Beyond the Build


Looking for an Easy Way to Invest in Green? Purchase Power Credits.

This April marks two years since we moved to our new corporate campus. The upcoming anniversary got me thinking back to 2005 when we first started the design of our building and grounds. Being a responsible member of our new community was of the utmost importance, so it made sense to build with minimal impact and sustainability top of mind. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards seemed like a great guide to follow.

As many of you know, LEED is the certification program developed by the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council), which gives points in the following categories:

  • Sustainable sites
  • Water efficiency
  • Energy and atmosphere
  • Materials and resources
  • Indoor environmental quality

Depending on the points a site accrues, the USGB grants certification at these levels:

  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Certified
  • Platinum

LEED was brand new to me back in 2005. We worked hard to educate ourselves and attain a Silver certification.

As we were getting ready for our final submission to the USGBC, I tallied up points. I discovered then that we could buy green power credits for points toward the certification. This means we would pay a little extra to use “green power” to offset the electricity used during construction and subsequent operation of the building. What you buy is based the anticipated building usage, guaranteeing energy is added to the grid from renewable sources like solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and hydro.

This seemed like cheating after all the hard work we had put into building materials and systems. After investigating, I determined the opposite was true. We were creating awareness, helping support a fledgling component of our power grid and reducing carbon emissions. You can do the same.

The EPA has created the Green Power Partnership (GPP), which works with organizations to determine if green power purchase is right for them. During the past year, the top 20 participating retailers had a combined green power purchase of nearly 3.3 billion kilowatt hours annually. That’s enough electricity to power more than 300,000 American homes for a year.

Kohl’s, Whole Food Markets, Pepsi, Dell, Deutsche Bank, ING, Dannon, The Tower Companies, and North Face are using green power for 100% of their U.S. electricity use. We’re working hard to get there too.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.