By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer
The group behind the standards for environmentally friendly construction has started a Mankato branch to train area professionals and advocate for more efficient and less-polluting buildings.
The U.S. Green Building Council, creator of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (better known as LEED) standards, has had a Minnesota chapter that’s focused on the Metro area for its first seven years, executive director Sheri Brezinka said. Now, they’re ready to branch out into the rest of the state and have started off-shoots in Rochester and Duluth.
Eric Lennartson, a designer and market development coordinator at Paulsen Architects, is starting the Mankato group.
“The amount of energy that the construction industry and our buildings take up is huge,” he said. “If we have the opportunity to reduce the energy for short-term building and long-term more efficient construction, it’s better than a new oil find.”
And you don’t need to be an environmental altruist — efficient building techniques are often pursued because they save money in the long-term.
There are two LEED-certified buildings in Mankato: the Blue Earth County Justice Center and Rosa Parks Elementary, both of which Paulsen Architects worked on. Other local properties seeking the certification include the Riverside Regional Pet Shelter, the Courtyard by Marriott hotel and event center and the Law Enforcement Center, which is being remodeled.
There are 180 LEED projects certified statewide, with all but 26 occurring in the past three years.
Lennartson said there are benefits from this awareness-raising beyond LEED certification, which requires a lot of paperwork. Other water- or energy-efficient upgrades are still important, even if they’re not certified.
In his own home, for example, he was looking to buy a more-efficient toilet, but a few years ago couldn’t find the sort he was looking for in the area. Now, he has no trouble finding them.
“The more they are used, the more accessible they became,” he said.
Lennartson also plans to work with the construction management department at Minnesota State University. He hopes it will be a way for the students to network with the industry and learn job skills.
“Students need a new edge to market their abilities,” he said.
The group plans to meet quarterly. For more information, email Lennartson at firstname.lastname@example.org.