I’ve been seeing blogs and other news articles at the national level make statements that we have exhausted our efforts on being more energy efficient as a country, that most businesses have addressed all the low hanging fruit. That is so not true. Even our building which has been Energy Star certified for 5 years now we have been working on an energy reduction plan for 2014 – 2015 and we have again learned that we can probably reduce our energy usage by at least another 50…% because of technological advances in lighting since 5-6 years ago and other low hanging, low cost upgrades. It is not something you can say you have accomplished and there is no more room for improvement – that is why you need someone to focus on this. Waste reduction is the same situation. Now solar has become very reasonably priced so there is even a good chance that we could generate on-site the remaining energy that we may need and become a net zero electric usage building. Why would a business not want to add that money that is paid for utilities and waste right to their bottom line? I’ve also been in several presentations by our utility companies and have heard them say that commercial building owners in Muskegon have not taken advantage of the business solution incentives like in our neighboring counties. So I challenge all building owners/managers everywhere in West Michigan to join the Battle of the Buildings and let’s get it done – there are no excuses. http://www.usgbcwm.org/battle.php
Are you ready to rumble with us? Calling all commercial buildings anywhere west of US127 from the Indiana border to the Mackinac Bridge and all of the Upper Peninsula to join us for Battle of the Buildings West Michigan style! The competition will run the entire 2014 year and is focused on energy reduction year 2014 over 2013 – The Biggest Loser wins! Already more than 1,000,000 square feet of buildings are committed to work towards a loose! Check it out here Battle of the Buildings
In the news:
For more than a decade West Michigan, specifically Grand Rapids has been in a leadership role in the green building movement that has swept the world. Leaders in the office furniture industry as well as the design and construction industry paved the way which lead to many of the first green buildings in the world. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a 3rd party green building standard that is transforming the way the built environment designs, constructs and maintains all buildings and communities. LEED is a green building tool that addresses the entire building lifecycle recognizing best-in-class building strategies. More information on LEED can be obtained on the U.S. Green Building website.
One of the major oppositions I heard about LEED is the cost to obtain. Comments like that typically come from those that don’t understand LEED, those that have little or no experience with it, or those that are not looking at the total cost of ownership of a building and only concerned with getting a building constructed or renovated at the lowest possible cost without concern for the people that will live and work in the building or the environment.
Time and time again I hear the successes of improved productivity, improved health, reduced energy usage expectations, lower water usage than traditional buildings and landscapes and there are many of those stories documented for others to read.
Many communities in Michigan have received grant money to address storm water run off in their communities. We continue to pour money into addressing this issue on the back end – why do most of the design and construction teams along the lakeshore of Lake Michigan choose to ignore that issue and avoid even exploring new technologies?
We are very fortunate to have Grand Rapids leading in this way and a Mayor (Mayor George Heartwell) who understands it, promotes it, works to change zoning ordinances in his city and implements plans for a brighter future where green building is the standard and not the exception. Health is directly related to the built environment and we must stop building buildings that are toxic and harmful to people and the environment. It is all related. A good read : Public Health and the Built Environment How Architects Can Design for Better Public Health
My hope is that the rest of West Michigan will someday realize that public health is directly related to the way we design and construct our communities and buildings and that money will no longer take precedence over health and the environment. Short sided thinking will not make an attractive community for a younger generation either.
Twenty five percent of America goes to school everyday. That translates to just under 8 million children, teachers and staff that are exposed to the indoor air quality in our schools. Many school buildings are in disrepair and outdated, contain unhealthy toxins, and operate with outdated resources. Schools should be a safe place where students have the best resources and a healthy learning environment.
Children are not miniature adults. They cannot process toxins through their bodies like an adult can. An epidemic perhaps? According to the CDC in 2011 over 7 million children have asthma or nearly 10% of the children in the U.S. More than 14 million school days are missed annually because of asthma . We may not be able to cure asthma but we certainly can perhaps prevent an attack by creating a healthier environment by adopting green building practices.
So what does that mean: adopting green building practices? Think about everything that happens in a school building each day and it starts when it is built or renovated with the construction materials, furnishings such as wall coverings or paint, floor coverings and the adhesives used to glue it down. Then we maintain our buildings with cleaning products (toilet bowl cleaners, glass cleaners, floor stripper and finish for example) and use materials in the maintenance department like WD-40 – non-green chemicals contain VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds that off gas and continue to off gas for years in most cases. All of this may contribute to triggering asthma attacks or cause other health related problems. Kids are a vulnerable population which should be treated with care.
So here is your call to action:
- Educate yourself – there are so many resource but the Center for Green Schools is a great place to start
- Contact the school district you live in and ask what they are doing to adopt green building practices
- Offer to help them journey down that path
- Share your findings with others and ask them to do the same.
Please, do this for our children. They deserve a safe healthy place to learn and they spend many hours in a day in our school buildings.