Small Business Spotlight: Jonathan Meier, Rain Brothers co-owner:

An interview with Jonathan Meier, Rain Brothers co-owner: 1. How long has your firm been in business? Eight years. 2. How did you become interested in sustainable design/construction? I originally moved toward sustainable construction through working and living in an economically depressed neighborhood in Columbus. I wanted to do something in the neighborhood to create employment opportunities that provided fair wages, provided meaningful work, and demonstrated environmental stewardship. Our company started when I – along with my good friend Gordy Smith and five young men from the neighborhood – started constructing large- and small-scale rainwater harvesting systems in our backyard for urban farmers throughout Columbus. It grew into a passion from there. I also come from several generations of well drillers, so working with water is in the blood. Passion + Roots = Let’s Do This Thing! 3. What was your first job in the industry? We put in a large underground system at the Ohio Governor’s Residence early on in our business. Through the encouragement of Hope Taft (who was head of the native conservation efforts in the backyard of the Residence), we installed a 3,000-gallon catchment system with irrigation. Needless to say, it was a bit intimidating to go at an underground system in this high-profile setting. 4. What are a few projects your most proud of? We have done several large-scale rainwater systems for commercial applications – those are always rewarding from an ethical standpoint because they tend to have the biggest effect. But, honestly, the projects that I am most proud of are the ones where we’re given a tight budget and asked to design a thoughtful system. Challenges of this sort give me the most hope for change because it forces us to build out of necessity (instead of habit and comfort) and it pushes us to be more creative and more accessible with our work. I do not feel like we’re doing any justice to the greater good unless we can develop cost-effective, easily-implementable water solutions. The rainwater system we installed at The Ohio State University is an example of this type of system: The budget was derived from grant funding, and we were asked to develop a design-build package that would maximize system capacity and effect while minimizing cost. We also did a large-scale system for Franklin Park Conservatory that was quite enjoyable to design. 5. What is your vision for energy and environmental design in the next decade? My vision for energy and environmental design in the next decade involves having the green movement station itself amongst the poor. “Necessity is the mother of all innovation/invention.” None know that better than those who live day-to-day in a position of necessity. I have seen some amazingly innovative things constructed by people who are just trying to get by right here in Columbus (including several bike- and human-powered machines). Those who struggle have much to contribute and much to gain from environmental policies, so the marriage of the movement with struggling communities is natural. 6. What do you see as the greatest challenges for developing a sustainable built environment? Cost is certainly a large factor in the stalling of a transition into a green economy. But the speed at which things happen in construction is, I would argue, an obstruction to true progress. I am often both amazed and troubled by how quickly things happen. In our experience with Rain Brothers, often times, sustainable design is an afterthought or an addition instead of an approach. It is completely understandable that things happen so quickly (especially since few can afford to be slow and deliberate). Nonetheless, we have found that quickness generally impedes sustainability. 7. How does (or can) the USGBC-COH help you overcome these challenges? Perhaps by highlighting (through publications?) cost-effective, easily implementable green construction practices. And I’m not talking about screwing in an LED light bulb – but rather stories geared toward engineers, contractors, and architects from engineers, contractors, and architects about how to, say, simplify or modularize underground housing, or how to construct more healthy, naturally-aerated ponds that serve as natural swimming pools as well as irrigation sources (because, let’s face it, rainwater harvesting tanks are expensive), etc. 8. What types of projects are you focusing on right now? We are working on installing some pilot fire protection tanks (underground) in rural parts of Ohio. We are also getting ready to install a large-scale rainwater reuse system for Mitchell’s Ice Cream in Cleveland, and are working on a large-scale stormwater management system utilizing best management practices for a ranch north of Columbus. 9. Finish this statement: Early in my career, I wish someone had told me..... That growing a small business sucks. Few people will appreciate a job well done. Even fewer will recognize personal sacrifice for the business’ and/or customer’s sake. And hardly anyone will know when you’re working ridiculous hours and making very little. Realizing this is helpful, because it might make it easier to say “no” to jobs that don’t serve you, your ethic, and/or your business. 10. Finish this statement: I wish I had more time to... Farm, network, start other small businesses, cook

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