Alabama Law Firm Goes “Green” with New Building
By Martin Swant, The Associated Press
(Reprinted in part from the February 24, 2011 edition of
The Montgomery Advertiser)

The law firm of Estes, Sanders & Williams isn't trying to be responsible to just Alabama statutes, but also to the environment.

Jamie Sanders
, one of the firm's founding members, along with Timothy Estes and Matthew Williams, wanted to keep land around their $1.9 million environmentally sustainable office as natural as possible.

The right thing to do
"I wouldn't tell you that any of us are like Greenpeace, but we like the outdoors," Sanders said.

The firm's new home has several green features, including a solar water-heating system and a roof system that reflects more heat than it absorbs.

Builder Robbie Cather, project manager at Stewart Perry Construction, said one of the most distinct characteristics of the project is the parking lot. The lot's six-inch-thick material allows rainwater to drain right through hundreds of tons of crushed concrete recycled from a previous project. The water filters through the rocks and slowly back into the soil.

"It kind of looks like a Rice Krispie treat," Cather said of the rocks.

Sanders said that while the project was built in a way that could get Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Building Council, that's not a top priority. LEED certification is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings.

"We weren't doing it to have a certificate," he said. "We were doing it because we thought it was the right thing to do."

One of several in the area

"Renewable energy in Alabama is a really hard sell," Cather said.

Part of the slow growth was because the state doesn't have the plethora of unclouded days needed by solar panels or the powerful winds needed to sustain wind generators. Another factor is informing people about the economic and environmental benefits of environmentally sustainable construction projects.

Yet, since 2008, there's been an increase in green building projects in Alabama, said Robin White, former chair of the U.S. Green Building Council's Alabama chapter.

White said the trend has become popular enough that the building council has created four chapters in the state to delegate volunteers in different regions. Those volunteers help train and educate about the benefits of LEED-certified buildings.

Helping the environment, the economy and the bottom line
Since the firm moved into its new Vestavia Hills office a little over two months ago, Sanders and his staff already notice the difference some of the features make, such the relaxing feel of natural lighting, he said.

Now, instead of just having space in a large traditional office complex, the firm's workers have their own building which Sanders describes as much having a much "homier" feel.

"That's kind of one of those things you don't even realize," Sanders said. "Then all of a sudden you're talking one day and say, 'Golly, this feels different.'"


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