This article was originally published on TimesFreePress.com.
When the late Jim Berry bought the 17-story Chestnut Tower next to his own Republic Centre in 2009, he quickly realized what was then a largely vacant building would need to be revamped to be successful.
So after paying $4 million to Franklin Haney, the original developer of the office tower, Berry proceeded to spend another $20 million to revamp and upgrade the Chestnut Street office complex with a new shell, windows, heating and air conditioning equipment, and a signature facade and first floor lobby highlighting the new name for the structure — Liberty Tower.
The changes were more than cosmetic. They were done with the environment in mind and helped the remodeling project achieve the Gold standard for LEED (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design) — the largest such refurbished office building to gain that distinction in Tennessee by the U.S. Green Council.
At the same time, the biggest tenant in the Liberty Tower — the Chambliss law firm — also earned the Gold LEED certification — the first law firm to do so in Tennessee.
Liberty Tower received its certification for its core and shell development in December 2014, and Chambliss’ office space was certified for its commercial interiors in March 2015. The downtown office is the only project to achieve dual LEED certification in Chattanooga.
The shell and all of the windows in Chattanooga’s second tallest building were replaced and the old materials recycled as part of the green initiative.
Steve Hunt, a partner with Berry who has leased just over half of the 214,000-square-foot Liberty Tower so far, said the building was designed to allow more natural lighting, to use more energy efficient heating, cooling and lighting equipment and to employ low-flow toilets and low-water-use appliances. Tenants also share common spaces on the third floor to allow tenants to have temporary meeting space when needed but smaller footprints for each business office.
“It may sound counterintuitive to find ways for tenants to use less space, but we recognize that many tenants only need open or major meeting space some of the time and it just makes more sense to provide those meeting spaces on a shared basis for the entire building,” Hunt said.
Liberty Tower also offers a shared break room, bike racks and showers to help accommodate those who bicycle to work or exercise during the day.
“It’s a gratifying moment when you see hard work and dedication create a gorgeous structure that both meets the needs of our tenants as well as encourages green living,” Hunt said. “Environmental consciousness is at the heart of Chattanooga, and we are thrilled to contribute to the green efforts our city champions.”
The LEED rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the most popular green building rating system for sustainability in building design and construction. LEED certification helps verify that a business has optimal environmental and health-centered designs.
Dana Perry, managing partner of Chambliss at the time, said the law firm became intrigued with gaining LEED certification after BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee gained the Gold-level certification for its $300 million corporate campus atop Cameron Hill — the biggest office in the state to do so — and Volkswagen became the first automotive factory to gain platinum LEED certification.
“Those projects really impressed me, and we knew when we were relocating our offices that we wanted to project an efficient, forward-thinking firm,” Perry said. “The goal of LEED is to run efficiently, and I think our clients want to see us run a lean operation.”
Throughout Chambliss’ offices, motion sensor lighting controls improve energy efficiency and reduce the cooling load on the building’s mechanical system. Glass interior walls reduce the need for interior lighting by making optimum use of daylight. The office relies heavily on Energy Star rated products and green power. Chambliss selected paints, wallpaper adhesives and carpet tiles that are low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which contribute to smog and air pollution.
To help decorate the walls of the four stories of Chambliss offices, the law firm works with artist Gail Rich to display a variety of art work by local artists on a rotating basis.
“This sends a great signal that we are supporting the local arts scene and with new art switching out regularly, we’ve had very positive reaction from our employees and clients,” Perry said.