Posted: August 01, 2014
Green Colorado 2014: Real estate/construction/developmentMaria Martin & Nora Caley
Growing Spaces LLC
Greenhouse kit manufacturer
The CEO and cofounder of Growing Spaces says she laments the political nature of environmental talk these days. “The reality is, no matter what side you’re on, we’re facing unprecedented droughts and disasters,” said Puja Dhyan Parsons, who has owned the Pagosa Springs-based greenhouse company with her husband, Michael Udgar Parsons, for 25 years. Since 1989, the company has designed and manufactured geodesic Growing Dome kits that utilize renewable energy and creating jobs in Southwest Colorado.
The company has been grid-tied since 2008. Solar powered shop heaters and extra insulation have saved Green Spaces $9,000 in heating costs since 2004. Rather than investing in infrastructure buildings for storage, Growing Spaces uses recycled shipping containers. And this resonates with mountain dwellers, where seasons dictate growth, as well as with who live in big cities, where gardening may seem impractical or darn near impossible.
“There’s a food revolution we feel we’re part of,” she says. “Kids with allergies and sensitivities; there’s something wrong with our food system. And we’re happy to see families making the right choices and choosing to grow year-round.”
It’s not easy to achieve LEED Platinum certification in an historic building: the key is to recycle and hone in on energy reduction, water usage and details like sustainable cleaning and buying practices. But that’s what Group14 is all about, according to company president Sue Reilly.
“The challenges are related to construction waste management,” she said.
The company is a recognized authority on sustainable design, including LEED project management.
“For all the different opinions you hear about LEED, it has transformed the market, in everything from energy efficiency to waste management,” Reilly said.
Through its work with Xcel Energy, Group14 has worked on more than 75 local projects, and Xcel’s energy design assistance has kept enough off the grid to power nearly 10,000 houses for a year.
For Reilly, steps like fuel-efficient vehicles parking and a push for recycling are part of the office culture.
“We’re really excited about looking at a shift in operational habits to the way people use a building,” she says. “Taking care of the earth and ourselves has always been a passion of mine.”
The awards are stacked high at Johns Manville. The company works toward building in a whole new way; so it’s no surprise that the company’s chief sustainability officer, Tim Swales, earned a Colorado Environmental Leadership award for going above and beyond government compliance requirements.
Add it to the pile of honors for this shining example of a green company. A lighting retrofit initiative, along with a new bio-based, formaldehyde-free binder, are what draw the attention of builders interested in sustainability.
“We meet with the EPA … and really listen to where the world is going,” Swales said. “We want to live with profitable solutions, or there’s no sustainable business.”
“When you listen to world leaders, you realize how important this all is.”
Global design firm
RNL’s Tom Hootman admits he’s slightly biased when asked if homebuilders, architects and landscapers have become more aware of environmental issues.
“I’d say they have, but then, that’s what we do and who we work with,” said Hootman, director of sustainability for the company.
The word “regenerative” is important now, said Hootman, a member of a team who suggests all architects, planners and designers must work toward improving the health of the planet.
“LEED told us we can be better than code, which is basically what is the least expected,” he said. “Now we’re shifting the conversation to, ‘What would it be like to be neutral, self-sufficient?”
Hootman said he once considered net zero energy the end-game, but he’s modified his view.
“Now we’re thinking about design focused on people and health,” said Hootman. In 2013, RNL was ranked No. 13 for sustainability by Architecture magazine. “Poor design leads to a sick building. We’re learning a lot very quickly.”
Sustainable building training
It’s a little like trying to get a job out of college: With no experience, it’s hard to land that first gig. BOULD partners with leading organizations and higher-education institutes to offer, what is often, that first experience in LEED and sustainable design and building to students and developing professionals.
BOULD has trained more than 470 people in the sustainable building strategy, and has supported more than 45 LEED-certified affordable housing projects in 10 states – and it’s branching outside of the U.S. “Our goal is 1,000 people and 100 projects,” said Brett Dioguardi, director of partnerships and international relations.
The Green Building Hack-a-thons (Gbhack.org) are one-day events that quickly accomplish the goals of overhauling the green building industry, and pressing for affordable green housing.
In short, Dioguardi says, the goal is to educate students and those who are established in the building and design business.
“It’s a way to network to students and young professionals who need LEED experience, and get out the word to the community and builders that sustainable buildings make sense.”
Maria Martin and Nora Caley are freelance writers.