Some of Buckhead’s biggest buildings may go greener with energy use reduction programs and solar power, according to Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling.

The organization recently recruited 10 Buckhead hotels to the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge, a citywide effort to reduce water and energy use by 20 percent by 2020, and major building owners have shown interest in an effort to increase solar-powered homes and buildings in Atlanta, Starling said. Livable Buckhead is a nonprofit that works to increase green space and sustainability and is spearheading PATH400, the multiuse path along Ga. 400.

Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling.

Over 100 buildings in Buckhead are LEED certified, a sustainability rating system for buildings devised by the U.S. Green Building Council; 63 buildings are part of the Better Buildings Challenge; 21 buildings participate in Livable Buckhead’s recycling program; and electric vehicle charging stations are plentiful in Buckhead, Starling said.

“If you ask most people what the greenest neighborhood in Atlanta is, the answer is not going to be Buckhead, but it is one of them,” she said.
The 10 hotels that joined in February comprise 43 percent of the total hotel rooms in Buckhead and will more than triple the number of hotels actively participating in the challenge, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, according to the organization.
Only three hotels in Atlanta and none in Buckhead were part of the challenge before the recent additions, Starling said.

The hotels that committed are: JW Marriott Atlanta Buckhead; Westin Buckhead Atlanta; Atlanta Marriott Hotel and Conference Center; Hyatt Place Atlanta/Buckhead; Mandarin Oriental Atlanta; Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead; Hampton Inn Atlanta-Buckhead; St. Regis Atlanta; SpringHill Suites Atlanta Buckhead; and the AC Hotel Atlanta Buckhead.

Each of the hotels has committed to reduce their energy and water consumption by 20 percent improvement by 2020, measured against their use in 2009 or the most recent data available, according to a press release. The city of Atlanta keeps track of buildings’ improvements and describes the progress in an annual report.

“Through collaboration with our development partners, we work toward constructing and operating sustainable hotels from the initial hotel and business design to the guest’s experience,” Thomas Boyer, the general manager of JW Marriott Atlanta Buckhead said in the release. “It is the responsibility of those of us who work and reside in Buckhead to do the same for our Buckhead community … for our residents, our hotels and businesses so we can all help to make a livable Buckhead.”

To decrease energy and water use, hotels can implement recycling and towel reuse options or limit heating and air conditioning settings, according to the challenge website.

The JW Marriott Atlanta Buckhead hotel, shown here in a photo from its website, is among the hotels signed onto the Better Buildings Challenge.

Livable Buckhead is also serving as the sales arm and recruitment tool for Solarize Atlanta, a program formed through a partnership with a for-profit company, Solar CrowdSource, the city of Atlanta, and several organizations, including Environment Georgia. The program aims to bring down the cost of solar panels for house and commercial building owners through bulk purchases.

About 50 people went to an open house held Jan. 2 in Monarch Plaza on Peachtree Road to provide information on commercial solar uses. Some major Buckhead building owners showed interested, Starling said, but she would not say which specific ones.

“We’re really excited about getting interest from our big dogs,” she said.

Livable Buckhead is also helping building owners figure out if solar could work for them. Some may have not enough exposure to the sun or too many obstacles on the roof blocking installation, Starling said.

The solar panels don’t have to be on the roof, though, and there are some creative solutions buildings can use, Starling said. The owners of Tower Place office tower near Ga. 400 and Peachtree Road, for example, could cover the top of its parking deck, which often goes unused because it is uncovered, she said.

Don Moreland, the founder of Solar CrowdSource, which has helped run similar initiatives in Decatur and Dunwoody, said the program brings the cost of outfitting an average home with solar panels down by more than $2,000, from $15,750 to $13,250.

The panels have a 30-year life span and are expected to pay for themselves within a decade. Most installations still need to be connected to the electrical grid system to have power when there is no sun shining.

The program is currently in a pre-registration phase and hasn’t officially started, but over 280 participants have signed up. Registration will close June 30 and Solarize Atlanta will send out a bid seeking the best and cheapest solar panels, Moreland said.

Other than the aim of bringing the cost down, the program also tries to make installing solar panels understandable.

There are a wide variety of types, manufacturers, warranties and technical specifications that deter people from signing up, Starling said.

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