Holcomb Joins USGBC ‘Faculty’

    GRAND RAPIDS — Local green building advocate Michael Holcomb, president of The Alliance for Environmental Sustainability, was just selected by the U.S. Green Building Council as one of only eight faculty experts nationwide who will be responsible for training home builders in the theory and practice of the LEED for Homes program.

    LEED for Homes is the most comprehensive green rating system for residential construction, developed by USGBC and industry experts with the goal of propelling mainstream homebuilders toward more sustainable practices.

    “The LEED for Homes program is all about building better, more energy efficient, more environmentally friendly and healthy,” Holcomb remarked. “The program is wildly successful.”

    Holcomb, owner of Home Inspector General Inc., said the eight faculty members will collectively put on 127 seminars this year. He expects to head up the seminars slated for the Great Lakes states. The faculty is meeting biweekly right now by conference call to establish the LEED for Homes curriculum.

    “The faculty positions are brand new because the program is new,” Holcomb said. “Our main function is to go out and do builder, designer and architect training sessions, and also to mentor new program providers. Right now the Alliance is one of only 12 program providers in the nation. We’re going to open up other territories and add more providers, so the faculty will do that mentoring.”

    The Alliance for Environmental Sustainability and 11 other program providers were tapped by the U.S. Green Building Council in July 2005 to pilot test its new LEED for Homes rating system. The dozen providers offered technical support, marketing support and certification services to home builders within their specific housing markets throughout the country, and were the only organizations eligible to work with builders in the delivery of LEED for Homes during this first phase of the pilot program.

    The pilot program rolled out in September 2005, and over the past year Holcomb has trained and mentored builders, designers and architects in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota, as well as in West Virginia, Missouri and Kentucky.

    “We were the smallest nonprofit to be awarded provider status,” Holcomb said. “When you look at the budgets of the other providers, they might have budgets of $1 million to $5 million a year. Our budget was $12,000 because we’re all volunteers. But they said our application was compelling because of the letters of support that we got from the community and also because West Michigan has such a great national reputation for green building.”

    The Alliance had 70 home building projects in the pilot, 50 of them in Grand Rapids. The pilot will run until the fully chartered version of LEED for Homes program is completed in 2007, he said. The information gathering phase of the pilot is drawing to a close, and the USGBC is going through information that has been gleaned through surveys. The pilot providers met in Washington, D.C., in August for an intensive two-day meeting with USGBC to go over the surveys and talk about what works and doesn’t work, Holcomb said.

    Holcomb developed the local green building standard for the Home & Building Association of Greater Grand Rapids in 2000. The Michigan Association of Home Builders adopted the same standards last month, so it’s now a statewide program. Not surprisingly, he serves as the green building trainer for the association.    

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