Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute Headquarters Receives LEED Gold Certification

Friday, February 9, 2018 - by Thom Benson

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.

Recently, the Aquarium received significant recognition of this design goal by receiving Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification. This 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,” according to Mahesh Ramanujam, USGBC’s President and CEO.

“Genuine environmental stewardship in construction requires a passionate team and a thorough evaluation of every system, material, mean and method. LEED provides an effective framework for this holistic investigation, allowing the team to weigh the impact of even seemingly small decisions,” says the building architect, Matt Brown with Franklin Architects. “Every drop of water, watt of electricity and breath of air was considered during the design of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, and the results are evident in the completed building.”

LEED certification is a reflection of how fundamental the protection of freshwater is to the institute’s mission, says Dr. Anna George, the Aquarium’s vice president of conservation science and education.

“When it opened in 2016, this building represented a new chapter in the story of the Tennessee Aquarium and in our effort to improve the health of our rivers and streams,” Dr. George says. “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.”

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,” says 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.”

At the grand opening of the field station in November 2016, Dr. George expressed her desire for the building to “establish Chattanooga as the United States’ capital for river conservation.”

In its first full year of operation, the new facility helped the conservation team take great strides toward this goal by serving as the hosts for the annual meeting of the Southeastern Fishes Council, offering a weeklong intensive education workshop targeting regional science teachers, and hosting A Watershed Moment, the Thrive Regional Partnership’s launch event for a regional vision and plan for protecting the natural treasures in the 16-counties surrounding Chattanooga.

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.

“It was an honor to help bring this amazing facility to the Southeast,” said Clint Dean, executive vice president of EMJ Construction, as he accepted the award. “Thank you to all of our partners on this project and to the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute for allowing us to be a part of it. ”

The public can gain greater insight into the work and mission of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute through monthly tours. During these guided events, visitors can explore the building’s advanced propagation facility and research labs and interact with its staff of conservation scientists.

The next tours will take place 4-5 p.m. on Feb. 20 and Mar. 20. Registration is $6 for students, $10 for Aquarium members and $15 for non-members and can be completed online at http://www.tnaqua.org/events-programs

Take a virtual tour of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute on Google Maps: http://bit.ly/2FH2rSm

Hear from the EMJ project team as they became fully immersed in freshwater conservation: https://vimeo.com/248143699  



This Week's Tennessee Tourism Round Up

Whether it’s chocolate, cheese, wine, theatre, science experiments, waterfall tour by lantern or dining with dinosaurs, there’s something unique for everyone to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Here’s what’s going on across Tennessee this week. For a complete list, visit  tnvacation.com/calendar . Ongoing  Johnson City –  You’re in for fun experiments to ... (click for more)

Architectural Tour Of Hancock Park Area Of Los Angeles

If you ask most residents of central Los Angeles, they won’t be able to tell you exactly where Hancock Park is: “Near Koreatown, I think” or “probably south of Wilshire.” The core area is mostly residential and there aren’t many reasons for outsiders to go deep into the neighborhoods, which is a relief to those who live there, as L.A. keeps setting new visitor records (48.3 million ... (click for more)

1 Dead, Another Injured In Shooting On Carousel Road

One man was shot and killed and another man injured in a shooting on Carousel Road lateTuesday afternoon. The incident happened around 5:25 p.m. One man was dead at the scene, and the other was taken to a hospital. Carousal Road is off Greenwood Road in a neighborhood behind Taylor Funeral Home on Wilcox Boulevard. (click for more)

City Council Approves TIF For Extension Of MLK Boulevard To The Riverwalk

The City Council voted Tuesday to approve Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to extend MLK Boulevard across Riverfront Parkway to the Blue Goose Hollow Trailhead at the Riverwalk. The agreement is with Evergreen Real Estate of Nashville to build the extension across property it has already begun to develop at the site across from the old Newton Chevrolet and Kelly Subaru. The developer ... (click for more)

MLK Boulevard TIF Is A Public Scam From People You Should be Able To Trust

TIFs (Tax Incremental Financing) were created to allow cities to do projects they cannot afford.  A TIF project also allows various private construction costs to be subsidized by sequestered  future  property taxes that normally would go into the general fund for running a city. It’s credit card spending with a new fancy name. Politicians love it because it sounds ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Want To Buy An AK-47?

On Sunday night I got an email from a reader who I enjoy that read, “How about, ‘Don’t sell assault weapons to 18-year-olds.’ The blood is on your hands (and all the other gun and violence idolaters)!” While I beg to disagree with him, this is a nation where – right now, this minute -- there are an estimated ONE TRILLION rounds of ammunition and over 300 million firearms. I can ... (click for more)