LEED-ing the Way

On Monday, June 20, 2011 - 22:32
If the atmosphere in Wausau seems tinted a bit green, you’re probably sensing the invisible energy efficiency waves being emitted by environmentally conscious residents and business owners. In late 2007, contracting firm The Samuels Group erected 311 Financial Way, the city’s first privately owned building certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. The 42,000-square-foot office building was designed as a model of sustainable construction for other business owners and contractors in the area, says the firm’s president, Sid Samuels. “It was to demonstrate that we could do it, and that it could be done economically,” he says. The group’s clients have received the message loud and clear. Every project on which the group is currently working is designed around sustainable building practices. “The changes represent a significant savings for our clients, but it’s really a significant impact to our environment,” Samuels says. Another local business setting the green standard is Wausau Window and Wall Systems. The half-century-old company provides windows and curtain wall systems for institutional buildings such as offices and high-rise residential buildings. They have been involved in more than 20 LEED-certified projects over the years, including three that earned Platinum status, the highest level of certification. “Sustainability is really about the triple bottom line,” says Steve Fronek, the company’s vice president for technical services. “It’s about not only protecting the environment, but it’s also about social responsibility and financial viability. It’s the value that these sustainable business practices deliver that makes it much more than just a fad.” The company applies green principles to its own practices as well as work for clients, and the results make for not only more earth-friendly results, but also better business. The company has passed the first phase of a two-part review to earn LEED-Silver certification for its new manufacturing facility and expects to save $90,000 each year in utility costs. Public entities are jumping on the green bandwagon as well. The utilities company Wisconsin Public Service Corporation uses between 4 percent and 5 percent renewable energy in its total output, and it also offers energy audits to help customers increase efficiency. “It’s the right thing to do,” says Kelly Zagrzebski of the WPS external affairs department who chairs the Wausau Commission for a Greener Tomorrow. “You look at the econ­omy, you look at the environment. We all live here too, and it just makes sense for us to promote energy conservation and renewable energy.”