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Bank built 'green' from ground up

Story originally published by the Commercial Appeal

The place where some folks keep their green has gone green.

When a visitor walks into the light and airy new Independent Bank branch in Germantown, the air smells, well, clean. Not new-car smell clean, but fresh.

"You don't want the new car smell," explained architect Jason Weeks. Having such an odor, he said, means the building's carpets, paints, coating, adhesives and sealants are emitting harmful gases.

Since Looney Ricks Kiss Architects, Inc. started the project in 2003, every aspect of the design, construction and furnishings has been focused on getting the Germantown branch certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

"Anybody can say I have a green building, but you have to apply for the designation," Weeks said.

By January, LRK should know if the bank, located on the site of a former gas station, has earned the council's silver level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. The new branch opened Nov. 17.

If it does, it will be the first newly constructed LEED-certified building in Memphis and Shelby County. The bank cost about $1.3 million. Located on the busy corner of Poplar and Germantown Road at 7635 Poplar, the predominantly glass and steel structure has about 2,500 square feet of space with a 24-foot white-colored slanted roof top.

Before construction started, workers removed and recycled three old steel underground storage tanks. Even now, the brownfield, as it is called, has a monitoring and filtering system to help clean the contaminated soil.

Everything -- from the reflective roof that reduces heat absorption to the recycled materials used in the terrazzo flooring and the low-flow toilets -- is aimed with energy efficiency in mind.

Besides turning a site that had been an environmental hazard into one that is ecologically friendly, co-chairman and bank president Susan Stephenson said, "We believe it can repay us in dividends by saving us on energy costs over time and by attracting people who share our values."

Among cities with buildings designed to be "green," Weeks admitted, "Memphis is way behind the curve."

In other locales, it is becoming a necessity to save energy.

While Weeks acknowledged that the up-front costs often are more expensive, he said the branch is expected to reduce its energy consumption by more than 20 percent annually. Grinder, Taber & Grinder, Inc. constructed the building.

One thing that Germantown Economic Development director Jerry Cook likes is how construction workers limited materials that went to the landfill. Instead of a single Dumpster, the site had five. Workers separated plastic, metal, cardboard and concrete. Only one Dumpster was earmarked for the landfill. Workers recycled about 75 percent of the demolition and new construction waste.

Soon, the bank will be putting the finishing touches on keeping the building green. Said Weeks, "We'll be hiring a green cleaning crew" that won't be using chemicals harmful to the environment.