Geothermal Energy Comes to Michigan’s State Capitol Building

By Chuck Otto, USGBC-WM Staff Writer

The Michigan Capitol in Lansing is in the midst of a conversion of its heating and cooling system to geothermal energy.

The geothermal renovation is part of a two-year, $70 million project known as the Capitol Infrastructure Upgrade (CIU), an effort designed to bring the 138-year-old building into the 21st Century. Earlier this year, Midwest Energy News reported that building officials have labored to keep up with “the deterioration of the building’s insides caused by antiquated heating and cooling controls.” The initiative follows a recent renovation of the building’s exterior.

The Michigan State Capitol Commission (MSCC) started studying the Capitol’s infrastructure problems early in 2016 in response to numerous leaks and failures throughout the building and subbasement. The laundry list of problems included corroded electrical boxes, leaking pipes, heating and cooling units simultaneously blowing warm and cold air, and improper wiring.

“The decision to proceed with geothermal to heat and cool the Capitol was made for a variety of reasons, with economics being a major factor,” says Tim Bowlin, CFO and project manager for the MSCC. “Originally, the engineers we hired to review our mechanical and electrical problems and needs made a recommendation to look at the possibility of using geothermal.”

After performing test bores on the site to see if geothermal was a viable option, the Commission proceeded to look at the other factors, including economics. By choosing geothermal, the MSCC determined that “We will realize approximately $250,000 to $300,000 savings annually,” Bowlin says. “It will take us about seven years to repay the investment in the geothermal field. After that, all the savings will be fully realized by the State.” The geothermal wells have a 50-year guarantee, but Bowlin anticipates they will last “100-plus years.”

Approximately 224 individual bores will be drilled to a depth of 500 feet below the state Capitol lawn. The holes will house vertical-loop piping to pump vegetable-grade glycol fluid deep underground, where it will be naturally heated or cooled then circulated throughout the building.

By the end of the project, the Capitol will have an all new heating and cooling system, and the bulk of the building’s mechanical equipment will be relocated to a new underground Central Utility Plant (CUP). In addition to the geothermal upgrade, leaking sprinkler heads will be fixed, and corroded electrical boxes and wiring will be replaced.

The Michigan Capitol joins a growing list of state government buildings nationwide, including those in Oklahoma, Colorado and soon Nebraska, that have converted to geothermal.

The conversion will mean “utility independence, cost savings and clean, green energy,” Bowlin tells us. “Closed-loop geothermal systems are safe, efficient, long-lasting and a good economic investment. The decision to proceed with geothermal was a sound decision for the State of Michigan.”

We agree. Geothermal is among the most efficient energy sources on the market today. Kudos to Tim Bowlin, the MSCC and the others driving this project for making the clean, sustainable choice for the Michigan State Capitol building.



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.



2015 Michigan Battle of the Buildings Open for Registration

     BOB 2015 Clear Horiz logo-                                                                                                   

 Megan Susterich or Jeremy Bakken
(616) 233-0500


Michigan Companies Cut Energy Usage Through

Second Annual Battle of the Buildings Competition


Grand Rapids, Mich. Jan. 8, 2015 – Registration is officially open for Michigan commercial and industrial buildings of all sizes interested in joining the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan (USGBCWM) second annual Battle of the Buildings competition. The statewide competition is an expansion of the Battle of the Buildings that started in West Michigan last year.

Battle of the Buildings is an awards and recognition program for energy use reduction. The competition is a way to encourage energy-efficient practices in buildings across the state of Michigan and to instill a spirit of friendly competition among the area’s building owners and operators. Steelcase, Western Michigan University and Nichols have already committed for the 2015 competition totaling over 3,000,000 sq. feet.

“I would like to thank the Michigan Battle of the Buildings Program for taking steps to reduce energy waste in our state,” said Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder. “By working together, we can make Michigan’s energy resources more adaptable, reliable and affordable while preserving our environment for upcoming generations.”

Participants will measure, track and report their monthly energy consumption using Portfolio Manager, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) online energy tracking tool. To cut energy waste, participants will engage in a variety of energy-saving activities such as making improvements to the building, optimizing operations and maintenance, and engaging occupants to save.

The buildings that demonstrate the greatest percentage‐based reduction in EUI (energy use intensity) during the competition will be recognized at the 2016 energy summit. This summit will include national speakers, panel discussions of participants, exhibitor booths and an awards ceremony.

In 2014, a total building sq. footage of 11.4 million competed, equaling 198 football fields. In 2015, the USGBCWM partnered with USGBC Detroit Regional Chapter, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy with plans to more than double last year’s participation. Those companies that register by the deadline of March 31, 2015 will be able to attend a variety of workshops to learn more from local and national energy leaders, the latest technologies to save energy and money and network with others.

For information on how to enter, building registration or to become a Battle partner visit www.michiganbattleofthebuildings.org.


About U.S. Green Building Council

The U.S. Green Building Council is a coalition of leaders from across the building industry working to promote environmentally responsible, profitable and healthy places to live and work. The West Michigan Chapter provides and develops leadership through affiliations and education at all levels. Where we live, learn & labor matters. For more information, find them on Facebook at facebook.com/USGBCWMChapter, and Twitter at twitter.com/usgbcwm or visit usgbcwm.org or call 616.691.1243.



CHEERS to the USGBC West Michigan Battle of the Buildings Competitors

BOB_Beer_Charge_3There’s nothing like a cold beer to celebrate energy savings. Or at least that’s what the Battle of the Buildings competitors, supporters and friends discovered earlier this month when they attended the Beer Charge. A big thank you to one of the competition’s title sponsors, Consumers Energy for hosting this event and to Brewery Vivant for the providing the space in their newly renovated Walloon Room.

Along with networking over a local brew and hard cider, Erin Wilson from Wealthy Theatre shared his hopes of becoming the first theatre in the country with all LED lighting.  Brooks Twist from Brewery Vivant shared that the Battle of the Buildings competition taught him how to benchmark his facility.  “Now we know where we started and we can easily track energy changes within the building over time”.

We couldn’t help but notice that the brewery proudly displays their LEED certification plaque in the window and boast that they are the First LEED certified micro brewery in the nation.

A big thank you to all who made it out!

Submitted by:
Rebecca Holman, Communication Intern
USGBC West Michigan




City of Grand Rapids a serious contender in this years West Michigan Battle of the Buildings

Wastewater_PlantWhen asked their reason for joining The Battle of The Buildings, Environmental Services Manager at the Grand Rapids Wastewater Plant, Mike Lunn simply chuckled and said, “To win”. When asked how, I was surprised at how excited he was to share their plans. Past, present, and future projects are brewing at the Grand Rapids Wastewater Plant. Earlier this year, Mike was asked to present at the annual Michigan Water Environment Conference in Boyne, MI where he shared the great things that are happening at the Grand Rapids plant. In September, Mike plans to speak at the national conference where he will be sharing the success of his projects to wastewater professionals from around the world. “We don’t tell people what we do,  we’re good at doing things here”, said Mike when talking about the environmental department where he has been employed for the last 17 years.

Saving energy and being progressive is nothing new to these Battle of the Building competitors. With the competition peaking the halfway mark, Mike is confident that the Grand Rapids Wastewater Plant has and will continue to set a great example of how energy conservation and improved operations can go hand in hand.

Below are just a few of the recent projects at the Grand Rapids Wastewater Plant:

  • A self installed LED lighting conversion. Not only did they save time and money with this process but will continue to see positive results in energy savings.
  • Two high efficiency 600 HP blowers will replace two of their five blowers in the North Plant this fall. The more efficient blowers providing a higher turn-down ratio.
  • A heat recovery project is using heat from the north blower building to heat the north secondary building.  This measure is saving them $25,000 annually in natural gas reduction.
  • Their admiration for modern technology has led them to a few new tools like the zero angle photo spectrometer and real-time controls. They are now able to monitor processes at the plant in a convenient and more accurate manner.

Future Changes:

  • They are looking forward to future energy savings with a project that will heat & cool the lab with final effluent.
  • With aerobic, anaerobic, and facultative bugs already in use, they are working towards becoming 100% chemical free.

Beyond WasteWater Treatment:

  • In partnership with  West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMAC) they have incorporated bioswales/rain gardens into their landscape. These bioswales help to reduce water pollution and manage stormwater.
  • With the help of a grant they were able to receive an electric car charger for the plant. Even their cars here are going green.

The Grand Rapids Wastewater Plant provides tours and education to groups, schools and individuals. To schedule a tour, call 616-456-3625. If you decide you want to apply for a position at the plant, Mike has left us with a bit of advice,  “There are three important things to remember when working here;  scum floats, sludge sinks and payday is every other Tuesday.”

Submitted by:
Rebecca Holman, Communication Intern
USGBC West Michigan



No Upfront Cost Solar Energy Moves Forward by West MI Leaders

Hesslinks Solar PV install photo

Solar PV install on Hesselink’s home.

Two West Michigan residences and businesses have opted to install solar energy under the MI Solar Works program which breaks down cost barriers through zero up front cost financing that is paid back in energy generation sales. Renae Hesselink is the first in West Michigan homeowner to sign up for the program and just completed her panel install Monday May 19th. Renae served as the past Chair of the US Green Building Council West Michigan (USGBCWM) and is a local sustainability leader. “Solar PV will have a return on investment of 12 years, increase my home value and allow me to take part in the sustainability movement to get away from fossil fuels”. Renae currently is the Vice President of Sustainability at Nichols in Muskegon and is exploring this application for their corporate headquarters and distribution centers.

Tami VandenBerg, co owner of the Pyramid Scheme and Meanwhile Bar is thrilled to announce the addition of Solar to both these businesses and her own home. ‘It is very important to me to do whatever I can to move toward renewable energy sources like solar. When I look at the armed conflicts in the world around fossil fuels, it motivates me to act. When I see the devastation of the regular oil spills on plants and animals and water sources, I want to act. One thing I can do is decrease my personal demand and my businesses demand for energy sources that wreak havoc on our environment” MI Solar works and AES talking with many more homeowner’s and companies who want to reduce carbon emissions and save money.

Interested residents and business owners can learn more at the AES and MI Solar Works website at www.alliancees.org.

Submitted by:
Brett Little, LEED APH, GreenStar Professional & LFA
Executive Director, Alliance for Environmental Sustainability (AES)



Steelcase becomes the 15th largest renewable energy purchaser in the United States

On March 13, 2014 Steelcase announced it was increasing its purchase of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to the equivalent of 100% of our global electricity consumption. This investment in renewable energy makes Steelcase the 15th largest renewable energy purchaser in the United States according to the US EPA Green Power Partnership. Steelcase was a founding member of the Green Power Partnership in 2001 when they purchased renewable energy equivalent to 100% of the electricity needs of our Global Headquarters building. The current renewable energy investment comes from 100% non-emitting sources (e.g. no landfill gas or burning biomass). In an effort to expand positive impact, Steelcase has created a one-of-a kind program that will enable our supplies to purchase renewable energy credits from these same clean sources at the same volume discount pricing Steelcase is paying. Learn more here. 

Steelcase has been a champion of LEED with their Wood Furniture Manufacturing Plant being the first factory in the world to be LEED certified. Steelcases Work Labortory in Grand Rapids is LEED Platinum and the Leadership Space in the Headquarters is also LEED certified. Showroom spaces in Chicago, DC, and a business center in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia are also LEED certified. The University Staff Space and Innovation Center are in the LEED credentialing process.

Submitted by:
Andrea Marz, Executive Director, USGBC WM



April Battle of the Buildings Education Program: Green Revolving Funds

Green Revolving Fund Program at Clark Retirement Community

Green Revolving Fund Program at Clark Retirement Community

On April 18, the USGBC West Michigan hosted Dr. Heun for his presentation on Green Revolving Funds at Clark Retirement Community to over 50 attendees. This event was a part of the Battle of the Buildings monthly education program. Battle of the Buildings is an awards and recognition program for energy use reduction in the West Michigan area commercial & industrial buildings. Learn more here.

Mike Ignatoski, Director, Capital Projects and Facilities at Clark Retirement Community (a Battle of the Buildings participant) kicked off the program by sharing Clark’s recent energy efficiency project that included new a web based building management system, demand control ventilation strategies, air handler and pump adjustable speed drives, pipe insulation and a new energy efficient chiller. The project saves $131,000/year in energy costs. Ignatoski stressed the importance of forming a Green Team as well as engaging residents and staff at the ground level. Without their help these project would not have been as successful or embraced by the organization as a whole.

CERF Graphic

CERF Graphic

Dr. Matthew Kuperus Heun, Engineering Department, Calvin College followed with a presentation on Green Revolving Funds and they have been utilized at Calvin College. Dr. Heun explained the goal of a Green Revolving Fund is to take the savings from energy or other sustainability related projects and roll the savings back into a fund to finance the next energy or sustainability related project. He believes that behavior changes occur when we can demonstrate not only the environmental benefits but also the financial benefits of energy conservation. Dr. Heun shared Calvin’s Energy Recovery Fund (CERF) that is currently being used to internally finance campus energy projects. Students are involved in project analysis, providing opportunity for supplemental learning in energy stewardship and fiscal responsibility. Projects have included T12 fluorescent lighting retrofit, shower head replacement, and LED lighting retrofit at Calvin’s indoor tennis facility. To date, the program has saved $54,000 in energy costs.

Submitted by:
Senior Mechanical Engineer, Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc.