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Ribbon cut on cutting-edge 'green' building

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Jun 12 2014 04:46:34 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 12 2014 04:37:00 PM CDT

There's no more need to wonder what that building is behind the Mellow Mushroom at Exit 7 in Bristol -- the ribbon was cut for the new Southwest Virginia Higher Education Clean Energy Research and Development Center on Thursday.

BRISTOL, Va. -

There's no more need to wonder what that building is behind the Mellow Mushroom at Exit 7 in Bristol -- the ribbon was cut for the new Southwest Virginia Higher Education Clean Energy Research and Development Center on Thursday.

It's now the most innovative, energy-producing, energy-saving building in the region. We took a look at this gold-certified environmental energy designed building at the event.

Just one snip and a seven-year project by the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Foundation is a reality. It's a building designed to both conserve and create energy from the environment around it. The building itself will be used for startup companies or individuals to do research and development related to energy.

Duffy Carmack with the Higher Education Center explained more. "This building was built with the idea of energy. We're in the carbon footprint of Southwest Virginia with a great deal of coal, natural gas resources, so it was just logical to set up research and development programs related to energy in some field," he said.

The building is a natural extension of the coals of the Higher Education Center, both providing a higher education and relating that to creation of jobs according to executive director Rachel Fowlkes. "I think the most important thing about education is that it has an application. What we're trying to do is take learning and apply it to the wold where folks are earning a living," she said.

And using new ideas to create new ways of earning a living. This energy building will be the place to do just that. "These are early-stage companies that are based upon research that is done in our major universities. We're creating jobs for people in the region based on the commercialization of that research," Fowlkes said.

This building is the gold standard of green energy. They use natural light while creating power with sunlight. They use roof runoff as grey water for the building. Geothermal heat and air systems are used, and what may look like a piece of sculpture is actually a wind turbine.

The building is not only creating energy, but is in the process of creating jobs.

We did find out that the building has yet to attain the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, but that certification is pending.