In an effort to paint the town “green,” local contractors will begin retrofitting a historical Santa Barbara School of Arts building tomorrow with the hope of creating a more energy-efficient edifice.

Upon completion, the building, which dates back to the 1920s, will serve as the headquarters for Built Green, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmentally conscious construction. The project itself is the result of a partnership between the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and the Santa Barbara Contractors Association. A groundbreaking ceremony will take place tomorrow at noon in Plaza de Alhecama at 215 E. Canon Perdido St.

Retrofitting and restoration, courtesy of the Santa Barbara Contractors Association, will include drainage planes, low flow and waterless plumbing fixtures, high efficiency lights, solar water heating and a host of other renovations.

According to Contractors Association President Dan George, the building is outfitted so thoroughly, it should generate more energy than it uses.

“This project is expected to be so energy efficient that it will generate all the power we need to operate and also export energy back into the power grid,” George said.

Dr. Jerrell Jackman, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, said that restoring historical sites with a “green” perspective serves to preserve historically significant structures while implementing modern energy-saving construction techniques.

“We at the Trust are very pleased to bring together historic preservation and the World of Greening,” Jackman said. “The very act of rehabilitating an historic structure is an important aspect of the Greening movement, but we are taking it to a higher level by making the studios energy efficient.”

This development is one of several sustainable energy projects throughout Santa Barbara that aim to help lower the city’s dependence on non-renewable energy resources. City Councilmember Helene Schneider said that such environmentally conscious projects demonstrate responsible development as a model to other communities.

“I think we are leading by example,” Schneider said. “We’re showing how things that are more energy efficient can also be cost effective and help leave a smaller carbon footprint. We are showing other cities and other businesses that it’s not difficult to go green.”

Jackman said he fully supports projects like the one in Plaza de Alhecama and its effort to become energy independent. According to Jackman, “green” renovation is part of dealing with a larger global problem.

“I want people to be aware that there are benefits to doing this in the long term,” Jackman said. “With energy prices going up and with the possibility that these greenhouse gases are causing environmental changes, isn’t this the right thing that we should be doing?”

Schneider said renewable construction provides many tangible benefits.

“This earth only has finite resources, and we need to make sure the decisions we make sustain us,” Schneider said. “[With renewable energy,] our air is cleaner, so we are more healthy and we live longer lives. I think these are things that people care about, whether or not they believe in global climate change.”

The site’s extensive history includes use as a classroom for art and adult education students since 1927. The structure was bought and sold several times until it was finally purchased by the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Dept. in 1983, which continued to lease the space until plans for development were finalized.