Tennessee aquarium achieves LEED gold
Photo courtesy of Tennessee Aquarium
Inside the walls of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute’s freshwater field station, scientists are conducting vital research to better understand and protect the Southeast’s unparalleled diversity of aquatic life.
When it comes to achieving the institute’s conservation mission, however, people aren’t the only ones doing the heavy lifting. The building is an active participant, too.
From a rainwater catchment system to the use of native plants in its landscaping, the field station was designed to improve water quality in nearby wetlands and the Tennessee River and to emphasize energy-efficiency and a minimal environmental impact, reports The Chattanoogan.
Recently, the Aquarium received significant recognition of this design goal by receiving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification. The honor, conferred by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), highlights the institute’s role as “a showcase example of sustainability” and its “leadership in transforming the building industry,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, USGBC’s president and CEO.
LEED certification is a reflection of how fundamental the protection of freshwater is to the institute’s mission, said Dr. Anna George, the Aquarium’s vice president of conservation science and education.
“This certification symbolizes the important role we will continue to play in not only protecting our waterways right here in Chattanooga, but also helping others learn how to reduce the impact of new development on the natural world,” he said.
Even the ground upon which the facility was built contributes to the institute’s overarching mission of cleaner water and healthier aquatic ecosystems.
“Stockpiling and reusing site soil not only improved the health of the new native plants, it also greatly improved the site’s ability to absorb and store rainwater,” said Matt Whitaker of WMWA Landscape Architects, the landscape architect for the project. “Healthy soils have a tremendous water storage ability resulting in reduced runoff and less need for irrigation. When water is absorbed by soil, it isn’t causing erosion and sedimentation issues that would otherwise affect water quality in the Tennessee River. This had an added benefit of saving money for the Conservation Institute.”
Last April, the freshwater science center garnered four design accolades at the 2017 Building Recognition in Chattanooga (BRIC) Awards. The Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute project earned awards for: People’s Choice for Sustainable Project of the Year, People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice in Best Commercial Design, and the People’s Choice for Collaborative Building Team of the Year.
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