ABC officially makes Rockford green

May 28, 2010
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The day before the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce gave Rockford Construction its prestigious Excellence in Business Award, the Associated Builders and Contractors named the firm a Certified Green Contractor.

Those two honors aren’t unrelated. Rockford Construction Executive Vice President Ken Bailey was certain the company’s lengthy and successful track record in green construction played a role in the firm having captured the chamber’s award.

“I think that’s part of it. I think we’re a company of great people that work hard to keep our clients happy, and part of that is offering green, sustainable projects. That really starts right here in the office with some of the stuff we’re doing, and it just bleeds into the field in our trailers and actually onto our job sites, as well,” he said.

Rockford Construction is one of only 14 firms nationwide certified by ABC as a Green Contractor. There are only two in Michigan — and in the Midwest region — with that certification, and both are in Grand Rapids. Pioneer Construction Co. also has earned that status.

Bailey said getting ABC’s official green stamp-of-approval verified the environmental changes the firm made internally back when it decided to go in a more sustainable direction. Rockford made mechanical and lighting changes to make the office more energy efficient, reduced its use of paper as part of a conservation effort, and established a recycling program.

“It was a little bit of a lifestyle change. But what I think that has been great about it is, everybody has supported it,” he said.

The ABC certification is hot off the press, so to speak, and not enough time has passed for it to have an effect on the company’s reputation in the field. To be honest, the firm was already well known throughout much of the country for its green-construction capabilities. What Bailey feels the ABC confirmation will do for Rockford Construction is to validate the company’s résumé.

“Our experience with green building has helped us develop opportunities around the Midwest — and frankly, out West, as well. It’s expected in our industry now to be a green contractor, build green projects, and help in that process to make it happen successfully,” said Bailey.

“We’ve got a full-time sustainability coordinator on staff. We’ve got 12 or 13 of our project managers that are LEED accredited. It’s been a group effort. And, frankly, a lot of our clients are just going that way or are expanding. That’s just the way things are being designed now — with green practices.”

The ABC certification process consists of four steps, with the first step probably the most demanding: A contractor has to fulfill 13 prerequisites that range from distributing documents electronically to establishing an aggressive recycling program. Then an applicant has to meet 12 of 36 elective items. A few of those include conducting a professional energy audit, conserving water usage, and providing incentives for car pooling or using public transportation. Then a firm has to meet four education and training benchmarks that ABC feels are important. One of those is that at least a quarter of a contractor’s project managers have to undergo green-construction education.

Step two is filing the application. Step three is a site visit from a third-party assessor scheduled by ABC. Step four is a review of the application by ABC National’s Green Building Committee.

“We thought this would be a great way to help set an example for others in our industry that may want to create sustainable practices in their workplace,” said Bailey.

Rockford Construction has been managing at least six local projects this calendar year that will seek LEED certification upon completion. Work is completed on one: the $1.75 million renovation of Bridge Street Place at 609 Bridge St. NW. Here are the other five.

  • A $6 million renovation of the Aquinas College Fieldhouse at 1607 Robinson Road SE. Work is expected to be done in September.

  • Kent County’s new Recycling Center, a $6 million project at 977 Wealthy St. SW. Work is expected to be done in August.

  • A new Grand Rapids Christian elementary school, an $8 million project at 1050 Iroquois Ave. SE. Work is expected to be done in August.

  • A $500,000 renovation of the Grand Rapids Christian Evergreen Elementary School at 1031 Page St. NE. Work is expected to be done in August.

  • A $1 million addition to the Jolly Roger Ice Arena at 2600 Village Drive SE. Work is expected to be done in July.

Although that list only represents a microcosm of the green projects the company has managed over the years, it is true to one fact: Nonprofit organizations and public-sector entities make up the bulk of clients building for LEED certification. And that’s not only true for Rockford Construction, but for the entire green-building industry.

“All the folks that we’re working for in the public sector have to be designed to a green standard,” said Bailey. “In terms of the private sector, it just feels like a lot of those clients are taking sustainability into consideration when they look at a project, and we’re able to help them with that with options and get them to their goals. That’s the key.”

“I think it’s going to continue to grow,” Bailey said of green construction. “I think it’s going to be something that will be mandated. I think it’s going to be something that people are going to try to improve on, try to build more and better green projects. I just think it’s going to continue to escalate.”

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