(SAVANNAH) – In a difficult economy and even more difficult time for the construction industry, Sustainable Fellwood has been a welcome bright spot for many local workers.
“We live here and it keeps the money right here,” said Jonathan Herrington of Savannah-based Rhino Framing. “There are people that need a job. When big jobs come here, we need to keep it as local as we can.”
Workers on the Sustainable Fellwood jobsite come from many surrounding communities including Rincon, Guyton, Springfield, Richmond Hill, Hardeeville, and Bluffton. As of January reporting, about 45 percent of the total labor force was from the Savannah and Chatham County area. The number of local workers on the project continues to increase. The estimated average number of workers onsite daily is 80.
Subcontractors and local individuals interested in working on the site were able to take advantage of the Sustainable Fellwood job fairs. The subcontractors had the opportunity to meet and interview potential workers at the three sessions held which were each attended by about 200 people.
“We really did reach out to a large number of local individuals to get them employed on the project and continue to make such efforts,” said Frances Reaves of The H Group Company.
At her desk onsite, Reaves helps the subcontractors fulfill their mission by processing job applications and categorizing the people by their qualifications, thereby creating a pool of potential workers with construction experience as well as unskilled workers. Approximately 100 people visit the job site trailer each week looking for employment.
Although the subcontractors are not required to pull from the pool of applicants, “Most do hire from that pool – it’s a convenient service for the subcontractors and it makes hiring more locals easier,” Reaves explained.
“Catamount and the subcontractors have really reached out to the local community and hired workers,” Reaves said.
Other workers are gaining experience and skills onsite, with the Construction Apprentice Program sponsored by the City, County, Step Up Savannah’s Poverty Reduction Initiative, Home Builders Association of Savannah and Savannah Technical College.
Herrington of Rhino Framing hired several Construction Apprentice Program (CAP) students, working with them to teach, train and provide a great opportunity. The 16-week program includes classes at Savannah Tech and local community centers and the program offers apprenticeships in a variety of trades
Kevin Smith of Catamount Constructors, Inc. noted that the Sustainable Fellwood project has exceeded the 30 percent goal for minority and women-owned businesses, awarding over 40 percent of the contract to MBE and/or WBE companies. Many are locally owned companies who hire locally.
“It has been really rewarding to work with many local companies that have not had many opportunities to work on a project like this” he said.
Many of the workers onsite are learning about environmentally friendly building, said Smith, who guesses the vast majority have never previously worked in green building. Many experts expect the demand for green building to rise, so these workers now have some experience in a growing field. Sustainable Fellwood is being built with sustainable materials that incorporate high standards for energy and water efficiency and is registered with recognized green building programs.
“It sets us apart from most of the job sites in the Southeast,” Smith said.
Each of the buildings will be LEED-certified. The prestigious Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification (LEED) is the internationally-recognized standard for high performance, low water and energy use buildings awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.
Through February, 82 percent of the waste from the project was recycled, including wood, concrete, brick, metal and plastic. That’s about 460 tons that will be recycled instead of going into the landfill.
There are 11 buildings in Phase I, and all are erected and under roof. All 787 windows have been installed. Buildings 1, 3 and 5 will be completed in late April, and all 11 will be completed by the end of August. The community center, which will include the management office, a commercial washer-dryer laundry facility, a computer resource lab, and the community garden will open this summer. Curbs are already in place in many areas.
Sustainable Fellwood is being built with sustainable materials with high standards for energy and water efficiency. For example, pervious paving will be used where possible to allow water to naturally infiltrate the ground, reducing the impact on the neighborhood stormwater system. Construction on Phase I, the first 110 housing units, began in the Fall of 2008.
Sustainable Fellwood is registered in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Neighborhood Development pilot program and will be guided by the Smart Growth Network’s principles for diverse, walk-able, distinctive, attractive communities. Sustainable Fellwood is also registered in the EarthCraft Coastal Communities through Southface Energy Institute.
Sustainable Fellwood is a mixed use, mixed income Housing Authority of Savannah redevelopment. Master Developer: Melaver, Inc., in partnership with Parallel Housing Inc, Progressive Redevelopment Inc,, and Vanguard Developers. In collaboration with: Lott Barber, Architecture and Planning, Catamount Constructors, Inc., City of Savannah, and CHSA Development of Savannah.