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Sunday, 11 November 2012 17:08

Pack LEEDer: GR building owners want to show green doesn’t equate to added cost

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The office building at 502 Second Street NW The office building at 502 Second Street NW

GRAND RAPIDS — When Keith Winn and Chris Muller set out to design a new office space for their respective businesses, their goal was to work within the LEED rating system to create an efficient, sustainable office building on the site of a former milling company.

The collaborators intended the facility to be a showcase for green technology and design, but not even they expected the results of their LEED audit, which showed the facility had achieved the most LEED for New Construction points out of all certified project in the world with a score of 66 out of 69 and a platinum rating.

While the LEED plaque has its place on the wall of the building at 502 Second Street NW in Grand Rapids’ West Side neighborhood, the owners say the results of the project and what it can do to be a catalyst for further sustainable development in the area are the real story.

“Grand Rapids is known for status quo, but that isn’t going to cut it,” said Muller, owner of M Retail Solutions, a retail real estate firm. “What people envision is not the status quo. It’s not what Grand Rapids is — it’s what Grand Rapids can be.”

Muller and Winn challenged the status quo with their admittedly ambitious office project, which features a handful of green technologies, including a solar array, geothermal heating and cooling, and smart lighting fixtures, as well as rain gardens and native landscapes.

The facility also includes showers so workers can take advantage of the connectivity to nearby trails and bike paths for exercise and commuting, Muller said. The space is a 15-minute walk away from downtown and is accessible by a several transit options, helping to ease congestion in a small way, he said.

“In order to solve some of our problems, to become energy independent as a country, to increase biodiversity in urban areas and to create habitats along the Grand River, we have to continue to push the envelope and innovate,” said Winn, president of Catalyst Partners, a sustainable design strategies firm. “We can not be complacent. … We need to keep raising the bar. This project is about that. … And we’re sure our friends that develop around us have the same mindset. Innovation is our future.”

Winn, who works on sustainable developments locally and internationally, said the building also serves as a showpiece for his company’s capabilities and that sustainable buildings can be done on a budget.

While the solar array wasn’t cheap, it did help the company save money. In the middle of the summer when other people were paying huge energy bills related to air conditioning use, the building actually produced more energy than it consumed.

“It’s not like we had endless financial resources to buy exotic technology,” Winn said of the project, noting the company found ways to use effective low-cost options throughout the building. “It’s more about all the things we learned that work and don’t work. We can pass that along (to our clients). … Our clients are beginning to understand the importance of design and modeling and making good decisions upfront versus adding proscriptive components and hoping it works out in the end. More and more on projects, they get us involved early on.”

Winn also said the project is an example that LEED certification does not have to be an onerous, expensive process, as it is often painted.

“LEED is beat up in the media with negative articles saying we don’t need it any more and that it’s served its purpose or it’s too much paperwork. That’s in fact not the case,” he said. “When LEED started and I got involved 20 years ago, we were all saying we were green, but by what measures? A group of us got together to define what’s green based on real metrics and … established a universal standard.

“The challenge is to certify and do it affordably — and it works.”

Read 4483 times Last modified on Monday, 12 November 2012 09:35

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