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SAVANNAH, GA-Last week marked a few firsts. AMB Property Corp. made its entry into the Savannah market with the official ground-breaking ceremony for a 347,000-sf industrial facility. That in turn marked a first for the region: the first speculative industrial development in the southeastern US built to LEED Silver Standard, according to company officials.

The 347,000-sf building is just the first in the 3.3-million-sf master-planned AMB Morgan Business Park near the Port of Savannah. It will also act as the prototype for the San Francisco-based company’s global sustainability initiative, Jay Cornforth, AMB’s managing director, East region, tells GlobeSt.com. “Some of the features in our first building in Savannah will be the prototype for building designs that AMB will deploy throughout the world,” he says.

AMB turned its focus to Savannah about two and half years ago, he explains. “Savannah continues to be a real attractive port to many customers linked to the global trade,” Cornforth says. “It is a really opportunity for us to take advantage of that growth and fortunately for us, about a year and half ago we found a piece of land that makes a lot of sense for us.”

With the land in hand, AMB shifted toward development and the first step in green building. “The first aspect of LEED certification turns its focus to the site,” John Morgan, AMB’s vice president of development, East region, tells GlobeSt.com. “For example, if you a have a black object next to a building, much like asphalt, it absorbs heat and requires the building’s systems to work much harder and longer. What we’re doing, and what we have been doing in our projects in the Southeast, is putting concrete down, which is a lighter reflector. And not just the 50% that LEED requires, but 100% for the truck port as well as the auto parking.”

AMB has also built a collection point into the site plan where water runoff from the paving will be collected in a soil erosion and sediment control basin to filter the water before it is dispersed into the well, Morgan explains. In addition, the building will have a non-irrigation system. “Savannah reaches annual rainfall of 52 inches. We’ve taken the irrigation piece out of the equation. We will get indigenous plants and irrigate them using a water maintenance system, basically a water truck, for establishment purposes and then for all the other years they will be sustained from the annual rainfall,” he tells GlobeSt.com.

Once inside the building, AMB has introduced daylighting across all the dock staging areas, something the company employed in its 2007 prototype, Morgan says. “Focusing on the building systems themselves, we are implementing T5 lighting throughout and upgrading the glazing such that it is a low E reflective glazing,” he explains. “Using the LEED calculation method we’ve saved about 32% of electricity for this one building. If I would translate that for you in the amount of power savings, its enough to power a little over 120 homes per year.

“If there is one tenant in this building, the measures we have done will save $100,000 a year in electrical costs,” he adds.

And that is not the only selling point for the end user. “What is attractive as well to the end user is that they feel good about being in a green building,” Cornforth tells GlobeSt.com. “They really value that, it is something they can share with their customers or clients and also their employees.”

Another significant savings feature can be found in water usage. “Our modeling tells us we are going to save around 600,000 gallons a year in just this one building. Total water savings, when park is complete, will be around six million gallons a year because this building represents 10% of our overall build out,” Morgan explains.

While this building launches the company’s sustainability drive for new construction, Cornforth tells GlobeSt.com that AMB can do some retrofitting on its existing buildings to add green features. For example, AMB can replace a roof or retrofit a warehouse with T5 or T8 lighting with sensors when a tenant vacates space, he adds.

Cornforth declined to release development costs for the project, citing AMB policy. However, he does AMB was able to get into the market at a good price. “We do not release development costs but we were very fortunate. We identified this site over a year and half ago and land prices have doubled over the last year and a half. We are at a very good land basis and feel really good about our cost basis on this project,” he says.

AMB expects the 347,000-sf facility will be realized in two months, according to Morgan. Cornforth adds that two of the buildings at AMB Morgan Business Park will be in excess of one million sf and will be built to suit.

“A company may come to us and we may make some alterations to our design spec. For example, a company may need a lot more trailer parking then what we’ve site planned right now. That is why we are going to wait versus build that speculatively and commit to a certain floor plan that may not meet the need of that million-sf user,” Cornforth tells GlobeSt.com. “Our time line is approximately three to five years and it depends on the demand that materializes over the next few years.”

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