Higher Ed Paving the Way for Future Generations

Educational institutions across the state of Michigan are committed to building and operating healthy, high efficient spaces for students to learn. These institutions are leading future generations down a greener path by setting the example for sustainable progress. Campus wide sustainability departments have been established that include programs and initiatives that reduce waste, natural resources and increase energy efficiency.  This demonstrates to students the importance of  a light carbon footprint and increased social responsibility.

Many West Michigan colleges and universities have adopted LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) for one or more campus construction projects including:   Aquinas College, Central Michigan University (CMU), Davenport University (DU), Ferris State University (FSU), Grand Valley State University (GVSU), Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), Kalamazoo College (KU), Michigan State University (MSU), Montcalm Community College (MCC), Muskegon Community College (MCC), Northern Michigan University (NMU), Southwestern Michigan College (SMC) and Western Michigan University (WMU).  Some institutions have established LEED as a criterion for new construction and renovation projects campus wide including Aquinas, WMU, MSU and GVSU.

The State of Michigan mandates that state funded buildings be constructed to LEED standards. However, the state does not require that the building achieve LEED certification. “Why build to LEED standards if you do not complete the certification process?” asked James Moyer, associate vice president for facilities planning at GVSU. “Grand Valley chooses to pursue LEED certification as proof of our accomplishment.”

“If a Western Michigan project receives state funds or not, all projects over $1 million will be designed and constructed in accordance with LEED,” said DeVon Miller, building commissioning specialist at Western Michigan University.

It is evident that other educational  institutions agree with GVSU’s & WMU’s philosophies.  Since LEED certification was established in 2000, 13 colleges in West Michigan have registered 95 projects.  Out of the 95 registered projects, 68 have successfully obtained certification including 2 platinum buildings, 20 gold, 27 silver and 19 certified.

Just this year, five higher education buildings in West Michigan achieved LEED certification. Aquinas student housing building, St. Rose of Lima and CMU’s multipurpose stadium achieved basic LEED certification. Muskegon Community College’s Science Center addition and GVSU’s Marketplace and Douglas Kindschi Hall of Science achieved LEED Gold certification.

Building owners and operators that pursue building renovations or new construction must build to construction code, however, they have the choice to build above code. Building above code means taking extra steps to enhance the sustainability, health, and efficiency of the building.

Some buildings claim to be “green”, healthy and high efficient, while others prove it. LEED is a third party rating system that proves green operations with certification. It rewards buildings that reduce their impact across multiple areas, including: building site management, materials used, water and energy consumption, transportation options, occupant health and comfort, and more.

LEED certified buildings work to improve building operations and lower a building’s energy use.

The students of today, are the leaders of tomorrow.  Educating students to understand and value the relationship between the economy and ecology is important. Economicology is a term coined by Peter Wege of the Wege foundation.  The word summarizes Mr. Wege’s philosophy that a prosperous economy depends on maintaining a healthy environment.



LEED v2009 Ends October 31, 2016

The deadline is approaching.  October 31st is the last day to register your project under the LEED v2009 rating system.  If your project is registered for v2009 before the deadline, you will have until June 30, 2021 to complete and submit the project for certification.

Beginning November 1st, all buildings will be registered under the new LEED v4 rating system, the latest version of LEED.  LEED v4 launched November 2013 and is available for those who wish to pursue it.

According to USGBC National, LEED v4 is different from LEED v2009 because it focuses on increased technical stringency from past versions.  The new rating system is making LEED available to new market sectors, including data centers, warehouses and distribution centers, hospitality, existing schools, existing retail and mid-rise residential projects.

LEED v4 offers a new credit for Integrated Design. This brings together the full construction team at an early stage in the design process, allowing for all areas of expertise to collaboratively design and build to LEED standards from start to finish.

LEED’s green building rating system continues to raise the bar as technology develops and the green building industry stays at the forefront.  

For those new to LEED, the USGBC West MI Chapter has created a guide to help you learn the basics of the LEED rating system and LEED accreditation for green building experts.  This simple four page document breaks down LEED into an easy to understand process – think LEED for Dummies.



Art Prize Unveils Sustainability Resource Guide


More than 400,000 people will visit downtown Grand Rapids during the 2.5 weeks of Art Prize.  The world’s largest art competition challenging local and international artists around the world is a premiere event in it’s eighth year.  With that many visitors comes an excess of CO2e (Carbon Dioxide Equivalent) emissions from transportation to and from the area as well as an increase in waste, water and energy usage.

The organizers of Art Prize understand this impact and have recently released the first Art Prize Sustainability Guide.  The guide encourages alternative transportation (bus, biking, walking), waste diversion, water share (reduction of single use bottles) and serves as a resource for the more than 170 Art Prize venues.  

The Art Prize team worked with many community partners including the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter (USGBC-WM) to create a useful guide to help venues implement green building practices that will reduce their negative impact on the environment both during and long after the 19 day event ends.

Grand Rapids has a long history of environmental leadership.  Named America’s Most Sustainable City by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and most recently the 10th city in the world to form a 2030 District.  The Grand Rapids 2030 District is a groundbreaking, private & public led, collaborative high-performance building district focused on fostering a sustainable, efficient, thriving downtown Grand Rapids.  2030 Districts represent more than 285 million square feet across the US & Canada with a goal to reduce building energy use, water use and transportation GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions by 50% by the year 2030.  

The Art Prize Sustainability Plan encompasses environmental, social, and fiscal responsibility and centers on four themes:  climate change, waste management, social equity, and healthy living.  The guide covers impact, measurement and planning and is sure to be a valuable resource for visitors and venue owners.  For more information visit: www.artprize.org/about/sustainability



LEED 101


LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) is an international standard for environmentally sound buildings, certifying approximately 1.85 million square feet per day.

If you’re new to LEED it can be overwhelming but don’t worry, we’ve made it simple for you.

LEED is split into two overarching categories LEED Certification and LEED Credentialing.  LEED Certification is a third party verification process for green buildings.  LEED Credentialing is an educational accreditation for individuals.

Should I be pursuing LEED certification for my building?  The answer;  if you want to be sure that your building is designed to have a low impact on the environment then LEED is for you.

LEED works for all building types, from corporate offices to homes.  It’s a roadmap to follow and a recognized designation that proves your building is eco-friendly.  Each building or project that registers for LEED certification earns points to achieve a certification level:  Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.  Points are earned based on the sustainable practices implemented during the construction and renovation phase of building.  Your building is certified by the number of points it achieved.  The more points achieved, the higher the certification.

Should I be pursuing LEED accreditation for myself?  The answer;  if you would like to improve your green building knowledge or be recognized as a green building expert, then yes, you should be pursuing LEED credentials.

Follow this link to learn the basics of LEED and why you should choose to pursue the green building certification or education credentials.



Sparrow Ionia Celebrates 1st LEED for Healthcare in Michigan


With a mission to be recognized as a national leader in quality and patient experience, Sparrow Health Systems believes that transparency leads to greater accountability and performance improvement.  Sparrow Health understands that this approach is multi-faceted and translates to more than patient care alone.

On September 8, 2016 the team of the new Sparrow Ionia Hospital celebrated their LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification.  The West Michigan Chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) was honored to share this achievement with Sparrow and members of the design team including The Christman Company and Hobbs + Black Architects.  Stories shared during the ceremony about participation from all departments in the hospital made it evident that everyone was taking great pride in this achievement.


LEED for Healthcare is a branch of LEED certification that works to improve the environmental impacts of healthcare facilities.  With unique challenges such as 24/7 operations, chemical use, energy & water use intensity, infection control requirements and the heightened need for patient privacy.  The implementation of sustainable design practices can create obstacles for healthcare facilities.  The LEED for Healthcare rating system acknowledges these obstacles and provides a roadmap for design teams to follow.

The 65,645 square foot Sparrow Hospital located in Ionia has set the bar for healthcare in Michigan.  It replaces the less efficient hospital originally built in 1953.  “Sparrow Hospital really saved healthcare in Ionia County,” said Mayor Dan Baliace at the ceremony.  “We couldn’t be more proud.  They under promised and over delivered.”

At the LEED Certification Ceremony, President & CEO Bill Roeser said, “This event is really the frosting on the cake for us.”  Sparrow is making vast improvements in their field and plans to pursue LEED for Healthcare for the Sparrow Cancer Center in Lansing as well.

Since the launch of LEED for Healthcare in 2011, 301 projects around the world have registered for LEED for Healthcare certification.  Of the 301 registered projects only 29 have achieved certification thus far.

Sparrow Ionia is the first healthcare facility in the State of Michigan under the LEED for Healthcare banner. “Other hospitals in Michigan have achieved the LEED for New Construction Certification, but none have completed the LEED for Healthcare rigorous process,” said LEED project administrator Debra Sypien from The Christman Company.

The investment in LEED certification is really paying off for Sparrow Health.  According to Mark Brisboe, Vice President and CFO, the new hospital has decreased electricity use by 38%, water use by 46% and natural gas use by 49%.  This translates to an operational savings of $209,000 per year despite seeing, on average, an increase of over 30% in occupancy.

Sparrow Ionia is a great example for the green building industry to emphasize the rewards and savings you achieve when you invest in LEED.  



Abueva Builders LLC Practice What They Preach

What better way to understand a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) home, than to live in one. Paul Abueva, owner of Abueva Builders LLC is the definition of practice what you preach. Paul owns and manages a small residential construction company out of Kalamazoo. His company recently completed its first LEED home in October of 2015, which Paul and his wife currently live in. “We wanted to have a sense of just how much it costs to be green,” said Abueva.

Unlike most builders, Abueva has a degree in environmental science. His business unites his educational background and passion for the environment with his 14 years of construction experience. As a builder, Abueva strives to educate his customers on the added value achieved by incorporating green features into their homes. “We encourage our customers to think beyond their immediate needs and incorporate features that will make their homes functional for years to come,” said Abueva.

Abueva’s business philosophy encompasses three things: exceptional energy efficiency, environmental consciousness, and universal design. Abueva’s new Sandy Cove home in Kalamazoo was built using this triple threat philosophy. It is one of the first LEED homes in the greater Kalamazoo area and the first to receive gold level certification.

Abueva’s team designed the house using a seven-year strategy. Meaning that any green feature implemented would need to pay off within 7 years, and anything that didn’t was not incorporated into the house.  “We strived for an achievable goal,” said Abueva.

You can’t avoid waste when it comes to construction, but you can always plan for it. This house was designed with waste in mind. Abueva’s example was, “carpet typically comes in a 12’ roll, so the bedrooms were designed to be 12’ wide.” This planning system was utilized for all materials purchased for the project. The house was built around 2’ increments to maximize materials and minimize waste. A commercial dumpster was never on site. Every product or material purchased was either used up, recycled, or donated to their local habitat for humanity.

Abueva wasn’t just thinking about the future of the house when he designed it. He built this LEED home with the future of the homeowners in mind. It’s called universal design. Universal design is a building procedure that ensures inherent accessibility to all people regardless of age or ability. Abueva pre-framed this home for wide hallways, ramps, a zero clearance entry, and an elevator shaft. “It’s designed so that anyone could see this as a forever home, for whatever may happen,” said Abueva.

The Numbers Speak for Themselves

The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Index is the industry standard by which a home’s energy efficiency is measured. The lower the number, the more energy efficient the home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a typical resale home scores 130, while a standard new home is awarded a rating of 100. Abueva’s home achieved a HERS score of 32. This means that Abueva’s home is 68% more energy efficient than a standard new home.

The home achieved its impressive numbers using a design that incorporated a 10” thick double stud wall and air sealing details that were incorporated into the framing.  This allowed for almost double the insulation of a house built to current codes.

Abueva said one of the most impressive and rewarding aspects of certifying his home was the blower door test. A blower door test is done to measure a building’s leak rate. Their result was 0.04 ACH (air changes/hour) natural. “It was the tightest non passive house certified project our green rater Michael Holcomb has ever tested,” said Abueva.

Passive housing is another building standard, also voluntary for buildings owners to adopt. Abueva’s team did not implement the passive house standard into the Sandy Cove home, instead, they designed the house to be passive ready. “We wanted to design a system that could meet Passive House certification,” said Abueva. “That way in the future we could utilize the same system should we decide to go for their certification.” The house is also designed to achieve net zero energy waste. It was sited and built to allow for solar panels, should they want to incorporate them in the future.

This is the first of many LEED homes for Abueva Builders LLC. Abueva plans to use his LEED home as a guide for future projects by tracking his return on investment, and benchmarking his home for many years to come. He will be able to not only tell his customers about the remarkable paybacks of his LEED home, he will be able to show them.




Habitat for Humanity Kent County LEEDs Affordable Green Housing Movement in MI


Grab your hard hats folks, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is creating an explosion. An affordable green housing explosion that is. Recently named a finalist for a Governor’s Energy Excellence Award for Best Communication/Education Program. The Governor’s Energy Excellence Award honors Michigan organizations and individuals for their commitment to responsible energy production and consumption.

Habitat Kent is a Christian nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable homes in the greater Grand Rapids area.  The business model enables them to build affordable homes by engaging volunteers and implementing efficient building practices into their work. “We have between 4,000 – 5,000 volunteers every year,” said Brandyn Deckinga, director of construction at Habitat Kent. “Forming strong partnerships with organizations and volunteers is what helps us build affordable housing for the community.”  

Partnering with educational groups such as Grand Rapids Public School (GRPS) and Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) to provide the next generation workforce with hands on experience.  Together they have built a combined 36 homes in Kent County. In the past year Habitat Kent has helped communicate, instruct and train 31 GRPS students and over 50 GRCC students. “That’s 80 students last year who specifically worked on a house, received training in construction and learned ways to be energy efficient” said Deckinga.

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The staff at Habitat Kent is excited to be one of the finalists for a 2016 Governor’s Energy Excellence Award. In 2015 the Michigan Battle of the Building’s Awards and Recognition Program took home the honors for Best Communication/Education Program.  “We look forward to August 11th when the 2016 winner will be announced in Lansing,” said Cheri Holman, executive director of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) West Michigan Chapter.  “Congratulations to all the finalists for executing outstanding programs that encourage us all to be better stewards of our resources.” Other finalists include City of Holland and Muskegon County Department of Veterans Affairs.

Along with volunteer work, choosing sustainable building options enables Habitat Kent to build affordable homes. By implementing things like energy efficient wall assemblies that include DOW’s XPS continuous insulation, paying attention to detail with air sealing, using EnergyStar appliances, LED lighting, installing Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV’s), and low flow plumbing fixtures Habitat Kent is able to reach their low cost goals.

Habitat Kent has excelled across the leaderboard when it comes to sustainable building.  They were recently recognized for building the first v4 LEED certified house in Michigan. The LEED v4 certification is the newest version of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

Among 25 honorees, Habitat Kent was also recognized by the USGBC as a 2015 Power Builder. To be considered a Power Builder, organizations must have obtained LEED certification on 90 percent or more of their homes or units. Habitat Kent’s team has certified 142 homes to LEED standards in Kent County, 10 of which were v4 certified and more than 70 are EnergyStar certified.

Also noteworthy, Habitat or Humanity is a founding member of the Grand Rapids 2030 District. A groundbreaking, private and public led building district focused on fostering a sustainable, efficient, thriving downtown Grand Rapids.

Habitat Kent aspires to build LEED certified buildings. Currently they have 6 homes in progress, 4 of which will be underway in the next month and all aiming for LEED v4 certification. “We have plans for a multifamily unit coming in 2017 that we would like to build net zero energy ready,” said Deckinga. “It will be a challenging project but we’re ready for it!”

There really is no place like home. With the help of Habitat Kent, many homeowners are able to live affordably in high efficient homes that will last a lifetime.



USGBC Platinum Partner, Nichols Talks the Talk & Walks the Walk


Founded in 1936, Nichols is one of the largest independently owned paper, packaging and sanitary supply distributors in the Great Lakes region. We are headquartered in Norton Shores, Michigan and have seven locations in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana to serve commercial customers ranging from K-12, Higher Education, Health Care, Industrial/Manufacturers, Office Buildings, Hotels and Casinos and more. For decades, we have been providing products that clean, protect and package for the industrial, education, healthcare, building service, hospitality, and food processing markets. We offer a full range of products and equipment to fill your needs and we represent the best manufacturers that the industry has to offer.

Our mission is to help customers achieve clean and healthy facilities and the safe shipment of products. The cleanliness of your building directly relates to the health of those that work and live in your buildings. The products and tools that you use for cleaning affect your indoor air quality and we choose to follow the green cleaning standards that LEED specifies. Following this standard makes it easy to recommend the right products and tools.

Our corporate sustainability efforts started more than ten years ago and we have successfully achieved the following in our Norton Shores headquarters and distributions center: 87% landfill diversion rate, more than a 50% reduction in energy use, 40% reduction in water use and we have achieved LEED for Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance originally in 2010 and recently in October 2015 under Version 4.0. The building is also Energy Star certified with a score of 91 and a two time winner of Michigan Battle of the Buildings in 2014 (1st place) and 2015 (2nd place). We share the knowledge we have gained from this journey with our customers and the communities we serve.

You can find more information on the website at : www.enichols.com



2nd Annual Michigan Battle of the Buildings Energy Summit

The 2nd annual Michigan Battle of the Buildings Energy Summit celebrated the combined energy reductions of 28.5 million ft2 of Michigan real estate with a decrease in nearly 16,000 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent).  Converting to laymen’s terms – that’s the same as reducing over 37 million miles driven by an average passenger vehicle.

The 2015 contestants came together on Earth Day, April 22, 2016 the same day that 34 countries representing 49% of Green House Gas Emissions signed the Paris Climate Agreement at the largest single day signing in history.

The local event at the JW Marriott in Grand Rapids hosted 3 keynote speakers including Garrick Rochow, VP at Consumers Energy, Roger Curtis, President at Michigan International Speedway and the Honorable Aric Nesbitt, House Committee on Energy Chair.  Guests of the full day event enjoyed breakout sessions on Clean Energy Makes Sense, Indoor Air Quality, Financing & Cash Incentives and Lessons Learned by Battle of the Building competitors from Kent County, CBRE, Spectrum Health, Ford Field/Detroit Lions, Odawa Casino, Van Andel Institute and Catalyst-Partners.  Other speakers from the Michigan Public Service Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Michigan Saves, Lean & Green Michigan and DTE Energy shared tools, resources and insights on Michigan’s Energy Future.

During breaks, guests visited with exhibitors from Patriot Solar Group;  Bratic Enterprises; Consumers Energy; DTE Energy; Energy Focus; Electro-Matic Visual; Grand Rapids Business Journal; Hurst Mechanical; FTC&H architects & engineers; Michigan Saves, Midwest Energy Group, Porous Pave, Ryzen Lighting Group, Solar Winds Power Systems and TowerPinkster architects and engineers who displayed products & services to help the built (and yet to be built) environment learn new ways to to accomplish our world wide goals.

Post conference surveys revealed that attendees rated the networking at the Energy Summit as 5-star and the consistent growth of the competition-nearly triple each year- speaks to the eagerness of building owners & operators to learn new ways to accomplish more while consuming less energy.  Every climate zone has its unique challenges and learning from each other can provide a first hand look at inspiring ways our neighbors are meeting these growing demands.


The Energy Summit awarded the top 2 “biggest losers” from 9 categories.

Entertainment Category:

The Meanwhile reduced 20.67%

The Pyramid Scheme reduced 18.07%

Healthcare Category:

Muskegon County HealthWest reduced 4.42%

Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial reduced 1.49%

Manufacturing/Industrial Category:

Nu-Wool Co., Inc. reduced 11.06%

Innotec Life Space Division reduced 10.89%

Mixed Use Category:

Parker Hannifin FSC reduced 6.42%

SMG DeVos Convention Center reduced 6.03%

Multi-Family Category:

Hollander Development Valley View III reduced 8.44%

River House at Bridgewater Place Condominiums reduced 4.17%

Office Building Category:

Comerica Stadium-Pauline Branch reduced 21.27%

Fifth Third Bank reduced 15.27%

Other Category:

Greenleaf Hospitality Group Radisson Plaza Hotel reduced 16.80%

Nichols Corporate Headquarters reduced 10.84%

Public Buildings Category:

Muskegon’s Louis A McMurray Conference & Transportation reduced 10.40%

City of Grand Rapids Water Resource Facility reduced 9.10%

Education Category:

St. Clair County Community College MTEC Building reduced 31.93%

Holland Public High School reduced 10.62%


The Michigan Battle of the Buildings is the only state-wide energy competition in the country and Michigan is being recognized on a national level.  The EPA EnergyStar national Battle of the Buildings will cease in 2017 in lieu of encouraging more local competitions and we are thrilled to be leading this conversation.

Change is on the horizon and the reward is better air quality, economic advantage and we all hope – a slowing of the rise in global temperature.

Thank you to all that attended the 2015 Michigan Battle of the Buildings Earth Day Energy Summit.  We’ll see you next year!







Grand Rapids Public Schools & USGBC West Michigan Chapter Design and Construction Hack-A-Thon

On February 12, 2016 nearly 50 professionals from the following backgrounds; architects, engineers of all types, construction managers, facility planning and managers, landscape designers, and interior designers, gathered together to brainstorm at a hosted hack-a-thon about healthy spaces for students to learn, specifically for students of Grand Rapids Public Schools.

In November of 2015, a $175 million bond proposal was passed for Grand Rapids Public Schools.  The bond plan was created based upon the work of the 2008 Building Improvement Plan Phase II steering committee, the Transformation Plan and input from district leaders.  As there will be a number of construction projects and more hard work ahead.  The intent of the hack-a-thon was to provide ideas and input from the green building community.

A Hack-a-thon follows a specific process which will be used to identify options for GRPS to consider.  The group was split up into seven teams who were assigned one of seven school buildings that GRPS will be renovating or constructing.  Carefully chosen facilitators lead each team through several rounds of brainstorming starting with a vision of what green schools may look like 100 years from now.  Each round they brought the ideas closer to reality, closer to what they may look like tomorrow or next year.

The goal for GRPS was to not only glean ideas from the day about green schools but have the hope of integrating some of them into their design and construction policies.

Please view our video summarizing the day:  https://vimeo.com/161850340