When planning new construction, initial cost is often the primary factor considered by most businesses during project forecasting: This is short-term thinking. A leading mid-Michigan design and construction company has shown that by paying more up front, building in sustainability can lead to significant long-term savings.
First to LEED
Located in Midland, Three Rivers Corporation is the region’s largest general and mechanical contractor, with half of its work consisting of industrial builds. In 2010, according to an MLive article, “Midland construction company earns ‘Certified Green Contractor’ status; third in Michigan,” Three Rivers became the first Great Lakes Bay Region-based company to receive Certified Green Contractor status from Associated Builders and Contractors. The company currently staffs more than a dozen LEED-accredited professionals. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a program created by the U.S. Green Building Council that provides third-party verification of green buildings.
“We advise our clients on the various aspects of sustainability in every project we do,” says Andy Weisbrodt, business development manager at Three Rivers. “Our clients often find areas to promote sustainability that benefit their needs while reducing the environmental impact.”
To that end, Three Rivers has designed and constructed two fully LEED-certified projects since 2010: the Ieuter Insurance Group building in Midland and the Private Aviation Hangar at MBS International Airport. The company is currently awaiting LEED certification on the Fisher Contracting building in Midland and has a few undisclosed projects in the works.
To encourage the use of sustainable materials, Three Rivers suggests clients consider life-cycle cost of a building. “Some [clients] have paid 25 percent more for HVAC [constructed from sustainable building materials], but have seen a payback in under four years,” says Weisbrodt.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council:
The green building market included 2 percent of non-residential construction starts in 2005; 12 percent in 2008; and grew to more than 30 percent in 2010. By 2015, an estimated 40 – 48 percent of new nonresidential construction will be green.
Other material changes, such as the type of insulation and lighting used—specifically LED—can also lead to significant long-term saving.
“Energy costs have created a dialogue [with clients],” says Weisbrodt. This dialogue leads to savings for the client and also to reduced emissions and waste, resulting in a win for the client, the community, and the environment.