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Monday, 02 April 2012 16:22

Green changes have FTC&H seeing LEED gold

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GRAND RAPIDS — Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc. decided that if it wanted to walk the talk in helping clients with sustainable projects, it needed to complete a green building project closer to home.

The company recently outfitted its headquarters at 1515 Arboreteum Drive SE to meet LEED for existing buildings gold certification.

Through U.S. Green Building Council’s existing buildings program, FTC&H made numerous adjustments — from switching to green cleaning products to installing occupancy sensors — to complete the laundry list of requirements.

Mark Zoeteman“It takes a lot of diligence to get it done, but along the way you’re going to realize a lot of internal savings,” said Mark Zoeteman, senior mechanical engineer for FTC&H.

The company started down the process of pursuing LEED for its headquarters in 2006, but made a strong push in the past two years, he said, as the USGBC launched the existing buildings classification.

Because FTC&H designs and builds green buildings for clients, Zoeteman said taking the steps toward LEED certification was a natural road for the company to go down. But spending time retrofitting and updating the company’s own building was a challenging endeavor, he said, when time could have been spent focusing on clients’ needs.

Still, making some of the changes was not demanding at all, he said.

“One simple thing we found out when we walked through our building at night was the number of lights left on,” he said. “Putting them on a different circuit is just a simple thing someone could do.”

In total, Zoeteman said the company spent roughly $11,000 on energy-related changes, adding controls and other efficiencies such as low-flow urinals. Some housekeeping improvements may seem simple, he said, but they’re also very meaningful in the long run. He said the company expects to see a 40-percent savings on potable water use and about $12,000 annual savings in total energy use.

“The facilities people, who run the building operations day-to-day, have a lot of information to offer,” he said. “They can be the biggest advocates for these changes because it’s their system.”

But before any company rushes out to obtain LEED credits, there are a few things it should ask and understand, said Renae Hesselink, former chair of the West Michigan Chapter of the USGBC.

“The first thing to consider is: How am I going to sustain (LEED) after I’ve achieved it,” she said. “Then: How am I going to move this in with the rest of the operations of my business.”

One stipulation with LEED certification is that it’s an evolving process that requires a commitment past the initial investment. Tracking, monitoring and educating all the employees are continuous requirements, as LEED certification must be renewed each year.

Hesselink said companies need to budget for annual costs and manpower needed to maintain LEED certification. Moreover, she said not all aspects of attaining LEED certification relate to installing some new switch or sealing up the building envelope.

“Some changes relate to behavior,” she said.

Measurement and education to change habits are a big part of incorporating a successful LEED program and driving a culture change in the organization, she said.

For FTC&H, Zoetman said starting an internal “green group” was helpful in getting the project going and identifying internal champions. Getting all the players on board and having management buy-in is key, he said.

For FTC&H, the choice to go after LEED certification was obvious next step in how the company can make a positive impact on its business, as well as the environment, Zoeteman said. Now the company can use its LEED efforts to better market its services — and physically showcase them, he said.

LEED changes can also help boost productivity by creating a healthier environment for employees, Zoeteman said. This can lead to reduced absenteeism and a decrease in the average number of sick days, he said.

Read 1972 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 10:00

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