Strong History, Bright Future: Atlanta at the Forefront of Sustainability

photo of Denise Quarles, Ashish Bagle and Aaron Bastian
Denise Quarles, Ashish Bagle and Aaron Bastian at The High Performance Building Summit in Atlanta on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

The High Performance Building Summit held in Atlanta on Thursday, March 20, 2014 offered many great presentations and vendors. Denise Quarles, Director of Sustainability, from the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, gave an excellent presentation on Atlanta’s numerous green initiatives on it’s journey to become one of the greenest cities in the country. Here are just a few highlights of her presentation.

Sustainable design and development are gaining ever-greater recognition as indispensable concepts in the consideration of the built environment. While ecologically-oriented discourse has only fully embraced the need for sustainability relatively recently, forward-thinking projects in Atlanta have been utilizing this concept for more than 20 years. With the introduction of the Office of Sustainability in 2008, the city has gained rapid momentum for promoting the resources and initiatives that have garnered accolades for Atlanta as one of the nation’s most sustainability-oriented cities. Listed here are only a few of the city’s many achievements in sustainable development.

Current sustainable development achievements

The BeltLine project signals a monumental leap in the right direction for creating a city that supports the multidimensional aspects of land use management while cutting back on previously prolific traffic congestion and urban sprawl. Aiming to redesign transportation, green space and affordable housing development, the project already incorporates more than 6,500 acres across 45 neighborhoods, four walking trails and four parks. Numerous on-going programs continue to invite community members to participate in the continual growth and development of this community-based initiative.

The development of Eco Districts within the city signals another area of successful movement toward sustainable development. The Midtown Eco District, one of only a few such neighborhoods in the nation, is committed to on-going urban enhancement for the benefit of the community members and environment. Not only a richly greened area in which to reside, Midtown offers community-based resources for the continued evolution of all Atlanta’s neighborhoods into centers of community and environmental health promotion. This is just one of many arenas in which stakeholders from across all disciplines have joined resources with the common aim of sustainable enhancements to life and well being throughout the city.

Strong infrastructure for sustainable development

The city’s Office of Sustainability is among its greatest sustainable development resources. Although its initial goals were aimed solely at improving energy efficiency in public spaces, this has now expanded to included reduced carbon emissions, water conservation, responsible materials management and the development of infrastructure for electric vehicles. They have also been involved in supporting a growing bike share program, free residential recycling services and an ever-increasing number of school and community gardens.

The Office also administers the Sustainable Home Initiative (SHINE) as part of the New Economy project. The program has already provided rebates to more than 300 homeowners for energy efficiency improvements such as upgrading lighting, HVAC systems, adding insulation, and weather-stripping. Ask the Sustainable Investment Group (SIG), another of Atlanta’s local resources for building a sustainable community, how these or other upgrades can bring your building greater comfort and energy efficiency. SIG’s LEED certification, energy audits and training programs are just a few of the services available to help make a sustainable future attainable today.