LEED User Group forming in Muskegon

April 19, 2009
| By Pete Daly |
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MUSKEGON — A LEED User Group is forming in Muskegon with the help of the West Michigan chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition.

Renae Hesselink, vice chair of the West Michigan USGBC board of directors, said the first meeting of the new group will be May 5 at Nichols Paper & Supply in Spring Lake, and it is open to anyone — even representatives of businesses or organizations that don't currently follow LEED practices.

"I don’t want the title to scare non-LEED users away," she said. "We don’t have that many LEED users along the lakeshore at this point, so I want people to know that even though they're not a USGBC member, or they currently are not working on LEED certification for their building, I want them to feel comfortable coming to learn about it."

The USGBC and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design are dedicated to the promotion of green building practices, and the way communities are designed, built and operated. The emphasis is on being environmentally responsible, to reduce consumption of natural resources and reduce pollution — both inside and outside the buildings.

Hesselink said people who should attend the organizational meeting would include architects, construction managers, building owners, facilities managers/supervisors, property managers and anyone who is or will be assigned to manage a LEED project. Hesselink said the organizers of the Muskegon LEED Users Group hope to attract people who will consider renovating or maintaining their facility in accordance with LEED practices for existing buildings.

"It doesn't always require big renovations," she added.

Although the USGBC Web site lists about two dozen LEED-certified buildings in the Greater Grand Rapids area, Hesselink said there is currently only one LEED building in Muskegon, with probably another four that are in the process of attaining certification. The building that is certified now is the GVSU Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center.

Hesselink, who is vice president of sustainability at Nichols Paper & Supply, said her company is in the process of obtaining LEED certification for the building it acquired three years ago and renovated.

Nichols sells custodial and packaging supplies to companies, institutions and government facilities throughout Michigan, including higher education, health care, lodging, K-12 schools, industrial manufacturing sites and more.

Nichols sought LEED certification for existing buildings "because green cleaning is a big part of that certification, and that's what we need to be experts in," said Hesselink. "We help people create healthier facilities, and we work across all industries."

One of Hesselink's major responsibilities at Nichols is helping customers implement green maintenance and operation programs throughout their organizations. She also represents the business sector as a member of the leadership team at the Muskegon Area Sustainability Coalition. The MASC was organized with the help of the Foundation for Muskegon County, under the leadership of former vice president T. Arnold Boezaart. He was recently named interim director of GVSU MAREC.

The Community Foundation was "the entity that kind of got the ball rolling and pulled everybody together to" form the MASC, said Hesselink.

Hesselink said the Muskegon LEED Users Group is open to people in other lakeshore communities beyond Muskegon, if they are interested.

Holland has four LEED certified buildings, according to the USGBC.

The organizational meeting of the Muskegon LEED Users Group will run from 8-9:30 a.m. May 5 and there is no cost to attend or to join the Users Group. Anyone wishing to attend must send Hesselink an RSVP at renae.hesselink@enichols.com and include their name, the name of their organization or company, and a phone number.

The first meeting will provide an overview of LEED-New Construction and LEED-Existing Buildings Operations and Maintenance. Monthly meetings will be held to educate members on LEED credits, starting with Sustainable Sites.

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