ALT32 Architecture + Design
When ALT32 principals Matthew Brooks and Michael Sparkman took over the former firm of Lucas / Schwering, they underwent a rebranding to reflect their broadened agenda and new focus on community engagement and sustainable practices. Their vision for a more engaging and environmentally sound community is reflected in their design, and also in their daily office practices. “Sustainability is really a mindset,” says Brooks. “It’s about adaptability.”
ALT32 has certainly proved itself adaptable. When they were first approached by Bluegrass Greensource about the LiveGreenLexington Partners program, they enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to start a conversation within the office about ways that they could creatively save resources and money by voluntarily changing the way they inhabited their office space.
From these conversations arose a number of simple strategies to reduce their energy usage.
- Replacing standard bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs
- Turning off overhead lights during the day and utilizing daylight from windows and task level lighting
- Unplugging the water chiller and using ice instead
- Placing major equipment on power strips and turning them off at night and on weekends
- Making sure all equipment is set to standby when not in use
- Creating a “power-down checklist” for the last employee to leave each day
Their office also recently switched to a paperless system for construction documents, which not only streamlined the communication process between themselves and contractors, but reduced the amount of paper and fuel consumed in the traditional process of sending large documents back and forth.
The firm has also encouraged employees to reduce their energy usage by commuting to work by bicycle and has participated for the last two years in the Bike Lexington Commuter Challenge during the month of May.
They will soon be installing solar shades that will improve cooling efficiency and reduce glare when using daylight to light their workspace.
Green practices at ALT32 go beyond just energy efficiency. Their office was already recycling through the LFUCG curbside program, but they were looking for creative ways to reuse materials that could not be handled through that program like obsolete construction material sample books. Working with Bluegrass Greensource, they were able to find a partner within Fayette County Public Schools to take these materials for use in technical education classrooms.
This dedication to creative and adaptive reuse is also evident in their latest project, the redesign and remodeling of the former Belle’s Bakery site at 313 S. Ashland for the bricks-and-mortar location of popular food cart Athenian Grill. Brooks’ passion for repurposing old materials led to an early decision to save any lathe that was removed and remill it in-house to create new interior elements. Past projects have similarly reused materials to both reduce waste and reveal historical elements of the spaces and tie their projects to the unique architecture of the region. “It’s important to understand where we’re from,” says Brooks. “If you look at people who do great work in architecture, it’s usually something local that the projects hinge on.”
When materials generated during the demolition and construction process are not able to be reused on-site, ALT32 has also worked closely with contractors to recycle them, a strategy which is mutually beneficial for their clients and the contractors.
And true to his firm’s ethos, Brooks’ efforts don’t stop at the office door. “I think about sustainability when I go home.”
Dupree Catering and Events
Dupree Catering and Events is in some rarefied company, and not just because of the quality of their food and service. They are one of only two Kentucky food service operations to receive certification from the Green Restaurant Association. The certification is a testament to the commitment that the caterer has made to greening their operations.
In 2010, Dupree Catering president Harriet Dupree Bradley was looking at the waste generated from large parties they were catering and decided that the time was right to make some changes. “We were using plastic disposable dinnerware and plastic glasses,” says Bradley. “You add to that cardboard boxes and bottles from the bar – there was just a huge amount of waste that if you were at home and you were throwing it away a little at a time, it wouldn’t have the same visual impact as seeing an entire dumpster full after one night.”
The turning point came when Bradley found an organization dedicated to helping the restaurant industry reduce its environmental impact. “I was eating something [on a trip] out of town, and I noticed on the packaging that it said ‘Approved by the Green Restaurant Association’. So I found them online and contacted them to start a full-scale recycling and energy efficiency program.”
Certification with the Green Restaurant Association was not easy. It required rigorous documentation of Dupree Catering’s green efforts. A key component of this documentation was a waste audit performed by Bluegrass Greensource.
At the start of their recycling program, the company had eight Rosie carts and one dumpster for landfill-bound waste. Their program has grown significantly since then. “We are recycling or composting 85% of our waste,” says Bradley. “We have flipped from having Rosies in the parking lot and a dumpster for all other garbage to having Herbies in the parking lot and a dumpster just for recycling. That’s huge.” According to Bradley, the switch has also saved the company over $1,800 per year.
To reduce waste, one of the big changes Dupree Catering made was in the dinnerware they offered to clients. “We used to use clear plastic plates and cups and cutlery that were very nice, but those were the things that were just going into landfills. We have switched to products that are either biodegradable or compostable. Some are made out of bamboo or other plant-based materials.”
The catering outfit also offers fine china and washable melamine options to customers to eliminate disposables altogether. The reception has been very positive. “We thought we would get some resistance from our customers, because it’s not what people were used to, but people really do appreciate it,” says Bradley.
The company also ensures that all recyclable materials are kept out of the waste stream after an event.
Another big change was in diverting compostable materials away from their waste stream to their own composting facilities and to local non-profit Seedleaf, who they began working with soon after its inception. “Seedleaf made composting very easy. We have buckets to collect compostable materials throughout the kitchen. They provided the buckets and come to pick up material regularly.”
Another facet of their green certification was energy efficiency and water conservation. They replaced outdated air conditioning units with the highest-efficiency models and also swapped out all their water faucets for low-flow models. Those changes have saved them around 10% per year in utility costs. They also encourage carpooling among their employees and have a no-idle policy, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Dupree Catering is not resting on their laurels though. They also joined the LiveGreenLexington Partners program, and they will be making efforts to become three-star certified by the GRA in the coming years. But Bradley is quick to note that other businesses can start to make changes even without a certification program. “There are a lot of things that we were already doing that any business could do. Recycling won’t cost them anything.”
Klausing Group is one of the premier landscape and grounds maintenance companies in Central Kentucky, and not just because of the quality of the work they provide their clients. As they have grown from a small two-man operation, they have striven to incorporate environmentally responsible practices into their everyday work.
Landscape maintenance can often be water-intensive; it can utilize large amounts of otherwise potable water, and over-fertilization can cause problems with water quality in streams. Klausing Group understands this and works to minimize the impact of grounds maintenance on water use and stormwater quality.
This commitment to water quality is apparent in the improvements they have made to their own building and grounds at their headquarters on Cahill Drive.
In 2010, Klausing Group was looking to add an additional employee parking lot in an unpaved area. Owner Roscoe Klausing knew that adding impervious surface would cause stormwater quality and quantity issues downstream, so he looked to options for a net-zero approach. “As a landscape contractor I was familiar with a lot of the Best Management Practices associated with water management, specifically on commercial building sites,” says Klausing.
The timing was fortuitous. They began design work with local landscape architecture firm CDP just as the first round of the city’s Stormwater Incentive Grant program opened.
This program provides financial assistance for projects in the community that improve water quality, address stormwater runoff, and educate the public about these issues. For Klausing, the grant program offered an opportunity to look at more than just improving the design of the parking lot. “We decided to try to modify our project to focus on what we could do better, and how we could use the grant to expand beyond the employee lot to look at water quality and water quantity management on the entire property.”
Klausing, working with CDP, was able to develop a proposal that involved permeable paving on the employee lot that would allow rain to percolate through the pavement’s surface. Their proposal also included a detention basin and swale with a water quality device that would filter and store stormwater runoff from the building and grounds and allow it to percolate into the water table.
In addition, they proposed converting the existing front parking lot to a permeable system and adding a green roof over the front entrance. Klausing and CDP had originally looked at adding a green roof to the entire building, but decided the cost to reinforce the roof would be too high to make that strategy feasible.
The proposal from Klausing and CDP was awarded a grant, and the projects are now nearly complete. In recent months, Klausing has seen a significant difference in the amount of water leaving his site. Even with the high precipitation levels this past year, the features have had no problem handling the runoff. Seeing the results of these Best Management Practices first-hand has also helped Klausing inform his clients about their benefits. He is currently looking at the possibility of adding a vertical green wall to the front of the building sometime in the future.
Klausing Group’s work to improve the environment doesn’t stop at the edge of their property. They also work with clients to improve the efficiency of their irrigation systems to reduce water consumption. In addition, their “Naturally Better” lawn care program has eliminated about 70 tons of synthetic fertilizers and herbicides from the lawns they care for in the last calendar year alone. Synthetic fertilizers can contribute to algal blooms and groundwater contamination.
They also compost all of their green waste, and the leaf litter they collect during the fall is donated to area nurseries and to local non-profit Seedleaf.
Klausing attended a presentation by Bluegrass Greensource at a Chamber of Commerce event and says that being able to go to one source for information on energy efficiency, water quality, and waste reduction and recycling is of great help to businesses. Klausing Group was subsequently able to utilize Bluegrass Greensource to help revitalize their dormant recycling program. They added recycling bins at each desk and larger bins to common areas such as the copy room.
Klausing points out that any business can find ways to go green. “Even businesses in a traditional office space can participate just as easily as landowners in doing small things that make a big difference.”