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Changes make sense, cents
Facilities looking to go 'green'
Mallory Peuquet, 4, listens to a story during the Pack a Picnic storytime Tuesday at the Cumming Library. The library system recently received a grant to upgrade the Cumming branch's lighting. The new, energy-efficient lighting could be installed by the end of the year. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Some climate change is taking place in Forsyth County.

Between cost reductions and potential federal incentives, several public buildings are going “green.”

Close monitoring of thermostats in the county’s fire stations and new lighting in libraries could be just the beginning.

“You do it because the cost of energy is becoming higher and higher, and it’s just the right thing to do to save taxpayer dollars,” said Cumming City Administrator Gerald Blackburn of the environmentally friendly changes.

“It usually cuts down on your maintenance costs, because if you’re installing cost-saving or low-wattage ... the product itself almost always has a longer life span than higher wattage or higher need product.”

The city’s newest project, a $15 million aquatic center, will have several low-energy components, Blackburn said.

While not all the contracts have been inked, the center and a neighboring Department of Driver Services facility likely both will feature energy-efficient lighting, heating and air conditioning.

“It does cost a little bit more money up front,” Blackburn said. “But the long-range savings on it is worth the investment.”

The county’s Hampton Park Library, which opened in March, has some environmentally friendly features.

There’s energy-efficient lighting, flooring made from recycled materials and an “overhang on the building to give shade,” said Jon McDaniel, director of libraries.

“That’s just common sense,” he said.

The Forsyth County Fire Department has also made some adjustments, said Capt. Jason Shivers. Small changes include waterless urinals and energy-efficient lighting in some stations, he said.

“All of our facilities have clearly marked placards near all the thermostats denoting the appropriate temperature to have it set at for both winter and summer months,” he said. “It’s a simple matter of us policing ourselves to ensure we are being good stewards of funding available to us.”

When it comes time to design the county’s future replacement of Fire Station 3, Shivers said, there are discussions that “it could be a LEED-certified building.”

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a building certification program, serving as a benchmark to encourage and accelerate green projects.

Along with the fire station, McDaniel said the county’s fourth library branch, slated for Post Road, could also be the first in the county to go for LEED certification.

“We’re going to at least try to go for LEED certification,” he said. “We would try to use as many energy-saving functions and cost-saving functions as we can.”

McDaniel said the Post Road Library could have windows designed to reflect sunlight into the library, cutting down on artificial lighting during the day. The facility could also store gray water and have porous pavement in the parking lots to collect water.

“There’s lots of things out there that can be energy-saving functions,” he said. “They’ve now had enough experience with green products that we’re not going to be the guinea pig.”

Future construction for the city hinges on funding, Blackburn said. But once the city completes its aquatic center and other Pilgrim Mill Road projects, efficiency will be at the forefront of the design phase.

“It’s whether or not you can afford it,” he said. “One of our major concerns is how we’re going to finance the upkeep and the life of a project.

“Construction is always an exciting thing, and if there are things you can do to lower costs that’s more efficient, that’s what we’re going to do.”