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

Sponsor Spotlight: DesignGroup

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Interview with Sherm Moreland, CEO, DesignGroup

USGBC:   How long has your firm been in business and where are your offices located?

SM:  This year marks our 42-year anniversary. Our offices are located downtown at 515 East Main Street. We are a local firm that provides services nationally.

USGBC: How many LEED AP work at your firm?

DesignGroup’s technical staff includes 23 LEED APs. We have a legacy of sustainable design that dates back to our firm’s beginning. We received our first AIA Design Award for a building designed according to sustainable principles in 1975. Our team strives to design buildings that contribute to the long-term sustainability of their contexts. Two of our colleagues in particular, Jack Hedge and Keoni Fleming, lead us in our efforts. Jack Hedge, design principal at DesignGroup, is a nationally recognized pioneer for sustainable design. In 2009, Jack was elevated to the AIA College of Fellows for his contribution to the practice of architecture in the area of sustainable design. He is a chairman and founder of the AIA Columbus Committee on the Environment and serves on the Board of Green Energy Ohio. Jack has received a number of sustainable design awards, including three Ohio Governor’s Awards for Energy Efficiency. Keoni Fleming, DesignGroup’s sustainability manager, has been a featured speaker for numerous presentations on sustainability, including DesignWeek Columbus, The Advisory Board, MORPC Summer of Sustainability, and Ohio Construction Conference. In addition to his role at DesignGroup, he is an adjust professor at The Ohio State University and served as the lead architectural faculty advisor for OSU’s 2009 and 2011 Solar Decathlon houses.

USGBC: What is the main benefit to you and your firm as a result of being involved in the USGBC-Central Ohio Chapter?

We find great value in the continuing education opportunities that the chapter offers. Our staff is able to maintain its LEED credentials by attending the quality programs that the USGBC provides. In addition, we gain exposure to trends and best practices, and access to networking with experts and like-minded professionals in our industry. We are proud to be associated with such a strong chapter and feel it is our duty to give back by adding value through heavy involvement in the chapter’s committees and programs.

USGBC: What types of projects are you focusing on right now?

It’s an exciting time at DesignGroup! We are currently working on the Columbus Museum of Art expansion and renovation project, which is pursuing LEED certification. Columbus is a great city, and we are honored to be a part of expanding one of its civic and cultural icons. Similarly, we are also working with the City of Columbus on a project in the heart of downtown, 111 Front Street, a facility that will bring many of the city’s departments under one roof, significantly improving their efficiency. We are in the works with Columbus City Schools on the Columbus Spanish Immersion Academy, a unique program that will serve students grades Pre-K through 6th. This August, a project we recently completed for CCS, Columbus Scioto 6-12, will host the Ohio Green Schools Rally 2014. This event is dedicated to the discussion of why green schools matter. Our colleagues who worked on the project will lead tours of the new facility, which is pursuing LEED gold certification and meets the performance standards of the 2030 Challenge.

USGBC: What future trends do you see in sustainability?

Increasingly, we are seeing decision makers implement sustainability requirements. For instance, the Green Schools program that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission adopted in 2007 requires that all new construction of K-12 schools meet LEED silver requirements. As a result, Ohio is the recognized national leader in sustainable school design. Columbus Metropolitan Libraries has implemented a building program called the 2020 Vision Plan, which includes seven new libraries and three renovations in Franklin County that will prioritize sustainable goals and strategies set by the library. As succeeding versions of LEED have become more stringent, owners, architects, engineers, and the construction trades have all stepped up to the plate, delivering buildings that meet these requirements. Sustainable design is becoming something that is part of the basic equation of designing and constructing buildings.

USGBC: What do you see as the greatest challenges for developing a sustainable built environment?

As LEED-certified buildings increase in market share, LEED standards are becoming more exacting. At times, this can be a challenge, particularly when balanced against other concerns such as budget, schedule, and constructability. We embrace the opportunity to deliver buildings that can meet all of these requirements. At the end of the day, it’s about designing and building good buildings. That is why we are in this profession.

Business Feature: Heapy Engineering

Heapy Logo - Green Interview with Michael J. Berning PE, CEM, LEED AP BD+C |  Sr. Principal, Dir. of Sustainable Design USGBC:  How long has Heapy been in business? MB:  We’ll celebrate our 70th anniversary next year. USGBC:  Where are your offices? MB:  The Heapy Engineering headquarters is in Dayton, but we’ve been in Columbus for 41 years with offices in Indianapolis, Cleveland and Findlay. USGBC:  What type of engineering does Heapy do?  MB:  Heapy Engineering offers MEP (Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing) Design Services as well as Technology Engineering Design, Planning & Commissioning Services and LEED & Energy Services. USGBC:  What are LEED & Energy Services?   MB:  This is the ‘Wiz-Kid’ stuff.  Our LEED & Energy Services engineers do the leading-edge work in energy, daylighting and computational fluid dynamics modeling.  Heapy Engineering is involved with over 300 LEED projects with over 130 certified to date.  Over 50% of which are certified at the Gold or Platinum level.  These guys and gals consult around the country on LEED projects – and assist firms in troubleshooting their LEED projects. USGBC:  What convinced Heapy’s leadership to be interested in energy and environmental design 10 years ago?  MB:  This is a personal story for me. Heapy Engineering’s President, Rick Pavlak and I were both originally involved with the Energy Services Department in response to the energy crisis in the late 70’s.  As the price of oil was rising, (to a whopping $30 per barrel) everyone started to pay attention. In the early 2000’s, Heapy Engineering was involved in  several of the LEED projects at University of Cincinnati.  Since LEED was so new (launched in 1998), there was a bit of difficulty in navigating through the certification process, and the Design industry in general didn’t realize the overall cost of the process itself.  We took it upon ourselves to develop a successful and repeatable LEED process and really dug into it.  Heapy Engineering held educational seminars for the AEC industry, explaining the certification process and the effort required.  This was before waste diversion services, etc. had been established or an understanding of how to implement many of the other sustainable strategies that were necessary to achieve LEED certification.  For example, we used to have several dumpsters on a project site to separate metal, wood, cardboard, trash.  We found creative ways to reuse vinyl, and sent drywall scraps (gypsum) for farmer’s to use on their fields. USGBC:  How many LEED AP work at Heapy? MB:  Over 100 out of our 170 employees have achieved their LEED accreditation.  This includes several of our Marketing and admin staff that are LEED Green Associates (GA). USGBC:  Do you have an internal LEED training program?  MB:  Professional Development is an ongoing process and in our industry is an expectation (to maintain professional licensing).  Heapy Engineering pays for study materials and LEED exam fees.  We’ve had over a dozen employees achieve their accreditation this past month before the LEED exams change after June 15th. USGBC:  What are your favorite projects? MB:  Our favorite projects are the truly sustainability-minded ones - not green washing - where we get to come up with those “cool” creative solutions for the client.  In addition to energy and water efficiency, we want to provide improved quality of life:  healthy indoor environment, daylighting,  and an indoor environment that contributes to increased employee productivity.   A lot of clients are asking for this now, they want a place of employment that contributes to a healthy community. USGBC:  What future trends do you see in sustainability?  MB:  What I see, is going beyond LEED, where buildings really contribute to quality of life.  I see people starting to look at live- work-play developments, that are less car dependent where people can walk to see a show or hop on their bike to get to work. USGBC:  What do you see as the greatest challenges for developing a sustainable built environment? MB:  Education. In addition to us LEED APs and our need for CEs, we need to educate people outside of the built environment on the WHY and HOW of green buildings.   We can’t take for granted to that people just ‘get it’ - it’s not their job. It’s our job to promote and help them understand the benefits to building and planning sustainably and responsibly.  For example, we have not done a good job of educating our elected officials on the benefits of “green”.  If we had done so, SB310 would not have had such an easy ride through our legislature.  Just doesn’t make sense to approve a freeze on the 2008 energy efficiency mandates here in Ohio.  Meanwhile, the US EPA has issued a national carbon reduction output by 30% - Ohio could’ve accomplished that goal via energy conservation but with SB310, we essentially just voted against that effort.