Green Grants

March 27, 2006
Print
Text Size:
A A

GRAND RAPIDS — Doing the right thing is often difficult. For organizations that would like to reflect their commitment to a healthy environment and sustainable business practices in their places of business, building a LEED-certified facility is often an appealing concept. However, satisfying the criteria necessary to earn the "green" certification often adds difficulty, time and expense to building projects. Some nonprofit foundations are hoping to ease that burden by offering financing and grants specifically suited for green building.

Earlier this year, Metro Health received a welcome surprise for its new MetroHealthHospital, under construction in southern Wyoming. The health system learned that the Kresge Foundation had awarded it not one, but two grants toward its construction costs. In addition to a $350,000 challenge grant that Metro had been expecting, the foundation also added a second "bonus grant" in the amount of $150,000. This grant, part of the foundation's Green Building Initiative, will help Metro achieve LEED certification for the new facility.

Laura Staskiewicz, Metro's vice president of fund development, said that the organization is pursuing a number of green funding initiatives. For example, Metro has applied for two grants from the state department of environmental quality. The grants would fund the "green roof" and some of the planned "bio-retention" features of the new hospital complex.

She said that the LEED plans have also been of interest to individual donors.

"We've talked about being one of the most environmentally friendly health care facilities, certainly," she said. "And because this community is so focused on green building, it certainly has raised the interest level of people in what we're doing."

Staskiewicz said that, apart from the Kresge and state grants, Metro has not found any other funding programs that are specifically designed to fund green building, let alone grants for green hospitals.

"If you find one, let me know," she joked. "We've been looking for those."

And Metro is not alone in its search for customized funding opportunities. As LEED certification becomes a more common standard, the demand for green building funds is becoming more pronounced. That may mean increased competition for grants, but it may also lead new funders into the field.

For example, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Enterprise Foundation, Great Lakes Capital Fund and Michigan State Housing Development Authority have recently launched a new program called Michigan Green Communities. One of the first developments to be funded through this joint venture is

Kingsbury Place
, an affordable housing community that will be built in Walker. This is the first major LEED-certified residential project in the state.

Through the Green Communities partnership,

Kingsbury Place
's developer, Genesis Non-Profit Housing Corp., will receive a $91,000 grant, as well as $4.35 million in equity from the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. These collaborative public-private projects are growing in number across the country. The national Green Communities program will invest $555 million in five years to build more than 8,500 homes for low-income individuals nationwide. While the housing agencies that partner with the national program will benefit from those funds, Green Communities is not making any grant funds available for commercial construction.

One local foundation whose name has become synonymous with supporting environmental causes, including green building, is the Peter M. Wege Foundation. Instead of offering grants for green building, the Wege Foundation takes a different approach.

"We will not fund any capital campaign unless they are LEED certified," said Ellen Satterlee, executive director of the foundation.

But that arrangement is not as exclusive as it sounds. Satterlee said that the foundation considers grants for non-certified organizations that include LEED-certification upgrades in their capital campaigns. She is also careful to point out that, while LEED certification is important to the foundation, funding decisions are made on the basis of many criteria, not just an organization's willingness to build a green structure.

While private foundation funding for green building is on the rise, many organizations begin their funding search with government programs. A good starting point is the U.S. Department of Energy (www.doe.gov). The department also administers DSIRE, the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy, which features programs specific to Michigan. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has comprehensive information about green building and LEED certification at its Web site, www.michigan.gov/deqconstruction

For nonprofits that hope to build a sustainable home for their organizations, there is a growing supply of resources available. Unfortunately for the for-profit business world, the grants and other green funding opportunities outlined here are only available to nonprofits.    

Recent Articles by Kevin Murphy

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus