The South Rome Boys & Girls Club took first place in the 2015 Environmental Protection Agency ENERGY STAR Battle of the Buildings.

The club at 211 E. Main St. was honored in the water conservation category for reducing its water use by 73.7 percent — beating out two General Motors buildings in Michigan that took second and third place.

More than 6,000 buildings, including warehouses, schools, offices and others, entered the national competition.

Executive Director J.R. Davis said he was working on an energy conservation program for the kids in 2014 when he discovered a Southface Energy Institute grant program, which ultimately funded the major reduction.

"I depend on grants a lot to keep the club running and I saw a great opportunity," Davis said.

He applied for the competitive grant and received $75,000 from SEI.

"We used it not only to save money but also to teach our kids about water and energy conservation, greenhouse gas emissions and things of that nature," Davis said.

A 500-gallon rainwater collection tank was installed to water the club's vegetable garden, along with newer, more efficient plumbing fixtures such as low-flow toilets and urinals. The club also installed high-performance LED lighting, both inside and outside the building. The system includes occupancy and motion sensors.

"When kids forget to turn off the lights in the bathroom they will go off automatically," Davis said. "All the rooms are like that as well."

The project also includes web-based thermostats to control the heating and air conditioning system in the building, which was only six years old when the work began. Davis estimates the energy and water conservation project saved the club $9,000 in 2015.

"I think about $1,000 of that was in water and the rest was in energy savings," he said.

SEI submitted the project to the EPA competition, along with several others it participated in.

"I am extremely grateful to Southface Energy Institute and proud of our staff and members for committing to this project over the past two years," Davis said.

The savings have allowed the Boys & Girls Club to put its resources toward programming, staff development and fulfilling its mission to serve as many children in the South Rome community as possible.

The club serves around 450 children a day, during the school year and throughout the summer.

Read this story online for links to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Georgia and Southface Energy Institute websites and to see a Google map of the club's location in South Rome.