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Wednesday, March 13,2013

MEO is tops in LEED

East Lansing-based nonprofit's headquarters is first East Lansing building, third in state designated LEED Platinum

by Andrea Raby

This story was updated Oct. 4

Thursday, Sept. 27 — Leaves are changing colors with the fall weather, but the Michigan Energy Options building has gotten a little greener.

The East Lansing-based, statewide nonprofit that conducts renewable energy outreach just had its headquarters at 405 Grove St. certified at the most coveted level for energy efficiency. It’s the first building in East Lansing and the third in the state to achieve LEED Platinum status.

“We are a newly minted LEED-certified building,” MEO’s executive director John Kinch said in a prepared statement. “And we are certified at the highest level possible: Platinum.”

LEED stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.” In Michigan, about 300 buildings have some form of LEED certification. Within the “Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance” category, MEO’s building is joining the ranks of 21 operations in the state. Of these 21, only two have received platinum status.

“MEO has always been a pioneer for green buildings, even before it was a term,” Kinch said in an interview.' He believes it’s important for MEO to educate others about energy efficiency and sustainability so they too can better their own homes.

The LEED certification process has taken MEO a better part of the past year, not to mention many resources and investments. However, the organization hopes to show people it is small changes that make a big difference.

Kinch emphasized that the most important thing about the building was that it already existed. Instead of moving to a new space, the organization revamped the space it was already using, which is just east of East Lansing City Hall. “The greenest building is one that is already built,” Kinch said.

MEO, formerly known as Urban Options, saved the colonial-style 1920s house from the wrecking ball in the 1990s.

The nonprofit had already installed more solar panels, which earned them an energy star rating 10 years ago. Now that LEED has become the gold standard for energy efficiency, Kinch said it was something they knew they had to pursue.

Some of the new additions include more solar paneling and a storm water capture system. All construction was done at the highest attainable levels of LEED guidelines, with construction waste either recycled or reused. The organization also stepped up its recycling programs, installed glass doors for better use of sunlight and used office furniture that was reclaimed from other sites.

With this new facility, MEO seeks to educate others on the necessary steps in becoming LEED certified. Kinch said that there is still work to do, but the group hopes people will use the new demonstration center to learn more about sustainability and LEED. '

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