Breaking Ground’s Building Now a Jacksonville Example of Green Construction
Florida Times Union, April 26, 2011
Remodeled Highway Avenue building is to be a learning lab for sustainable construction.
By Kevin Turner
For Mary Tappouni and the employees of Breaking Ground Contracting Co. a remodeling has transformed the company’s headquarters into a dream — a showcase of green construction.
On Monday, the centerpiece of the remodeling went into place in the form of 51 solar panels and a rooftop garden that will be watered only by rain and condensation from the building’s air conditioning units. The building, at 4218 Highway Ave., will be Northeast Florida’s only commercial business topped by solar panels and a rooftop garden, Tappouni said. She and her staff plan to move back into their newly-reinvented workplace on Friday.
“We call it a learning lab for the community,” said Catherine Burkee, Breaking Ground director of educational services. “We hope to reach out to children and educators.”
Lessons in biodiversity and habitat can be taught there, Burkee said. The site also will be a place where members of the construction industry can get green building training and actually see what some of those methods look like in place. Visitors and students can ascend a spiral staircase and see the showcase area from a platform constructed near the roof.
The array of solar panels, which were being installed Tuesday by Jacksonville-based SunWorks Solar Systems Inc., will produce 10 kilowatts of electricity, estimated to reduce the business’ electric bills by about 40 percent, Tappouni said. The panels cost $80,000, but the net cost to the business will be $25,000 due to incentives. And within five years, that is expected to be offset in cost savings, she said.
At the other end of the roof is a 1,200-square-foot vegetated area, which will host 100 species of plants include tomatoes, rosemary, mint, grasses and a variety of native plants, said Kevin Songer, green roof designer with Jacksonville-based Metro Verde, a company that specializes in rooftop horticulture.
Tappouni said she’s excited that the project that she and her staff of six have dreamed about for years is now 95 percent complete. “We decided to go with as many strategies as possible,” she said.
Other green construction elements include thick windows to keep the building cool, insulated and secure.
Lights and temperature control are customized for each office space by individual workers, and lights go on when a person walks in a room and off when they leave. Interior walls have no light switches, Tappouni said. There will be a cistern for roof drainage and lattices of chain link that will allow vines to cover them, creating “living walls,” she said.
Breaking Ground does general contracting, sustainable construction, design/build services, construction management, workplace safety training and green construction education.