Nashville veterinary practice goes green in more ways than one


Nashville, Tenn. - Owners of the recently opened Belmont Animal Hospital like to say that the "recycled" their building.

NASHVILLE, TENN. — Owners of the recently opened Belmont Animal Hospital like to say that they "recycled" their building.

Veterinarians Dr. Baker Eadie and Dr. Malcolm Sewell purchased the nearly 17,000-square-foot Nashville building for their first practice with the idea that they wanted it to be as eco-friendly as possible.

While that meant a little extra money and a lot more consciousness, the lifelong friends and graduates of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine were surprised by how little effort the endeavor actually took.

"It can be done," Eadie says. "People shouldn't be scared of the cost. With just a little more time or thought, if it's something you want to do, you should do it. The cost is minimal, and the benefit to the environment is huge. The cost didn't keep us from being able to build the hospital of our dreams. It enabled us to do it."

People commonly misjudge the costs and benefits of green buildings, according to a study released in 2007 by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Respondents to a 1,400-person global survey estimated that building green costs 17 percent more than conventional construction, more than triple the true cost difference of about 5 percent.

From recycling all of the construction debris to using low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints and putting in marmoleum (a biodegradable product derived from linseed oil) floors to using a multi-zoned HVAC system, Eadie and Sewell were able to reduce their carbon footprints without spending much more.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), green building is the practice of creating structures and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life cycle from site to design, construction, operation, maintenance, renovation and deconstruction.

Green buildings efficiently use energy, water and other resources; protect occupant health; improve employee productivity and reduce waste, pollution and environmental degradation, the EPA says.

Eadie and Sewell emphasize that the key to "going green" is finding an architect and contractor experienced with eco-friendly building and won't just tell you right away that it can't be done.

"You don't have to do anything bizarre to be green, and the world benefits from it," Sewell says. "You financially benefit from it."

Using a zoned HVAC system and being cognizant of where the sun is positioned cuts heating and cooling costs, Sewell says.

Existing technologies combined with common-sense design can increase energy efficiency by 35 percent and reduce heating costs by 80 percent for the average building in industrialized markets, according to the EPA.

More low-cost examples of going green at Belmont include retaining the existing concrete floor in the lobby area, going paperless and recycling and purchasing a building in a neighborhood so pet owners can walk instead of drive to the hospital.

Even the pet beds at the hospital are made from scraps, thanks to Teresa Van Hatten-Granath, a college professor who made and donated two dozen pet beds using leftover fabric from another project she is involved in — making fabric shopping bags. That endeavor earned her the moniker, "the Green Bag Lady."

There were more green elements the DVMs wanted to include in the building but couldn't, such as collecting rainwater from the roof for use in the animal hospital, which the city would not allow, according to Eadie. And using solar power, which was cost-prohibitive, Sewell says.

Instead, the vets are planning a green roof, where they can plant natural vegetation and use the collected rain to water the plants. They also are looking at putting in a small landscaping area outside the building using local plants that require very little watering.

"It starts at home with recycling, changing light bulbs, and once you start you begin to look at other ways to help," Eadie says.

Sewell, who took a course in sustainable design, says the main thing he has learned is this:

"You don't necessarily have to have a house made out of hay and a green roof," he says.

"You can do things as simple as having an efficient heating and cooling system. There are things that are relatively easy to do."

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