By Amy Wenk

Georgia-based developer Isakson-Barnhart is going green in Buckhead.

With the help of the Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC) in Roswell and the Georgia Forestry Commission, Isakson-Barnhart has developed an initiative to save more than 50 percent of the trees at the site of Peachtree Hills Place, its latest residential community for seniors ages 55 and above.

“No one does this,” said CNC Director of Education Dr. Tom Howick, who assisted the conservation effort. “It’s the opposite. We are usually clear cutting about 60 acres of trees everyday in metro Atlanta.”

Located in the heart of Buckhead, Peachtree Hills Place — a quaint community known for its Craftsman-style bungalows and towering trees — will be constructed on the 23.3 acres at intersection of Peachtree Hills Avenue and Virginia Place.

Demolition to make way for the more than $200 million project will continue through February, but little remains of the old Peachtree Hills Apartments, which were constructed on the site in 1938. However, thanks to Isakson-Barnhart’s tree preservation program construction crews were able to save dozens of 60- to 100-year-old pine trees and hardwoods.

“We were interested in keeping the existing trees there, because it was a great asset,” said E. Andrew (Andy) Isakson, managing partner of Isakson-Barnhart. “It just adds value to the product. That’s what people want. They want to look out and see mature trees, so I was real proud that when we planned this development, we were able to save over half the trees.”

Isakson, who has served on the CNC Board of Directors since 1991, sponsored the development of a four-hour training program for his construction staff, which was held last December. His goal was to train superintendents and equipment operators on the importance of tree preservation, water quality and erosion control, hoping to give them a better understanding of environmental issues. Workers are usually only instructed about the laws and fines governing tree removal, he said.

“Nobody bothered to take the time to explain to them how it affects the ecology,” said Isakson, who is the brother of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. “I thought if you did, people would be a lot more respectful of it.”

The CNC, with assistance from the Georgia Forestry Commission, will train all employees of Isakson-Barnhart, the lead general contractor, Hardin Construction, and the demolition contractor, Price and Sons. Workers who pass a test covering the course are certified and awarded green hard hats to wear at this and future demolition sites.

“For a developer to expect that everybody on-site have a minimum level of training about the impacts of this development on the watershed and the forest canopy is pretty rare,” said program contributor Joe Burgess, senior forester with the Sustainable Community Forestry Program of the Georgia Forestry Commission. “I think this can be a great project.”

Isakson is now working with the CNC to expand the program and has scheduled another training program for March. The CNC also hopes to develop a more extensive tree certification program once the organization is accredited.

Several other environmental initiatives are underway at Peachtree Hills Place. Concrete from demolition will be crushed and recycled as base material for the new structures, which will encompass nearly one million square feet. Additionally, about five acres of land will be placed under a protective environmental deed covenant with the CNC. The area will provide an urban forest and nature trail for the community.

Slated for completion in 2009, Peachtree Hills Place will feature 274 independent residences — including 266 luxury apartments and eight single-family homes — as well as 36 skilled nursing and memory care suites.

The community will feature a 61,000-square-foot clubhouse with a chapel, art studio, business center, library and more, as well as a 15,000-square-foot spa and fitness center. If additional care is needed, members also have access to private on-site health services and assisted living options.