Barnes Builds Green

April 25, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Barnes Management Inc. specializes in designing and constructing educational facilities, and the firm's most recent work with the Forest Hills Public Schools has allowed the company to showcase its LEED capabilities.

But Barnes Management President Jeffrey Barnes passed on most of the credit for his firm being able to do that to school officials at Forest Hills — such as Forest Hills Eastern Principal Linda LaBerteaux — and to the district's taxpayers.

"We think that the Forest Hills Public Schools support of the LEED and the concepts of green design are unique," said Jeffrey Barnes. "On their 2000 bond issue projects, four new buildings were all designed and constructed as LEED projects."

GoodwillieEnvironmentalSchool, Knapp Forest Elementary, Eastern Middle and High School, and the Forest HillsPerformingArtsCenter are the four projects. The Eastern and KnappForest buildings are done.

Barnes Management became LEED-certified three years ago and Vice President Russell Barnes felt getting the certification was a worthwhile effort for the company.

"While it's not a wave, it is certainly attracting a lot of interest. Grand Rapids Public Schools has recently jumped on the bandwagon and we think that the remainder of the projects for their 2004 bond issue will require LEED certification," he said.

Public education makes up most of the current market for LEED certification and that suits Barnes Management just fine.

"That's our market, mostly. That's where we see it," said Russell Barnes.

And Barnes Management knows that market well. So well that Russell Barnes shared with the Business Journal five reasons why Forest Hills went green and is likely do so again in the future.

Going green:

  • Is the right thing to do.

  • Makes projects easier to sell to voters and neighbors.

"When they're passing a bond issue, they feel a whole lot better voting for a green bond issue. If you don't get it by the voters, you don't build it," said Russell Barnes.

  • Helps draw students to a school.

"Forest Hills was loath to redistrict. They didn't want to force any of their students from Northern or Central high schools to go to Eastern High School," he said. "So they had to make Eastern an attractive school and the LEED certification was definitely a factor in doing that."

  • Dramatically lowers operational costs, as LEED makes a building less expensive to run.

  • Allows a school to include LEED features in the curriculum.

"For example at Eastern High School, they have a constructed wetland waste disposal system, and their sciences students are standing along the wetland and studying it," said Russell Barnes, who added that his company has added these reasons to its philosophy.

Besides being LEED certified, Barnes Management does design-and-build projects and historic renovations, along with residential and commercial construction. The firm either built or rehabbed 850,000 square feet in 2003, and had sales revenue that year of $35 million. Barnes was founded in 1988 and has 20 employees.

Now that green is the color of choice in public-education construction, Russell Barnes felt that manufacturing would be the next frontier to explore for LEED work, especially companies that produce products for mass consumer consumption.

"So many manufacturers, particularly those with a mass market appeal, are realizing that going green is definitely a marketing advantage," he said. "So we expect that a lot of the manufacturers, to the extent that they're building, will be making the investment in LEED and green building, as well."    

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