962, the building became LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Gold-certified in the New Construction and Major Renovation category after undergoing renovations in 2012.

“I think achieving the Gold certification is essentially recognition of the good work that’s going on here,” said Alfred Vick, an associate professor in the College of Environment and Design and the Georgia Power Professor in Environmental Ethics. “The rating system is set up to verify and make accountable the claims of energy efficiency that we promote here. In some ways, we’re kind of able to walk the walk in addition to talk the talk.”

The U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization, grants LEED certification to building projects that meet standards of sustainability set by the organization as a third party verification system. LEED certification works on a points-based system that encourages sustainable efforts such as water conservation, waste reduction, lower operating costs and many other environmentally friendly features.

Some of the sustainable features of the Jackson Street Building include solar panels on the roof, a rainwater-harvesting system, a dashboard that tracts day-to-day energy and water usage of the building and a cooling system using chilled beams.

“The chilled beams was an experimental cooling system and a way to air condition the building using less energy, and I think we found that that as an experimental pilot proved to be really effective and something we’ll consider on future buildings,” said UGA Director of Sustainability Kevin Kirsche said.

Kirsche also said the Jackson Street Building being the first building on campus to use solar panels was “very innovative.”

“The way that we paid or funded those solar panels was actually student fees, student green fees,” he said. “And then found additional funding sources to cover the costs of installing those panels and implementing a building dashboard system where students could see in real time how much electricity the panels that they helped to pay for are generating, how much electricity the building is using overall, how much water the building is using and how much the rainwater harvesting system is capturing.”

Kale Hicks, a senior landscape architecture major from Canton, said he thinks the dashboard system is useful.

“One of my favorite features of the building is the interactive TV screen located in the main lobby,” Hicks said. “It collects usage data from the building that can be displayed to all those who pass it.”

The data displayed on the dashboard can also be found online.

Although Kirsche said many technologies of the Jackson Street Building make it sustainable, he said the most impressive aspect of the building is the fact it is more than 50 years old.

“There are many fantastic and excellent features that I think models for systems that we can install in other buildings on campus, but reusing the existing structure was really significant,” Kirsche said. “We preserved the architectural character, and we also minimized waste.”

The Jackson Street Building originally opened as the School of Art. People often referred to the building as “The Ice Plant” since it had a stark white exterior compared to the rest of the buildings on North Campus. Some also referred to the building as “Dodd’s Folly” since Lamar Dodd, the dean of the art school at the time, had approved the building’s design despite its unpopularity among most people, according to a UGA Today press release.

Although the building’s design was not necessarily popular at the time of its original construction, Vick said one of the building’s greatest modern features is the restoration of the original, mid-century modern design.

“I think one thing that stands out about the Jackson Street Building is simply the architectural style of it,” Vick said. “I think the fact that it’s an old building that has been renovated; you really get a nice juxtaposition of cool, new technology with the historic character.”

Vick teaches multiple classes in the Jackson Street Building, including a green building class called “Issues and Practices in Sustainable Design” that helps prepare students for the LEED green associate exam, which allows them to become a LEED-accredited professional.

Vick said hundreds of students from UGA’s College of Environment and Design have taken and passed the LEED green associate exam while still in school.

“I think it’s only fitting that the building housing future green professionals majoring in landscape architecture at UGA’s College of Environment and Design would be green itself,” Hicks said. “Most of the students will likely become LEED-certified during their career. It’s a great way to set an example early on.”