BAXTER - When the people behind the Fairview Office Park decided to incorporate it as a green building project, they didn't expect greenbacks to be adding up as a result.
"We really didn't believe the numbers ourselves," said Janelle Riley, Syvantis Technologies president, of the estimated savings they expect during the office park's first 10 years of operation. Riley started compiling the numbers in early spring and said her first stab at it came up with large savings.
"I was so sure it could be wrong I kept going over my numbers," Riley said. "We've literally gone through all these numbers in detail multiple times now. We've gone with conservative estimates all along and we have $460,000 in savings over 10 years - which is just unbelievable."
The savings are projected during the office park's first 10 years of operation and consider the full development of eight buildings. The office park is about a half mile west of the Hawthorn Inn & Suites in Baxter. Construction on the office park, which was designed to be a living example of environmentally friendly design, began in 2006.
Fairview Office Park is the brainchild of Baxter-based and family-operated Syvantis Technologies with Janelle Riley and husband Ken Riley, father Daniel Froemming and brother Todd Froemming. The technologies service company has two divisions, including the retail side through Computer One Plus.
When they embarked on the Fairview Office Park, Riley said they expected the Fairview Conservancy office building project would be financially neutral.
"Our goal was that we could build green and low impact development and it would cost no more than a traditional development and what's really shocking, when it's all said and done, we are actually saving a substantial amount of money by doing the environmental building."
Riley said the conventional wisdom she heard was that costs would be 5 percent to 10 percent more for green building versus traditional building.
"It's just not true," said Dan Froemming, who said the savings are not inconsistent with what is heard from other people doing low-impact development.
What did cost more was the pervious surface, where water runs through the pavement to the soil beneath instead of creating a run-off situation.
Froemming said the pervious pavement does come with benefits in creating less stormwater to take care of and it decreases the need for those retention ponds. Riley said for development areas with less green space to absorb the stormwater, pervious pavement would pay for itself.
"The solar did not pay off," Riley said. "Not to say that solar is not a good alternative, the type of solar we selected did not pay off. We have a type of solar that actually brings electricity into the building. However, I've heard if you do passive solar heat it does."
The stormwater management estimated savings are the most significant. The office park preserved an acre of native forest and is restoring prairie areas with native plants for a natural bioretention area in the center of the office park complex. Master gardeners are helping with the plantings later this month. Two rain gardens are part of the landscape along with low mow grasses.
"All of that is saving so much money because we have no mowing and no sprinkling and I tell ya, you don't really realize how much you spend on mowing and sprinkling and fertilizing until you start looking at the numbers and it is amazing," Riley said.
For every 10 percent of property left in a natural state, Riley reported the savings is nearly 10 percent annually in maintenance costs and nearly 5 percent in installation costs.
Riley said the lesson learned is the average small business person, through small changes, can save money and have a more positive impact on the environment.
"People assumed that it's going to be a lot more expensive and it turned out it isn't," Riley said of green building. "It turns out it actually saves quite a bit of money. The economic sense of it is just phenomenal. ... After doing this I can't imagine why anyone would build any other way."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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