Eco-friendly design fills research station

NEW ELLENTON --- Outside, there is no sod to water -- and no droning air conditioner.


Inside, the tranquil hallways are dim, and most lighting comes from angled, tinted windows.

The unusual building, which houses the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Research Station, is a lesson on how to protect the environment.

"In a lot of ways it looks like a regular building," said Mark McDonough, the engineer who managed the 4,256-square-foot lab's design and construction.

The objective, he said, was to develop a "green" facility that can still house important research projects carried out at Savannah River Site by the Savannah River Forestry Sciences Laboratory.

With features that include geothermal heating and cooling and the use of recycled materials, it was awarded certification as a LEED building -- a U.S. Green Council acronym that stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design.

Builders installed eight wells -- each more than 200 feet deep -- to feed a recirculating air and heating system that functions much like a typical automobile radiator, he said.

"We also used low emissivity windows, which are double-pane, insulated glass," Mr. McDonough said.

The new building, which cost $1.1 million, is expected to use less electricity and water and have less impact on the environment than traditional buildings.

"The entire LEED process may have added 10 to 15 percent to the construction costs, but there is a definite payback period in energy savings," he said. "There are also some hard to measure factors, such as employee productivity from natural lighting and better air quality."

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Key features of the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station:

- 33 percent more energy efficient than a standard building

- Geothermal heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system

- Highly efficient light fixtures and windows to reduce energy use

- Site design that minimizes storm water runoff and improves discharged water quality

- Minimal site disturbance and clearing of land during building construction