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Garage roof garden is what's growin' on in Pontiac

Ame Houston’s story of growth in Pontiac is quite literal. As co-founder and co-chair of Serendipity Seeds, a sprouting nonprofit dedicated to bringing green spaces to the urban center of downtown Pontiac, Houston is driven by dreams of creative reuse of the top story of the parking garage adjacent to Pontiac’s historic Riker Building, a 10-story 1928 office tower that has recently undergone internal redevelopment.

Tip top of the six-story parking garage is the new home of RootTop Pontiac, a collaborative effort of Houston and her partners Tad Reiner, Houston Robertson, and Stephanie Love, a group of volunteers, and some undisclosed investors in Pontiac and Oakland County.

The project is scheduled to roll out in six phases between this summer and next summer. Meanwhile, plants are sprouting in Houston’s home in Pontiac.

“It’s like a tiny farm in my house right now. There’s a lot of lettuce growing in my extra bedroom,” Houston says.

Plants were specially chosen to thrive in containers and planter troughs in a rooftop setting and grow vegetables or encourage pollination. A future plan is to grow hops on trellis walls, then see the hops used by local brewhouse Fillmore 13.

The weight of the containers, fully loaded with root systems and wet soil, were specially calculated to be appropriate for the space.

“Tad [Reiner] is a mechanical designer for a sustainable engineering company, and a student at Oakland University, so it helps to have his skills on our team,” says Houston. Currently studying greenhouse gardening, with the goal of becoming a master gardener, Houston brings her own green thumb to the project, and, as an embroiderer at Pontiac’s Earth 2 Earth, an artistic flair, as well.

In its roots, the effort is collaborative, pulling in the skills of many volunteers. "Jonathan Sterns is a young architect who has donated much of his time and expertise to the project," says Reiner. "He provided renders and code knowledge while asking for absolutely zero in return. We're super grateful to him."

Eventually, the RootTop space will be available to rent for events, or for educational purposes.

“We are happy to be able to reimagine this underutilized parking space,” says Houston. “We have a lot of passion in urban agriculture. We see green spaces popping up in Detroit, and want to bring this to Pontiac.”

Ferndale incentivizes environmental sustainability practices in new projects

The city of Ferndale is serious about its environmental sustainability efforts. So much so, in fact, that the city has integrated green infrastructure into its negotiations with developers. They've since further developed those efforts by adding a new position to the planning department. Erin Quetell was hired as the city's first Environmental Sustainability Planner just six months ago.

Ferndale uses incentives to get developers to add green infrastructure features like permeable surfaces to manage stormwater runoff. Should a developer want access to something like Brownfield tax increment financing, they have to work with the city on its environmental sustainability requests.

Jordan Twardy, Community and Economic Development Director for Ferndale, takes part in those negotiations. He's helped green infrastructure become a priority in development talks. Examples include introducing an underground water retention system at the Parkdale Townes townhouse development and permeable surfaces at the new parking structure downtown. Even saving old oak trees is on the table.

"Basically, what I do is lay out what we're trying to accomplish. There's always some back-and-forth, some trade-offs," he says. "It's an extra layer of nuance but worth the effort."

According to Twardy, Quetell's hiring has helped the city better formalize the process, while also improving Ferndale's own green infrastructure.

Lately, Quetell has been focusing on improving waste management and recycling rates in the city. She's been studying the implementation of an anaerobic digester to improve on city compost practices. The anaerobic digester uses a closed system to deprive compost of oxygen, breaking organic materials down while capturing methane emissions to provide energy to power facilities or gain energy credits.

"We're looking at making small efficiency updates like street lights and interior lighting, and then go bigger from there," says Quetell. "We're working toward a sustainability master plan."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Troy company aids development of UK energy storage plants

Excerpt

Troy-based chemical company LG Chem Power Inc. first began manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in 1998, and is one of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery manufacturers with a significant market share in consumer, automotive, and stationary applications. As energy companies around the world work towards increased energy savings, environmental responsibility, and sustainability, LG Chem Power has created a robust mass production system for their battery technology and now supplies cells to major international companies, becoming one of the world’s principal battery manufacturers across several industries.

Read more.

ITC Holdings receives key U.S. Department of Energy approval for Lake Erie Connector Project

Excerpt

The ITC Lake Erie Connector, a subsidiary of Novi-based ITC Holdings Corp., announced the transmission line company has received a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Read more.
 

Oakland County gets $600,000 EPA grant to assess and clean up contaminated brownfields sites

Oakland County has been awarded a $600,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will help local communities assess and clean up brownfields sites for future economic development.

The Assessment, Revolving Loan and Cleanup grants are awarded to communities deemed underserved and economically disadvantaged, including neighborhoods where environmental cleanup and new jobs are most needed. The grant is among more than $55 million awarded to 131 communities across the United States.

“This certainly is a big step for Oakland County,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Unfortunately there are a number of brownfields sites that should have been cleaned up a long time ago. This continues the momentum we’ve begun in developing these sites.”

The county partnered with Farmington Hills, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Pontiac and Southfield as well as PM Environmental in seeking the grant. It is the fifth time the county was awarded an assessment grant, which totals $2.85 million, said Bradley Hansen, a business development representative who administers the county brownfields program.

Local developments that have benefited from previous brownfields grants include the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts in Pontiac ($24 million investment); Emagine Royal Oak Theatre ($14 million investment); and Motor City Harley-Davidson in Farmington Hills ($6 million investment). The funds are expected to last for about three years.

Residential property values near brownfields sites that are cleaned up increased between five and 15 percent and overall property values increase within a one-mile radius, the federal government said. There are an estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites in the United States.?
 

Innovative green tech energy company from Greece opens first US location in Oakland County

Greek Energy Monitoring Company, Meazon, opens first US office in the Oakland University Incubator: OU INC in Rochester Hills Michigan. Meazon, having made the final call on a current Department of Energy (DOE) energy sub meters technology competition and recently been top 5 shortlisted at the Shell Great Lakes Innovation Competition, Founders Stelios Koutroubinas and John Gionas knew it was time for a US location.
 
Koutroubinas mentions, “We knew there was a need for our products and services when we visited Michigan and met with potential customers and kept receiving the same feedback- that our products are of the highest quality they have seen and with an excellent Total Cost of Ownership.” Koutroubinas continues, “We are excited to be in the Oakland University Incubator, where the talent from their engineering program is impressive. We also are very happy to be in Michigan. We’ve been working with Oakland County’s Economic Development & Community Affairs department to help make important connections into the Midwest’s energy market.
 
“We are thrilled to have Meazon in Oakland County,” commented Irene Spanos, Director of Economic Development, “It’s our second Greek-owned firm in Oakland County.” Spanos continues, “Meazon fits into Mr. L. Brooks Patterson’s Emerging Sector initiative, aimed at diversifying the make-up of Oakland County with emerging technology companies.” In 2012, Spanos spoke to dozens of high-tech companies, in a partnership with US Embassy in Athens, on how to “How to Grow Your Business in the USA”.  It was a panel discussion with Amy Butler (Oakland University), Clara Mager (Butzel Long) on everything you need to know about expanding in the United States.
 
“As a result we continue to work with several Greek tech companies on their first US location in Michigan. We have a great business case in Oakland County, Michigan. We have a globally educated workforce, great business environment and we are already home to over 1,000 foreign-owned firms from 39 different countries,” promoted Spanos.
 
Meazon is involved in several new pilot projects throughout Michigan. The demand for their “smart” products continues to increase dramatically.
 
About Meazon
In Meazon we design and deliver energy related Internet of Things products, combining hardware, firmware and software in a unique manner at a fraction of the price of what is available today. We have built a comprehensive portfolio of energy management solutions, with world-class team of 30 software, firmware and hardware engineers. Headquartered in Greece (Athens and Patras) and now in Michigan (Oakland County), partnering with a wide range of domestic and international ESCOs, systems integrators, energy utilities, service providers, buildings and industrial companies.
 

Life Skills Village opens brain injury rehab center in Oak Park

Excerpt: 

Beyond the hype of the NFL scandal and the subsequent Will Smith film, “Concussion,” there are tens of thousands of people suffering the daily trauma of living with a brain injury. Whether that injury comes from a fall, car accident, stroke or aneurysm - the treatment team at Life Skills Village leads the way to rehabilitation and recovery with a newly constructed Center for Brain Injury Rehabilitation, located in Oak Park.

Read more.
 

LTU sustainability project in Detroit is finalist for global award

A project to turn a school on Detroit's west side into a learning laboratory for sustainability is in the running for a global architecture award.

The project, called the [sw]LAB NZE Hybridized Ecosystem, was designed by studio[Ci], a Lawrence Technological University architecture and design laboratory, a team of more than three dozen LTU students, and four LTU professors in both architecture and engineering.

The project site is the Sampson-Webber Leadership Academy at 4700 Tireman Ave. in Detroit, a pre-K-through-8th-grade school in the Detroit Public Schools.

The award is a finalist for the Architizer A+ Awards in the category “Landscape and Planning – Unbuilt Masterplan.” To vote for the LTU system, visit http://awards.architizer.com/public/voting/?cid=101. The deadline for voting is April 1.
The Architizer A+ Awards, now in their fourth year, are sponsored by New York City-based Architizer, an online database for sourcing architectural services and building products.

Since fall 2013, studio[Ci] has offered LTU expertise through faculty and students to design and build a Net Zero Energy canopy structure to be part of an outdoor classroom at the academy. To test the long-term vision for the school and the neighborhood, a prototype structure will be installed to generate electricity from photovoltaics and collect water to irrigate gardens at the school site, in an area that will be used as part of an outdoor classroom.

The structure will be a solar and water collection array mounted on a pole, with eight photovoltaic panels and a rainwater transport, storage and irrigation system. The outdoor classroom – designed by sixth graders at the school, with guidance from studio[Ci], the DPS Go Green Challenge and Garden Collaborative programs -- will provide hands-on learning and training in net zero energy technologies, food production, composting and recycling. Included will be six raised garden beds and a raingarden.

LTU professors leading the design project are Associate Professor of Architecture Constance C. Bodurow, who founded studio[Ci] in 2008; Civil Engineering Professor Donald Carpenter; Professor of Mechanical Engineering Robert Fletcher. And Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Keith J. Kowalkowski. College Professor of Architecture Charles O'Geen participated in 2015. Significant technical and design support has been donated by Ruby + Associates, SME, and Roncelli Inc.

Primary funding to design and install the prototype has been provided by a $25,000 Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) grant, which also funded the initial neighborhood-wide NZE project in 2010-12, with additional support from the deans of Lawrence Tech’s College of Architecture and Design and College of Engineering, the Coleman Foundation, and Michigan State University’s University Center for Regional Economic Innovation. DPS has served as primary partner and has provided support through lead teachers and administrators.

Eventually, a larger project is planned at the academy, including a large photovoltaic and geothermal energy farm, extensive stormwater management installations, more gardens, and more outdoor classrooms. The ultimate vision, Bodurow said, is not only to achieve net zero energy, but to generate educational and training opportunities through collaboration with the community, as well as creating new economic opportunities, and restoring the school as the hub of the neighborhood. The long-term plan is to make the school – and, eventually, the neighborhood itself -- net zero energy, meaning it produces all the energy it needs through renewable sources, manages its water resources, and produces zero waste, including zero stormwater runoff. The LTU team has developed a monitoring system in collaboration with the school which could form the basis for a curriculum that will engage students in STEAM lesson plans about sustainability using the installed technologies.

Other partners in the project include the office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the Detroit Department of Neighborhoods District 6, Detroit Future City, It Starts At Home 48204, and the residents, parents, and businesses of the Tireman neighborhood.
 

Orion Township beer distributor invests in energy efficient upgrades

An Oakland County beer distributor has become a pioneer in energy efficiency and renewable energy investment. Orion Township-based Powers Distributing is the first business in the state to have completed a refinanced PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) project.

PACE helps businesses finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that save money in the long run but require expensive investment up front. It allows property owners this ability through a special property tax assessment with the local government, in this case Orion Township. The tax assessment then frees up lenders' ability to provide up to 20-year, low rate, fixed-interest loans.

By using PACE to help finance a 95kW solar system on the roof of its recycling center as well as the installation of LED lighting throughout the facility, Powers Distributing became the first beer distributor in the country to finance an energy efficiency project with PACE, the first refinanced PACE project in the state, and the first PACE project altogether in Oakland County.

While the project cost $435,000, officials expect returns on its investment to surpass $1,000,000 over the lifespan of the project. The energy efficient solar and lighting equipment will save Powers an average of $48,000 per year in energy costs. As Powers chief operating officer Gary Thompson says in a statement, "…[T]he entire beer supply chain from brewing to distribution to your refrigerator is a long and energy hungry road."

Powers completed the project with help from the Newman Consulting Group, Lean & Green Michigan, and Michigan Solar Solutions. Since the state of Michigan allows any project that can be financed through PACE to also be re-financed through PACE, Powers was able to re-finance for a project carried out from 2013 to 2015.

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Iron Belle Trail meeting Oct. 29

Excerpt

Walkers or bikers heading south could end up at Belle Isle near Detroit, while those trekking north could arrived at Ironwood located on the western fringe of the Upper Peninsula.

Read more.
 

Oak View Hall gets LEED Gold certification for green building

Oak View Hall, Oakland University’s newest 500-bed student housing complex, recently struck gold in green building certification.

Oak View Hall’s unique architecture and design has captured LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Gold certification status.

To reach LEED status from the U.S. Green Building Council, building projects have to earn points based on their ability to save money and resources and have a positive impact on its residents, while promoting renewable, clean energy, according to the building council.

Oak View was awarded 63 points in green energy building categories such as sustainability, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation and design process. Only Platinum certification is higher than Gold, which is between 60 and 79 points out of 100.

Oak View, which offers bike racks, preferred parking for low-emission vehicles and shielded light fixtures, hit many green building requirements that helped it achieve its LEED Gold status. It also features dual-flush toilets, low-flow bathroom fixtures and showerheads, and an enhanced refrigerant management system that consumes 18 percent less energy than a typical dorm building.

The building’s project managers also thought green during the construction process, recycling more than 95 percent of the construction waste generated by the project and using about 15 percent of recycled materials. Twenty percent of the construction materials were sourced regionally, as well.

The student hall has also received the Masonry Institute of Michigan's President Award for its use of masonry throughout. 

The 164,724 square-foot, $30 million facility was officially opened in August 2014. University officials broke ground on the project in 2013. The residence hall was constructed due to a nearly 40 percent increase in housing rental agreements in the previous four years.
 

Royal Oak looks to build downtown 'smart park'

Excerpt: 

Royal Oak is trying to raise $60,000 to turn a small area next to the downtown parking garage into a smart park, complete with wifi and covered bike racks.

Read more
 

Longtime environmentalist and business roundtable member honored with Heritage Partner Award

A Commerce Township man was honored with the 2014 Heritage Partner Award by the Planning Division of the Oakland County Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs.

Jim Meenahan was honored for his contributions to preserving Oakland County’s natural and built heritage. The award was presented last week during the 17th annual Heritage Conference, which was held at Addison Oaks County Park in Addison Township.

“Jim is a steady, hardworking contributor, perfectly willing to stay behind the scenes,” County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “I’m glad we honored him with this award.”

Meenahan, who has a degree in chemical engineering, has been a member of the Oakland County Business Roundtable Quality of Life Committee since 2001, is an advocate for historic preservation, Main Street Oakland County and the Trail, Water and Land Alliance.

He was a founding member of a citizens group, “Save Our State Land,” which campaigned to save 550 acres of the Proud Lake State Recreation Area that were to be removed from public ownership as part of the state’s land consolidation strategy. The site was ultimately purchased by Commerce Township, which is working on a master plan for a new park. Meenahan said he was proud to receive the award, which was presented by Bret Rasegan, who heads up the planning division for the county.

“Community redevelopment has been of extraordinary interest to me and it’s exciting to see the results of visionary people who have the persistence to drag communities kicking and screaming to a new place,” Meenahan said. “It’s not the work of wimps.”
 

ASTI helps brass aluminum forging expand in Ferndale

With ASTI Environmental’s assistance, the City of Ferndale’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will receive $870,000 from the Tax Increment Financing and Revolving Loan Fund dollars for remediation, site preparation and demolition of a 212,000 square foot former steel pipe and conduit manufacturing facility, a small chemical storage building, a small equipment building and a guard shack on 20 acre site at 965 Wanda in Ferndale and construction of a new 100,000 square foot building.

Among the eligible activities that ASTI secured funding for are environmental assessments, asbestos assessment and abatement, interior and site demolition and industrial cleaning, debris removal, removal of contaminated soils and oil soaked wood blocks, infrastructure and transformer removal, interest, brownfield plan and 381 work plan costs. Reimbursement will occur over 11 years (for local and state capture) and assumes annual appreciation of 1%. 

With a total capital investment of $8.6 million, this industrial renovation and construction project will also spur the creation of 100 full-time jobs, 50 by Brass Aluminum Forging and another 50 jobs by other building tenants. Most of the jobs will be skilled manufacturing. Some of the jobs will be engineering and supervisory positions.

The facility was vacant for 10 years and now is completely leased with a proposed 100,000 square foot new construction on the northern portion of the property.

This was made possible through the support and efforts of the City of Ferndale, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s ability to structure a public/private partnership that provides tax revenue and jobs to an otherwise vacant and blighted property.

For more information of this project or other Incentives inquiries contact Tom Wackerman at 800/395-2784 or twacker@asti-env.com.

OU, Chevron partnership to advance green energy use goals

Oakland University has partnered with Chevron Energy Solutions to install a combined heat and power (CHP) co-generation system designed to reduce campus utility costs, provide necessary infrastructure upgrades and support educational resources. 

The 4,600 KW natural gas turbine co-generation system, to be located in OU's Central Heating Plant, will supply hot water and electricity to campus. The public-private partnership will allow OU to retain ownership of the project while a private entity, Chevron Energy Solutions, builds the system. With no capital cost to OU, a projected 15-year capital lease will be used to finance a $12 million outlay by Chevron. 

Along with increased energy efficiency, the partnership will result in a number of financial and operational advantages, according to OU officials overseeing the project. 

"In today's economy, higher education must find creative financing ways or partnerships to fund new endeavors," said Siraj Khan, director of engineering for OU Facilities Management.

"(Public-private) partnerships are a unique way to structure, negotiate and implement the finance, design, development, construction and operation of development projects at a faster pace with guaranteed savings, higher return on investment and increased cash flow in the long-haul, with a minimum risk that will be transferred to the private sector, leaving the university in a win-win situation."

Khan added, "The co-generation system will generate savings that will exceed the operation, maintenance and project financing costs, and will not increase the university's annual utility budget expenditures."

In addition to cost-savings, the project also promises educational enhancements, such as a live dashboard, new clean energy courses and internships in support of OU's Clean Energy Research Center.

"CHP is a proven technology, and is becoming more and more popular in the wake of sustainability culture on higher education campuses all around United States to reduce carbon footprint and to produce clean energy," Khan said.

"The operation of the CHP, real time energy monitoring, data for energy savings and reduction of emissions will be a learning tool for students and a valuable educational experience."

For additional information on sustainability efforts at OU, view the Facilities Management website at oakland.edu/facilities. To learn more about OU's Clean Energy Research Center, visit oakland.edu/cerc.
61 OakGreen Articles | Page: | Show All
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