West Michigan LEEDs The Way

August 18, 2008
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It is not possible to let this week go by without comment on an extraordinary and continuing development being reflected throughout the West Michigan region. The achievements in sustainable practices are summarized in the Business Journal Focus section this week; the word “summarized” is used in consideration of the fact that one could write a book about the growth of such practices across varied types of business and even to the public sector. The list of Top Green-Built Projects was certainly longer than the two pages published, and so, too, was that of Top LEED-Staffed Companies.

What is most extraordinary, and likely a story only to be told from this region, is the assistance competitors provide one another, and the pride they take in being a part of something that is certainly bigger than any one.

West Michigan is home to more than 40 of the state’s 57 already constructed LEED-certified buildings, a number growing by the day as new LEED certifications are awaited for more recent projects. The U.S. Green Council in 2005 reported that 11 percent of all LEED-certified buildings in the country were located in the Grand Rapids region.

A concept pioneered in the late ‘80s by Herman Miller Inc. now sees competitor Haworth leading businesses with the most number of LEED-accredited staff.

Office furniture manufacturer Steelcase has invested in various aspects of sustainability, and its chairman emeritus Peter Wege has literally created dozens of organizations, liaisons and projects throughout the world. One of those, the City High-Middle School curriculum centered on “economicology,” (the title of one of Wege’s books) begins classes next month.

Aquinas College offers the nation’s only bachelor’s of science degree in sustainable business, integrating science, business and environmental studies. Program director Mark Tueth has remarked to the Business Journal, “West Michigan is a core of sustainable business development nationwide and even internationally. We can be a technology producing center and an innovative business center that will distinguish us in this global market.” The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association wrote its sustainability principles here.

Cascade Engineering is the most recent example of international success. The plastics products manufacturing company began production of blades and rotors for the Swift Rooftop Wind Energy System in league with Renewable Devices, a company headquartered in Scotland. Cascade Engineering also has attained the highest award possible — platinum — for its building.

Most every city in this region now boasts LEED-certified buildings: Saugatuck, Holland, Grand Haven, Muskegon and certainly Grand Rapids and most of the suburban cities. The business community has inspired the city and county to build “green” and consider environmental projects. Grand Rapids three years ago was the pilot site for the Allied Waste and EPA Green Supplier Network and the My Green Home model, built in partnership with Inner City Christian Federation.

These accomplishments, which continue, distinguish this region where once again business leads, and has established an undeniable legacy.

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