New Jenison building lets the 'zonlicht' in

February 7, 2009
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If you travel down Georgetown Center Drive in Jenison, you'll notice something different about the building at address number 7706. Once it finishes the certification process, it will be Georgetown Township's first LEED-certified building.

The Zon Licht — zonlicht is "sunlight" in Dutch — building is owned by Brian Kwekel and his brother-in-law, Hill Hoolsema, under the name Hilman Properties LLC. Kwekel is the founder of architectural firm Corridor Design and also served as the general contractor for the project to help cut down on costs. Rental costs in the building run between $11 and $13 per square foot.

Hoolsema is a CPA and managing member of the firm Hoolsema & Co. LLC, a financial services company and the building's first tenant. It was Hoolsema & Co.'s search for a new office space that led to the creation of the Zon Licht building. Hoolsema found there wasn't anything LEED certified in the size they were looking for. He said the company is "trying to be good stewards of the environment."

"We were looking at life cycle costs," Hoolsema continued. "What kind of long-term cost is there versus, 'Hey, it's cheaper in the short run, but in the long term, it's more money."

Hoolsema hopes the company can also use the building as an educational tool to show others how LEED principles can be worthwhile in smaller buildings.

Building LEED is often associated with large projects such as the Grand Rapids Art Museum or Haworth's new home, but the Zon Licht stands at 5,300 square feet. The space can be divided into two or four office suites, thanks to two partition walls. The square feet per office space can range from as little as 975 up to 3,500, depending on how the partition walls are placed.

"I haven't done a lot of looking," admitted Kwekel. "But from what I've seen, there isn't a lot of small tenant rentable spaces that are potentially LEED certified."

Kwekel said the building is planned to fall somewhere between Gold and Platinum LEED certification, but along with that, they hope it will be a "net zero energy" building, meaning the amount of energy the building uses — which has been drastically reduced due to LEED building methods — would be supplied by solar and wind energy.

"Our mission is to bring the benefits of LEED-certified buildings to the small business owner and their clients," said Kwekel. "However, the certification is only one part of our design. Equally important is the plan to create a net zero building. It's the intersection of the two that provide real environmental benefits. "

Energy- and cost-saving methods are demonstrated through low-flow water fixtures, white reflective roofing, natural ventilation systems and radiant floor heating. One of the most noticeable features, however, is the lighting.

"Two things that have been amazing to me is that I use no lights," said Hoolsema. "I can go from 8 o'clock in the morning to 5 o'clock at night; I don't even have a light on. The natural lighting that comes through the windows is all I need.

"The other feature that really stands out to me so far has been the thermal gain from the sun, even when it's cloudy. We'll come in at 7:30 in the morning and it will be 66 degrees, and by noon, without any heat — the heat is off — the building will be at 71, 72 degrees."

Zon Licht doesn't have the solar panel and wind features yet, but plans to add them in the spring. Design of the building started in April 2008 and construction started in mid-July.

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