Energy efficiency takes up residence at Atlanta’s historic Imperial Hotel

Imperial Hotel exterior 1Leigh Varley contributed to this article.

Atlanta’s historic Imperial Hotel, one of the city’s few remaining Chicago style buildings constructed around the turn of the century, recently reopened as The Commons at Imperial Hotel, featuring 90 units serving low and moderate income residents, many of whom have special needs. Over the course of a year, Southface worked with the building’s developers, Columbia Residential and National Church Residences, to achieve LEED Gold Certification for the historic building, which was originally constructed in 1910.

“When Columbia Residential, National Church Residences, the design team and our public partners began working on the Imperial Hotel, we wanted to fully address the many challenges the building had previously faced, in particular energy and financial sustainability,” said Jim Grauley, president of Columbia Residential. “The partners and funders committed to taking the retrofitted supportive housing to a state-of-the-art building, in terms of green building design and construction. Though over 100 years old, the historic renovation and building systems and envelope overhaul have resulted in substantially reduced energy and utility costs and reduced carbon footprint. We’re very proud of the beautifully restored Commons at Imperial Hotel and its LEED Gold Certification. Most of all, we are pleased to see the residents served by this vital supportive housing in a restored downtown Atlanta landmark.”imperial hotel interior 1

The Imperial Hotel played an interesting role in Atlanta’s urban development and social evolution over the past century. In the
hotel’s early history, its moderate prices attracted business travelers and tourists alike, and its location helped expand Atlanta’s commercial development northward along Peachtree Street.

The hotel was vacated in the early 1980s. It remained empty until the summer of 1990, when homeless advocates occupied the building and demanded better housing for the homeless, spurring then Mayor Maynard Jackson to pledge to transform the building into single-unit affordable housing.

Progressive Redevelopment purchased the building in 1996 and converted the hotel into a 120 unit low-income apartment building for formerly homeless residents, but the developer was unable to keep up with rising costs. In 2012, Columbia Residential and National Church Residences purchased the building, saving it from impeding foreclosure. Soon after, Southface was hired to assist the developers in achieving their energy efficiency goals for the affordable housing project.

imperial hotel exterior 2The Southface LEED for Homes Team, led by Sarah Hill and Matthew Anthony, helped the developers integrate upgrades such as energy efficient lighting, windows and appliances; insulation; and an energy efficient heating and cooling system into the renovation process. Once renovations plans were in place, the Southface team performed testing and field verification to ensure that the project stayed on track to achieve LEED Gold Certification.

Renovation came to a close in January 2014 and residents began moving in several months later. LEED Gold Certification was awarded in December 2014. Renovations are forecasted to result in a 32 percent reduction in the building’s net energy consumption and collectively, residents of the building’s 90 units are expected to save over $23,000 annually on electricity.

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