Located in Savannah, GA, the Whitaker Building possesses a storied past. The facility was constructed between 1890-1892 following a devastating fire that destroyed the previous structures on the block. At that time, the Whitaker Building had four commercial storefronts and four residential units on the second story. The first occupants included a bicycle shop, music and shoe stores, and a tailor.

Since opening in the 1890s, Whitaker has undergone a series of remodeling efforts from several owners, the culmination of which has left the building bearing little resemblance to its original design. In 1999, Melaver, Inc. purchased the 10,000-sq-ft building, with plans of returning it to its original stature while simultaneously creating a modern, energy-efficient facility following the USGBC LEED™ program.

Obstacles Along The Way

At times, it was challenging to balance the National Park Service's requirements of preserving a historical structure with those of creating an environmentally sound building according to LEED standards. "It was a great experience installing the Whitaker Street project HVAC systems, but we had small obstacles along the way, which happens when restoring historic buildings," said Michael Lemack, president of Air Services & Refrigeration Specialties, Inc.

"For example, after we received the building plans from the mechanical engineers, we had to modify the HVAC systems to fit the actual space requirements. And when making paths to run refrigerant piping in the three-story building, we had to drill through two-foot thick masonry walls and still keep the integrity of the building. However, we managed to get past these hurdles and provide a first class tenant environment," said Lemack.

"We did so in part by installing programmable Carrier thermidistats to sense temperature and humidity in a given area. These systems help Melaver meet or exceed indoor air quality requirements in the Whitaker Building by monitoring temperature and humidity in each conditioned space and providing balanced, fresh air to every system to ensure occupant comfort."

High-Efficiency Keys

High-efficiency HVAC systems were installed. "We selected Carrier High Efficiency Puron Pumps because they save energy and are ozone-friendly, refrigerant-bearing HVAC equipment," said Lemack. "Melaver went above and beyond to put in these pumps. They are much more expensive to install than conventional units, but they meet LEED requirements, exceed EPA guidelines, and keep tenants' utility costs down."

High-efficiency lighting was used throughout the building. These fixtures consume less energy and produce less heat, which reduces the amount of cooling required in warm weather.

Several items original to the Whitaker building were reused, including bead-board and tin ceilings, brick pavers, and interior wood trim. Where possible, the historic windows within the structure remained intact. However, to meet LEED standards, the storefront glass was coated with a film that lowers energy usage by blocking the transmission of heat and harmful UV rays into the building.

Melaver applied for LEED certification in fall 2003 and expects to receive it by the end of 2004. Once approved, Whitaker will be the first historic building in the South and one of only a few historic facilities nationwide to receive the prestigious LEED designation. Melaver also anticipates the structure's induction into the U.S. Department of Interior's National Registry of Historic Places.

‘LEEDing' The South

By using LEED guidelines, Melaver salvaged an existing building on the verge of collapse and rehabilitated it to its original design. The firm created a high performance, environmentally friendly, healthy place to work while preserving history and today's natural resources. Additionally, the contractor, suppliers, and other vendors became intimately involved with LEED and other USGBC principles.

"From the onset of this project, we were committed to restoring Whitaker pursuant to the National Park Service's guidelines as well as to creating a modern, sustainable building," said Robb Stanley, chief counsel for Melaver. "Our efforts led to a historically accurate structure that we believe will be 15% to 18% more energy efficient than a new facility built to today's standards. That's amazing when you consider that most historic structures do not even meet current building standards because of their age."

Whitaker has won the Historic Preservation Award from the Historic Savannah Foundation and the 2004 Preservation Award for Excellence in Rehabilitation from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. Further evidence of success can be seen in tenant interest; Whitaker already has four occupants.ES