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Maintaining a LEED Certified Site
By Patrick Wells, T Lake Environmental Design





Georgia Transmission Cooperation, an electrical transformer/distribution line supplier in Forsyth, Ga., is a LEED Gold Certified facility that has had its 25 acres of grounds maintained by T Lake Environmental for over six years, helping the company reduce water use by approximately 50.7 percent since opening.


T Lake Environmental Design started in Dublin, Ga., in 1992 with three divisions: Landscape Architecture, Landscape Maintenance and Landscape Construction. For over six years, they have been maintaining a LEED certified building for Georgia Transmission Cooperation, an electrical transformer/distribution line supplier in Forsyth, Ga.

LEED certification encourages sustainable growth through the use of native plantings, local building products, clean air and much more. When Georgia Transmission started planning their new facility, they decided to strive for the LEED Gold Certification, the second highest certification. In 2009 they began construction on an 88,400 sq. ft. facility, and in 2010 they achieved Gold status. The facility was designed with energy-efficient lighting, a smoke-free environment, low flow toilets and faucets, the use of low-volatile organic compound materials, and water efficient landscaping.

Keeping it Native
Native grasses were designed throughout most of the site, including different types of switchgrass, broomsedge and many more. When used together, they shade out the ground and keep the weeds supressed. Plant identification is included in weekly training classes, since the different types of grasses can be overwhelming to new employees.

The designer ensured that there would be seasonal interest throughout the year. Clover emerges in early spring; black-eyed Susans and partridge pea dance in the summertime breeze. By the time fall comes, the grasses begin to bloom, staying throughout the winter months.

Nature provides its own maintenance burdens. Ecological succession is fought on a monthly basis. Because pine forests are predominant in and native to the area, unwanted pine seedlings blow in and sprout up in early spring. The crew must remove them as soon as they are seen, including doing a thorough sweep during the wintertime, when the grasses turn brown and the green pines are clearly visible.

As in the natural environment, in some areas the soil does not promote healthy plant growth and vegetation thins out. In these areas, invasive species start to grow through where the sunlight is strongest. In Georgia, Chinese privet and invasive weeds show up from time to time. Crews pull these species as they patrol the site.

The equipment used at this site include a John Deere Z Trak with a 60-inch deck, a John Deere Quick Track with a 48-inch deck, Stihl string trimmers, edgers, blowers and pole saw.






Weekly plant training is provided for the crews, who are taught to distinguish between native plants and invasive species. When the grasses turn brown in the wintertime, crews carefully go through to remove any pine seedlings, preventing unwanted trees from growing.







The distribution company uses large trucks to ship equipment so crews must take many safety measures, including the use of brightly colored vests to identify their location. Weekly safety meetings are a part of their routine.







Twice a year, native grasses are bush-hogged: cut with a rotary mower. Bush-hogging brings about fuller and larger plants throughout the site. Native switchgrass can grow seven feet or higher. Though the native plants may seem overgrown, limited turf areas create environmental benefits such as improved wildlife habitat and lower fuel emissions.







In some areas of the landscape, just like in nature, vegetation thins out because the soil does not promote healthy plant growth. Thinned vegetation combined with healthy sunlight creates an ideal environment for invasive species to grow. Crews remove these plants as they patrol the site.







To help achieve LEED Gold status, the site was outfitted with energy-efficient lighting, a smoke-free environment, low flow toilets and faucets, the use of low-volatile organic compound materials, and water efficient landscaping.


Keeping it Safe
Training of the crews has been paramount to ensure best management practices are followed to maintain the LEED certification. Crews undergo weekly safety training. As mentioned before, Georgia Transmission distributes transmission line equipment, which must be shipped on large trucks across the state. When operating inside the fence, crews must put safety first. It is important that no one gets hurt, and when individuals are around moving equipment, the risk increases.

To ensure vehicular safety along the roadways, some areas are mowed weekly. The native grasses are bush-hogged biannually to promote healthy growth. In 2014, bush-hogging the grasses led to fuller and larger plants throughout the site over the course of the year. In one area, seven-foot tall native switchgrass towers above everything else.

Crews cannot simply mow, blow and go. Many visitors see an overgrown area and ask, "Why not mow it all down?" After a few minutes of explanation, they begin to understand the benefits of a LEED building. Limited turf areas create environmental benefits such as improved wildlife habitat and lower fuel emissions.

Since opening, Georgia Transmission Cooperation has reduced energy use by an estimated 34.6 percent, and reduced water use by an estimated 50.7 percent. T Lake Environmental is proud to work with a client that shows commitment to sustainability and good stewardship to the community and its resources.







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April 26, 2018, 1:55 pm PDT

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