Monday, October 12, 2009

Arts Center Green Building presentation / forum sparks community discussion

By Michele Bourdieu

The Copper Country Community Arts Center plans a green building project to renovate the building for sustainability. The center was recently awarded a Kresge Foundation Green Building Initiative Grant for planning the project and is hosting a series of presentations and public forums to collect community input in the planning process. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)

HANCOCK -- On Oct. 7, a crowd of nearly 60 people attended the first of three educational presentations / community forums about sustainability and green building hosted by the Copper Country Community Arts Center (CCCAC), which was recently awarded a $60,000 Kresge Foundation Green Building Initiative Grant.

The grant will fund the professional consultation services necessary to develop and evaluate a green building plan for renovating the Arts Center in Hancock. This includes pre-design planning services, energy and material analysis and ecological site planning.

At this first event of the series, held in Finlandia University's Jutila Center for Global Design and Business, Allison Slavick, a consultant who was contracted by CCCAC to develop the proposal for the $60,000 grant, introduced Linda Frey, executive director of the West Michigan Chapter of U.S. Green Building Council.

Linda Frey, executive director of the West Michigan Chapter of U.S. Green Building Council, addresses community residents and Community Arts Center Board members in a presentation on LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of buildings on Oct. 7 at the Jutila Center in Hancock.

"You're leaders in green building because you're here," Frey told the audience.

She began her presentation with statistics showing that buildings have more impact on the environment than industry or transportation. Buildings are number one in global CO2 emissions. In the United States, she noted, people spend an average of 90 percent of their lives in buildings.

The Green Building Council began in 1993. Their mission, through LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of buildings, is as follows: "To transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life."

Frey said she believes, with the Council, that this transformation can be done in one generation.

"We have to have ecological intelligence and we have to share that with each other and we have to be transparent about it," Frey said. "Doing it creatively is the real challenge."

During her slide presentation, Linda Frey discusses the value of green building in reducing energy, CO2 emissions, water use and solid waste.

"It's found that green building occupants are healthier, happier and more productive," Frey noted.

This is not surprising since green buildings typically have better indoor air quality and lighting, she said. In order to achieve a really green building, you need to integrate indoor environmental quality, material use, energy use, water management and site planning.

Credits for LEED certification can even be earned by putting a bike rack in front of the building, since it encourages alternative transportation and energy conservation.

Frey's slide presentation included examples of green buildings in various parts of the country, indicating their energy savings.

Feedback from the community -- through stakeholders and volunteer committees -- will go to a cross-functional design team that will meet and combine their expertise with the community feedback.

Several members of the audience offered such feedback during this first meeting -- in the form of both suggestions and questions.

Allison Slavick, a consultant who was contracted by CCCAC to develop the proposal for the $60,000 Kresge Foundation Green Building Initiative Grant and facilitator for the Oct. 7 meeting, notes suggestions by community members who spoke during the public forum following Linda Frey's presentation.

CCCAC Board member Kiko de Melo e Silva noted the present size of the building would require very smart space management. He also suggested using local materials that can be both noticed and recycled.

"People need to take ownership," de Melo e Silva said.

He pointed out the importance of getting public interest before starting the building project -- by starting now to publicize statistics and information in order to cultivate ownership within the community.

Amanda Moyer, a student in Finlandia University's International School of Art and Design, noted the two local student communities offer the possibility of combining the engineering talent from Michigan Tech with artistic talent at Finlandia. Moyer also suggested students could go into the schools and get kids to help with planning. They would also talk to their parents about it, she noted.

Richard Donovan, operations manager, senior engineer and scientist in Michigan Tech's Sustainable Futures Institute, who is involved with sustainable design building at Michigan Tech, mentioned new experimental materials, such as those that store light.

"You could design materials that have phosphorescence in them," Donovan noted. "Smart materials with incredible properties can be designed and constructed through nano technology."

Donovan said he believed the Community Arts Center offers a potential for trying out some of these new materials -- aided by agencies now funding this research.

"Here is a place where you could get it out in the world," Donovan added.

Dave Bach, local builder known for directing construction of energy-efficient Habitat for Humanity houses, now teaches courses in the Construction Management program of Michigan Tech's School of Technology. In fact, one course he teaches with Chris Wojick, senior research engineer in Civil and Environmental Engineering, is directly related to LEED green building.

"I'm the Arts Council's 'Green Building Champion,'" Bach said.

Phyllis Fredendall, CCCAC Board member and Finlandia Art and Design professor, said she was concerned about the visual appeal of the potential Arts Center green building.

"I'd like to see something that increases our visibility in the community," Fredendall said.

Sue Ellen Kingsley, a mountain biker who also commutes to town by bicycle, said she was happy to see the slide about the bike racks and alternative transportation.

"The location of the Arts Center is a good place to promote alternative transportation," Kingsley said, "-- bikes, maybe skis."

Hancock resident Ann Pace said that while a high priority should be given to things that contribute to sustainability, it's also important to have "dramatic visibility features" even if they don't contribute that much to sustainability.

Christa Walck, Michigan Tech professor in the School of Business and president of the Copper Country Community Arts Council, said she agreed the third-party LEED certification for green building is useful because it shows an external person has seen it's done right; but it comes at a cost.

"Can we afford that if we actually have the local experts on board to see that it's done correctly?" Walck questioned. "For public relations, grants, etc., it's helpful; but you are paying a premium for it. LEED -- as a program, a process, a set of criteria for green building -- is excellent. My only question is the value to us of paying the cost of certification."

Chris Alquist, Community Programs Coordinator for the Portage District Public Library in Houghton, had a very positive reaction to this first meeting, especially since Portage Library is now setting up a "Green Center" that will have a computer dedicated to environmental topics and books related to green energy, sustainability, etc.

"I loved it," Alquist said of Linda Frey's presentation and the forum that followed. "I've been involved with the Arts Center since its inception because my kids were involved in many of the art programs offered for children all through their growing-up years. Two of my sons are professional artists now."

Alquist added she believes all buildings should be green.

"I think the world should recognize that this is a change we all need to make," Alquist said. "It's like breathing. We need to breathe; we need to be green."

Arts Center to host two more green building meetings / forums Oct. 12, 28

The next two presentations will be held at 7 p.m. tonight, Monday Oct. 12 with Cortland Overmyer, Community Sustainability Manager, United Water Contract Services, Suez Environnement North America and Norman Christopher, Sustainability Director of Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids and Wednesday, October 28, with Heather McElwee, Assistant Director and Chris Clarke, Facilities Director from the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Both presentations will be held at 7 p.m. in the Community Training Room (Room 323) at the Jutila Center for Global Design and Business at Finlandia University. The public is again invited to attend and offer input. For more information contact Cynthia Coté at (906)482-2333 or visit www.coppercountryarts.com.

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