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Chattanooga’s gone green: Three take-aways

Published on 18 Aug 2015Written by Julie TaylorPosted in Advocacy and policy

Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and green|spaces released a regional sustainability website highlighting best practices in the region. It includes an action-packed timeline that tells the green side of the fabled revival story of this Southeastern Tennessee city. As you probably know, there hasn’t always been a lot of green to boast about.

Between the golden ages of the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and the crowning of Outdoor Magazine’s Best Town Ever, there was a time when Chattanooga was solely known to the majority of the nation as the Dirtiest City in America (thank you, Mr. Cronkite). But what can we take away from such progress? Looking back 40 years to the beginning of the city’s Cinderella story, what are the key factors that enabled such a transformation and—more importantly—that maintain the sustainability momentum?

Chattanooga in the 1960’s (Courtesy of Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau)

  1. Successful urban development prioritizes conservation.

Chattanooga’s urban redevelopment, like that of many other American cities, required careful management of sometimes opposing forces—balancing growth with density and conservation with development. A city-sponsored, volunteer-driven effort in the 80’s named Venture Chattanooga became the vehicle that channeled this thinking into the development of the downtown revitalization plan, named Vision 2000. Throughout a series of public meetings in 1983, 1,700 Chattanoogans met over a 20-week period to come up with projects for the city to undertake.

  1. Green building leadership opens doors for new industry opportunity.

Chattanooga is home to Tennessee’s first LEED Platinum certification, which came on Main Street in November of 2009. The building hosts green|spaces, a program of the Lyndhurst Foundation designed to provide both technical and financial assistance to projects in their pursuit of green building practices.  Green building offered a more holistic view of city design that created space for creativity in how the city might reimagine its built environment.

An initial goal of the green|spaces program was to certify 20 projects in the area. Today, 41 LEED-certified buildings stand proud throughout the Chattanooga

  1. Watts don’t slash themselves. Empower neighbors and leaders for best results.

With some of the lowest electrical rates in the country, the economics for efficiency in Chattanooga may not be as strong as they are in other places. But there’s more to the value proposition for sustainability than electricity savings alone.

And it’s not just residents that are saving energy. The city is doing it at scale through its municipal utility’s commitment to PEER an adaptive rating process designed to measure and improve sustainable power system performance. Since the city has begun applying PEER methodologies, power reliability in the Chattanooga area has improved by 50-65% in a given year (according to David Wade from the utility).

Julie Taylor

Green Building Policy Intern

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LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a non profit organization that certifies sustainable businesses, homes, hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.

Chemline, Inc. is a member of The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and has the potential to provide LEED points.