Environmental alliance diversifies
Partnership with Minnesota GreenStar is for remodeling certification.
The local Alliance for Environmental Sustainability announced it has partnered with Minnesota GreenStar, a green remodeling certification program. The program is branching out into Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio, with the plan to eventually become nationwide.
The partnership is part of a strategic plan AES adopted recently to diversify its training and certification offerings.
AES was founded in 2000 in Grand Rapids by Michael Holcomb, who serves as CEO and president, with the help of Guy Bazzani, of Bazzani Associates, and Gail DeBruyn, assistant professor of design studies at Kendall College of Art & Design and partner at Lake Affect Design Studios. The three wanted to create a nonprofit to help educate and train architects, builders and contractors about green building practices for residential construction.
Within its first five years, AES began to gain attention from other green building organizations, including the U.S. Green Building Council. In 2005, it was chosen as one of five demonstration sites across the country to provide a setting for the residential construction industry to see sustainability products in action and receive training.
Around this same time, Holcomb was chosen as one of 12 people in the country to administer the LEED for Homes certification program, which was done through AES. Brett Little, executive director of AES, said that since 2005, the LEED for Homes program has taken off, mostly fueled by the residential building industry’s interest in building greener homes, but sometimes originating from the homeowner who is becoming more environmentally conscious and wants to build the most energy-efficient house possible.
Little said that AES has certified 1,500 units through LEED for Homes.
Though LEED for Homes has been a strong program for AES, in 2011 the organization began questioning its longevity if its services were limited to only one program. As a result, AES has begun expanding its green building certification program options. It also identified specialty gaps in its board and added seven board members earlier this year to meet those needs and build capacity for the future.
AES sees its next big opportunity in the green home remodeling and retrofit arena, where existing homes undergo remodels that include the transition to environmentally sustainable components, such as improving indoor air quality and reducing carbon emissions.
Little said that the Minnesota GreenStar program is a robust program for the existing home market and was the perfect fit for the alliance’s new direction.
AES highlighted the importance of adopting the GreenStar program in a press release announcing the partnership: “With over 120 million existing homes responsible for 21 percent of the U.S’s energy use and Americansspending 90 percent of their time indoors in often unhealthy environments, the partnership’s efforts willfocus on educating occupants and remodelers on improving the five key categories of existing homes:energy efficiency, indoor environmental quality, water conservation, site and community impact andresource efficiency. This is a holistic program that views the home and lot as an interactive system.”
AES held its first training for the GreenStar program last month in both Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, and Little said he is in the process of scheduling the next training dates.
In addition to the GreenStar partnership, AES also partnered recently with Kent County Disability Advocates. AES will help the organization redevelop its ZeroStep program. Little said that under current code and common design practices, 20 percent of Americans are unable to access homes and buildings. The two organizations hope to decrease that percentage.
AES also is in the midst of a project focused on improvements to the Wealthy Heights neighborhood. The project involves many partners, and the role of AES is to help the neighborhood become LEED for Neighborhood Development certified, another program of the U.S. Green Building Council. Bank of America has awarded AES a $25,000 grant for the project.