Firm Focuses On LEED Certification

October 13, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — With the implementation of "The Progressive Design and Learning Institute," Progressive AE says it has stepped up its commitment to both sustainable design and continuing education.

Beginning with the Green Design workshops, the institute is allowing the architecture and engineering firm's 130-member staff to keep up with their professions' continuing education requirements from within the company.

The internal program began last year when Jeff Remtema, now Progressive's director of sustainability, taught a small group of employees the concepts necessary to pass the United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) exam.

With the success of that effort, the expansion of the program was in development for this year, but an announcement of an upcoming retooling of the exam necessitated accelerating the program.

"This last round was pretty intensive," Remtema explained.

"The council's workshops tend to be pretty straight-laced — just what the credit rating system is, and what you need to know about it.

"We wanted to be sure to look at the underlying social issues in each of the credits, and to give examples, strategies and the economic benefits of each," he said.

"With the local and regional experience I have with the rating system in our area, I could tailor it and give examples from our projects, show them which credits are more applicable in what areas."

While council workshops are generally expensive, one-day events, Progressive's program was a six-week course, with an hour each in mornings and afternoons, complete with bookwork and after-hours studying.

Through the course, Progressive was able to prepare 20 employees to eventually become new LEED-accredited professionals.

It was a group that included architects, engineers and executives. The firm boasted that a 100 percent pass rate enabled it to establish nearly 30 percent of its work force with LEED accreditation.

The exam required candidates to demonstrate knowledge of green building design and construction industry knowledge, LEED rating system knowledge, LEED resources, and processes and green design strategies.

Although not expected to become a profit center for the company, Remtema explained that once the new examination standards are released and integrated into the institute's curriculum, the program will become available to affiliated companies as well.

"We hope to offer it as a community service," Remtema said.

"This is just the beginning of what we plan on doing. LEED is just going to be one aspect of it. We want to offer other courses and curriculum as well."

The recipient of the American Institute of Architecture-Grand Valley's first Sustainable Award for the Forest Hills Goodwille School, Progressive is fighting to take the lead in local LEED and green building efforts.

"(The institute) was a significant investment on the part of Progressive," Remtema said.

"We really believe that it this is the right thing, too, for our community at large and for the environment.

"But it's also good design,' he added. "We feel very confident that the things practiced and promoted in the LEED rating system and sustainable design in general result in better buildings.

"It's ultimately a more holistic way to design."

As part of Progressive's sustainable design efforts, Remtema — one of the area's first LEED-accredited professionals in 2001 — was recently promoted to the position of director of sustainability.

"My role here now is to get Progressive ahead of the curve in sustainability," Remtema said, "as well as in the architecture and building related to those areas."

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