It pays to be energy efficient. That was a key message delivered last week during a check presentation to the Asheville Housing Authority from Duke Energy Progress.
Company officials presented an oversize rebate check (backed up by a real one) of $42,144 to the Housing Authority for installing a number of energy-efficiency features during the renovation of the Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center (formerly the W.C. Reid Center) in the Southside neighborhood.
“This is one of the better things that’s happened since I’ve been in Asheville,” Asheville Housing Authority CEO Gene Bell said before the July 21 ceremony.
After Bell’s remarks and the check presentation, Project Manager Samantha Bowers led a tour of the renovated building, pointing out energy-saving features and other improvements to the 36,000-foot building on Livingston Street.
Those features include a geothermal heating and cooling system, its network of pipes buried 450 feet under the parking lot behind the center. The system — similar to one installed at the Asheville First Congregational United Church of Christ — is expected to save 30 to 40 percent in energy consumption, said Robert W. Wiggins Jr., president of Essential Systems Engineering in Asheville, which designed the building’s geothermal system and its mechanical and electrical systems.
Other green features included new restrooms with water conservation features, said John Legerton, president of Legerton Architecture in Asheville, the architects for the renovation. New windows (replacing the old glass-block ones) and energy-efficient lighting added to the renovations.
The building holds an important place in Asheville’s history, and particularly that of the city’s African-American community. Prior to integration, the Livingston Street School educated African-American students for decades; the existing building served as the school’s last home from the 1950s until 1969. After integration, the city of Asheville took over the building for use as a recreation center.
The Housing Authority purchased the center from the city in 2012. After a $5 million renovation, the building was dedicated last November as the Arthur R. Edington Education and Career Center, named for the last principal to head Livingston Street School, from 1960 to ’69, according to the Housing Authority.
“This building is a historical presence in the Southside community,” Bowers noted.
Its new name also reflects the building’s return to an educational focus.
“Asheville Housing and its community partners envision the center as a place where people from Asheville Housing communities and the surrounding neighborhoods will have access to education, job training, support services and other resources, strengthening residents’ self-sufficiency and empowerment,” the Housing Authority said in a press release.
In addition to Housing Authority offices, the building houses several community partners, including the nonprofit Green Opportunities, which offers job training and placement services to public housing residents and other low-income community members.
In fact, Green Opportunities was able to train and place a number of public-housing residents with contractors working on the renovation, said Josh LittleJohn, former GO project manager.
As the tour ended, several people who had worked on the building’s updates admired the end result and the hard work that went into it.
“It’s a wonderful contribution to this community,” offered Legerton.