The color of change

In the 21st century, it's green - and more are warming to the benefits of environmentally friendly development



Some people lead by talking. Some by cheerleading. Some by cajoling.

Braye Boardman leads by example. And right now, he's leading the way toward "greener" buildings in Augusta.

Boardman and his brother Clay, local businessmen and philanthropists both, are in the vanguard of a new breed of developers here who believe that going green is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do.

One wonderful example is the old furniture building Braye is renovating into office and loft space at 1019 Broad St.

While Boardman explained to Chronicle editorial board members about environmentally friendly construction, he leaned back in one of several chairs made from recycled metal. The conference table in front of him was crafted from a diseased cypress tree removed from his yard. The ceiling is salvaged, antique pressed tin. His feet rested on flooring that's hypoallergenic, mold-resistant cork.

From reused materials from floor to ceiling to solar-powered hot water and a white pool liner for a roof, Boardman is showing how smart it is to be environmentally conscious in building and development.

He's having a ball doing it, too -- incorporating such things as an old airplane lavatory and a door hidden in a bookcase. But the point is quite serious: Green can make great business sense.

Others in town, such as ADP, are doing it too. But Boardman would love for the city to incorporate green technology and materials into its upcoming projects -- including the new sheriff's building and the trade, exhibit and event center. That goes for private projects such as the Hyatt hotel downtown and the vast new Kroc Center slated for the Harrisburg area.

In addition, Boardman suggests the city find ways to incentivize other private projects to go green.

Not only can such moves help the environment, but they can reduce utility costs and even reduce some construction costs -- resulting in an improved asset and a building that people prefer to work or do business in.

It can help the local economy, too: One of the principles of the LEED system for green buildings -- Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design -- is buying as many materials locally as possible, thereby reducing the energy "footprint" to get them there.

The overall LEED approach, developed and certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, leads to "energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts," the council says.

Not all public incentives for green buildings need to be monetary, Boardman notes, suggesting streamlined permitting processes or other carrots for builders and developers. It's often referred to as the "greening of the building codes."

Some savings from green practices can flow back to the city -- literally, such as when a project is smart enough to reduce the amount of storm water entering the city's water system.

The Boardman brothers, besides other restoration projects, are also completing a green renovation of the historic William Robinson School in the Summerville area into luxury condos. They expect the green techniques used there will reduce energy costs by 30 percent, as compared with similar facilities.

That's one reason Boardman says green buildings can increase lease and resale rates.

It's all part of what's called "sustainable" real estate development. The premise: If you re-purpose older buildings or build new ones that are more energy-efficient and less environmentally intrusive, socioeconomic windfalls will follow.

This concept has huge implications -- both on how our economy will improve and on how we live.

Venture capitalist John Doerr, who helped fund the startups for such giants as Google and Amazon, told CBS' 60 Minutes : "I like to say that the new energy technologies could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century."

At 1019 Broad St., the centuries are merging.

Six furniture stores have occupied the structure since around World War I -- starting with brothers Albert B. and George S. Culpepper, and ending with Donald Reynolds almost 10 years ago. Among the operators was Walter Green, who rebuilt the structure after a fire circa 1930, and whose name is still on the building.

Yet, in 2010, the name "green" on the facade has never been more apt.

May it serve as an example to all.