Big Brothers, Big Sisters

L.E.E.D.S. the Way in Environmental Sustainability

Big Brothers, Big Sisters

L.E.E.D.S. the Way in Environmental Sustainability

Located in the heart of Midtown Atlanta, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta‘s mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring professionally supported, one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta accomplishes this by matching children ages 6 through 14 with volunteer mentors throughout the community. A study on the Big Brothers Big Sisters youth organization found that kids matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister:

  • Are more confident
  • Are more likely to steer clear of drugs and alcohol
  • Do better in school
  • Get along better with their family and friends
  • Feel better about themselves

While Big Brothers, Big Sisters is committed to improving the lives of the children it serves, it also is dedicated to preserving the environment and employing sustainable practices. In 2010, Big Brothers, Big Sisters purchased a new facility consisting of an original building constructed in 1912 and additional spaces that were added in 1982 and in 1996.

To deliver their mission and serve their clients effectively, Big Brothers, Big Sisters needed to renovate the interior of the facility. Rather than just implementing a standard renovation, Big Brothers, Big Sisters seized the opportunity to incorporate sustainability and energy efficiency into their plans and decided to pursue the Silver level of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. As they began to implement energy efficient features and practices, Big Brothers, Big Sisters realized they could strive for the Gold level of LEED certification.

To achieve this goal, Big Brothers, Big Sisters solicited a LEED assessment from Southface, utilizing their own funds. The audit revealed that replacement of the current heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) system with a new, ductless system and upgrades to the insulation and lighting would have a significant environmental impact and considerably decrease their utility costs. In fact, if these upgrades were implemented, Big Brothers, Big Sisters would be able to save over $22,000 annually.

Eager to achieve these savings, Big Brothers, Big Sisters sought funding from numerous sources, including Grants to Green. In 2011, Big Brothers, Big Sisters applied for and was awarded $50,000 of Implementation funding to replace the HVAC system. The estimated total cost to install energy efficient HVAC systems was over $330,000.

After receiving the Grants to Green Implementation funds and other donations, Big Brothers, Big Sisters implemented several new energy efficient features, policies and practices including:

  • Replacing the HVAC system with energy-efficient split system units
  • Upgrading existing lighting to energy efficient lighting and installing motion sensors
  • Reusing carpet and other building materials in the renovation
  • Using low-emitting materials and obtaining building materials locally Purchasing Energy Star equipment
  • Instituting an energy and resource conservation policy (e.g. turning off lights/computers when not in use, not printing, printing double-sided)
  • Implementing an alternative transportation program and providing bicycle racks and showers
  • Implementing recycling and use of non-disposables
  • Using green cleaning products

These efforts have resulted in great success. In April 2013, Big Brothers, Big Sisters achieved the Gold level LEED certification. To date, they have reduced their energy and water usage by 54% and saved nearly $76,000 in utility costs. Over time, these savings will continue to grow.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta is proud to be the first Big Brothers, Big Sisters agency with a LEED certified building. According to Nikki Berian, the Senior Director of IT and Facilities, “We wanted to serve our stakeholders differently. We work with a lot of single parent and low-income families who may not be as aware of environmental issues. We saw this is a great way to educate our clients about sustainability and serve as a role model for others.”