WYOMING — Those attending the Alliance for Environmental Sustainability’s open house Wednesday were introduced to some of the basics of green building and had the chance to view a miniature solar house and wind generator, a two-speed toilet and assorted green building materials.
The nonprofit’s mission is to educate the public and building industry professionals about environmentally sustainable green building, energy efficiency and “healthy” construction that promotes indoor air quality.
A group of local green-minded builders formed the Alliance 18 months ago and have been primarily involved in conducting seminars for builders since then. Wednesday’s open house marked the organization’s formal introduction to the general public.
They founded the Alliance because they felt there weren’t enough educational resources in Grand Rapids for builders and general consumers who were interested in green building, said President Mike Holcomb, owner of Home Inspector General. Before the alliance was established, the closest resource was in Lansing, he said.
Founding members include Holcomb; Vice President Dave Thacker, owner of MACS Builders; Treasurer Guy Bazzani, owner of Bazzani Associates Inc.; and Gayle DeBruyn, owner of Lake Affect Design Studio.
“Our interest was in providing a place where builders and consumers could go and look at displays of actual products in use without being pressured to buy a particular product, and be able to compare products to find out what works for them and fits into their budgets,” Holcomb explained.
It’s the Alliance’s belief that educated consumers will make healthy, environmentally sound, green choices for their homes and that educated builders will reinforce those decisions once they become familiar with green building and energy-efficient concepts and construction materials.
Its headquarters at 3190 Madison Ave. in Wyoming is a MichiganEnergyDemonstrationCenter and serves as a link to five other energy demonstration centers in the state, all of which have their own specialty, such as solar power and wind generation or renewable energy and ecological design principles.
The Alliance is the youngest of the six centers and specializes in training. The center houses hands-on displays, literature and examples of green building products and provides assistance with online product and materials research.
“We can help people find the information they need on toxic chemicals in their home or whatever issue they may have,” noted Executive Director Jeannine Reynolds.
The Alliance also is available to make presentations on a variety of building subjects, including green roofs, green building, the Five Star Energy Program, thermal telegraphing, soil erosion and storm water control, and mold, moisture and HVAC duct problems.
Most requests are for presentations and seminars on green building concepts and principles, Holcomb noted. Mold seems to be another area of interest. He is a regular guest on National Public Radio, where he speaks once a month on green building issues.
The group’s largest seminar, which 250 people attended, was held in March at DeVos Place. It holds smaller classes at its headquarters, at KentSkillsCenter and Home Building Association offices.
Additionally, the organization has trained students from AquinasCollege so they can teach Energy Star concepts in local high school building programs.
“You need to teach high school kids because they don’t have all the bad habits that a builder that’s been building for 20 years has,” Holcomb remarked.
The center’s staff is all volunteer at this point because the Alliance is funded primarily by membership fees and small Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy grants administered through the state.
“We’re also working on special projects that generate a little revenue,” Holcomb said. “We’re testing products from Japan in test environments to find out if they’re effective in improving indoor air quality or reducing mold or whatever it might happen to be. We’re in a unique situation in that we’re working to help develop the green building program in Japan. As the result of that, the Japanese have come forward with a lot of different green products.”
The Alliance’s current headquarters is a temporary center and a place for the organization to get started, he said. The ultimate goal is to build an independent center that can house thousands of displays and testing equipment.