The Rapidian

Green building alive, thriving in West Michigan

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

When it comes to green building, West Michigan takes a back seat to no one.

/courtesy of Cascade Engineering

/courtesy of Cascade Engineering

/courtesy of Cascade Engineering

West Michigan “gets” the concept of green building. For example, take Cascade Engineering of Grand Rapids.

Cascade is a multi-business manufacturer that specializes in large-part injection molding. A few years ago, the company’s corporate headquarters was redesigned and renovated to meet the certification guidelines of the LEED-EB (LEED for Existing Buildings) Green Building Rating System developed by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Highlights of that renovation:

Exterior Design Native wildflowers replaced over 75% of the turf-grass around the building to reduce mowing emissions, irrigation requirements and stormwater runoff. Outside lights are shielded to reduce nighttime light pollution.

Energy and Water Efficiency Efforts to reduce consumption of both energy and water include sensor-activated toilets and sinks. A white roof helps to reduce heat gain during the summer. All light fixtures were replaced with high-efficiency lighting and paired with automatic sensors.

Construction and Materials During the construction and renovation process, 86% of waste was diverted from local landfills, including materials sent to a regional waste-to-energy facility.

Cascade Engineering is just one example of how our region earned the “early adopter” honors in green building long ago.

Earlier this 21st century, while many were trying to figure out what all the LEED talk was about – “LEED” stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, by the way – Cascade Engineering, along with our office furniture companies and other far-sighted organizations, were already busy constructing and renovating homes, schools and commercial buildings designed to improve energy use, reduce waste and deliver greater occupant comfort. Several of these buildings, including Herman Miller’s Greenhouse manufacturing and office facility in Holland, are now considered icons in the field of green building.

Grand Rapids alone ranks among the top 30 U.S. cities with the most LEED project activity.

Far from a cookie-cutter formula, “green” building encompasses a world of options, from how a structure is situated on a site (it’s best to maximize interior access to natural light, for instance) to the selection of raw materials used in construction (think energy efficiency and materials reuse, for starters). Some may favor a green roof to help cool their building during the summer, while others prefer a rain garden to capture and filter parking lot run-off during storms. These and a multitude of additional approaches to building green are on display every day in our extended community.

West Michigan’s wholehearted embrace of these practices made it an early leader in defining the art and science of building green. That’s why our region regularly draws visitors from around the world seeking to get their own green building mojo working.

In the coming weeks and months we will profile organizations and environments that epitomize what green building is all about. Your comments and queries are welcome, and if you’re personally aware of a company or building that reflects best green practices, please let us know.

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