Solar Power to Live By

The U.S Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon 2013 kicked off this week in Irvine, California. Since 2002, this event has been held every two years. This year marks the first time it’s been held outside the Washington, DC area in one of the sunniest spots in the country: Orange County, California.

Competing in Solar Decathlon 2013 are 20 teams from across the U.S. and as far away as the Czech Republic. Teams are chosen from hundreds of student teams from universities and colleges across the globe. Participating teams are charged with building a solar powered home from designing and sourcing all the way through construction.

Mayor of Irvine, Steven Choi, described the event as “a two year journey of hardSolar Decathlon ribbon cutting work and innovation.” He helped open the event with a ribbon cutting Thursday morning. During the event, teams were recognized for their creativity, enthusiasm and commitment to zero energy living.

Over the next 10 days, the homes will be evaluated for their performance and teams will be asked to showcase the function of each dwelling’s systems by holding dinner parties and a movie night. Andersen is pleased to be a sponsor of Stanford University’s SmartHome, which contains Andersen 100 Series windows and a five-panel Folding Panel Door. 

The Solar Decathlon, along the Enivronmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® program, are ways in which energy efficiency is promoted throughout the country. Good luck to Stanford and all of this year’s competitors!

Setting Goals That Matter: A Sustainability Toolkit

Environmental Initiative (EI) held its second of three Business and Environment Series meetings this week. Hosted by Thomson Reuters of Eagan, MN, this event proved to be a favorite as eager attendees filled the room. The topic – Setting Goals That Matter: A Sustainability Toolkit.

Seasoned sustainability experts shared tools they use to find clarity and focus in a world of complexity. As clarity emerges, it becomes easier to set meaningful goals and identify strategies, all creating value for an organization’s internal and external stakeholders. Chuck Bennett, retired VP of Earth and Community Care at Aveda, gave an overview of setting goals that matter. Jim Weglewski, VP of Quality, Sustainability and Facilities at Andersen Corporation, highlighted the skills and benefits of affinity mapping and Senior Manager Sustainability at TENNANT Company, Stan Mierzejewski, walked through assessing materiality using The Metrics Navigator tool™ offered by Global Environmental Management Initiative (GEMI). A sustainability specific twist to the traditional strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats tool — sSWOT — was presented by EI’s own Georgia Rubenstein. The sSWOT tool was developed by World Resources Institute and can found here. The final tool offered in the day’s hefty toolkit was that of Net Impact, showcased by advocate Darren McGann, Sustainability Manager at KPMG.

The morning was full of learning new tools, which have been proven to help users gain focus and traction along the sustainability journey. These tools help identify what’s material to an organization, in other words the common ground between things that matter and things that your organization can control. This area defined as material is precisely where the biggest gains towards a more sustainable business can be made. Visit EI’s website for more details on the toolkit you won’t want to live (and work) without!

Renovation Done Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright, one of America’s most renowned architects, designed six hotels in his career. Five of which were built and only one remains standing today. The Historic Park Inn Hotel, located in Mason City, IA and built over a hundred years ago, recently sat vacant and deteriorated through years of tenant turnover, building transformations and neglect. It eventually landed on Iowa’s top-ten list of most endangered historic properties. However, thanks to collaborative efforts, various funding and caring citizens, the hotel has been beautifully restored and recently celebrated its grand opening.

Historic Park Inn Hotel Mason City, IA

The hotel is operated by Wright on the Park, Inc., a non-profit designed to restore, preserve, maintain and educate the public about the historic building. Andersen sales representative Jay Sandgren worked with the hotel to ensure the integrity of the original building design, relating to windows, was maintained.  Andersen Art Glass products were used to achieve this.

A variety of challenges often exist in historic building preservation projects. When utilizing the best product for the application, the building must maintain the look and feel of the original design while incorporating innovative technologies and energy efficiencies. This hotel, for example, preserves the unique and distinct designs of Frank Lloyd Wright while optimizing efficiencies by installing ENERGY STAR® windows.  This is a win-win for historic building preservation!

2013 Solar Decathlon

The 2013 Solar Decathlon is underway! The U.S. Department of Energy’s biennial event challenges college teams to design and build an energy-efficient, affordable and attractive home. All this and the team must prove it’s actually livable!

Twenty university-led teams are participating in this year’s challenge. One team comes as far away as the Czech Republic! Czech Technical University’s AIR House is geared for empty-nesters nearing retirement. Stanford’s Start.Home focuses on affordable ultra-efficiency with their innovative and intuitive automated technology. Andersen donated our 100 Series windows and one of our large folding patio doors to Stanford’s team. Follow the progress here on their blog!

Stay tuned for more Solar Decathlon posts this month!

Corporate Sustainability Reporting, Materiality – Report what’s Relevant

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the world’s most widely recognized and respected organization offering sustainability reporting guidelines. The non-profit organization released their updated G4 version in Amsterdam earlier this year. One of the most notable changes in the new version pertains to “materiality”. The previous G3.0 and G3.1 versions required companies to report on a wide range of indicators, perhaps not even relevant to a company’s operations. The new G4 guidelines focus on materiality – in other words, less breadth more depth. 

The latest G4 version allows for smaller companies to participate in sustainability reporting where previous reporting was too daunting and irrelevant to their operations. Specific business violations and human rights issues vary globally. Some offenses are more prevalent in certain regions than others. The latest G4 version encourages organizations to drill down into issues that are most relevant and material to their operations.

Also noteworthy is the elimination of the A, B or C application level. The intent of this approach had been to encourage compliance to the GRI guidelines. In actuality however, the application level conjured misleading assumptions of reports. For example, an “A” report simply indicated a company’s thoroughness of reporting – touching on many of the indicators outlined in the GRI guide. However, an “A” report was often mistakenly perceived by readers as identifying a superbly sustainable company – particularly in the United States where our culture utilizes the A, B, C method for reporting academic success.

Sustainability reporting is a journey – continually improving performance and transparency. Andersen Corporation is proud to utilize the GRI Framework in our Sustainability Reporting work, which is supported by knowledge obtained from the GRI Certified Sustainability Reporting Course and practical experience. Our 2013 Corporate Sustainability Report can be viewed here.

Andersen Hosts Forest Stewardship Council Meeting

Last month, Andersen hosted the first ever Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), U.S. Lake States, certificate holders meeting at our Bayport, Minn. facility. Forty FSC® Certified land managers, loggers and timber product-related folks travelled from the five state area to participate. The all-day meeting was chock full of rich presentations and discussions. The session wrapped up with a Logger Chain-of-Custody panel consisting of Department of Natural Resource (DNR) representatives from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the executive director of The Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association Henry Schienebeck and others.

Andersen supports FSC’s mission to promote environmentally-sound, socially-beneficial and economically-prosperous management of the world’s forests and has been FSC Chain-of-Custody certified since 2008 (FSC-C016636). The organization’s vision to “meet our current needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations,” aligns with our company values and commitment to sustainability.

The Forest Stewardship Council currently operates in over 80 countries. In the United States there are over 35 million acres of FSC certified forests and 3,500 companies FSC Chain-of-Custody certified. Over 40,000 American family forest owners are FSC certified. According to FSC, the world’s forests currently store 283 billion tons of carbon in their biomass. Visit their website to learn more about the world’s forests.

Eco-Village Community

A field of bright orange covered Habitat for Humanity’s Eco-Village jobsite in River Falls, Wis. last week. Over 60 Andersen employees volunteered 1,200 hours at this year’s blitz build. Stormy late spring weather spared us as intermittent showers and power outages affected surrounding communities. Swinging hammers, raising walls and building camaraderie over five days made for a productive week at the St. Croix Valley affiliate’s nationally recognized Eco-Village neighborhood.

Eco-Village is quickly becoming a national showcase for affordable sustainable building. When completed, a total of 18 LEED® for Homes Platinum houses will sit on five acres of transformed greyfield site. The solar paneled homes, built with 14-inch thick structural insulated panels (SIPs) and energy efficient Andersen windows, will produce as much energy as they use, resulting in a net-zero energy home. Rain water captured in cisterns yields a 50 percent reduction in potable water usage. Also, 90 percent of construction waste is diverted from landfills.

In addition to reducing environmental impacts, this project promotes the social aspects of sustainable living. Drastically reduced utility bills resulting from energy efficient envelops provides additional discretionary funds available for groceries, education and other necessities. A community educational center, walking trails and edible gardens promote the human and social aspects of a vibrant community. Read an inclusive list of the sustainable attributes of Eco-Village here.

Riding for a Cure

Kurt Hillstrom, Deb Moe and Janine Crotty from Team Andersen

Kurt Hillstrom, Deb Moe and Janine Crotty from Team Andersen

Team Andersen completed another successful weekend-long bike ride to fight Multiple Sclerosis (MS), last week. Nearly a hundred Andersen employees, friends and family members pedaled their bicycles 150 miles over two days partaking in the MS150 fundraiser. Riders covered 75 miles on Saturday beginning in Duluth, Minn. and staying the night in Hinckley. They continued another 75 miles on Sunday, ending near St. Paul, Minn. The first day was perfect bicycling weather; the second was best suited for testing out raingear!

Andersen Corporation has supported the MS Society for over ten years. Through corporate sponsorships a large team presence and volunteer support opportunities the company and employees jointly donate time, money and physical exertion towards a great cause. This year Team Andersen donned sharp new jerseys and the company continued to support the many water stations along the 150 mile route. What’s so special about the ride? In addition to benefiting the Minnesota MS Society chapter, it’s seeing people push themselves to reach limits they may not have thought possible.

Bicycling is part of Andersen’s culture. With 66 acres of manufacturing under one roof at our Bayport plant, dozens of yellow work bikes provide fast transportation for supervisors and maintenance crews to quickly get around the building. Perhaps one of these years Team Andersen will ride matching yellow work bikes on the MS150!

Freshwater Hops!

Absolute Gruv at Summit Brewery

An evening filled of freshwater hops and live music – benefiting The Nature Conservancy (TNC) – is a tough bill to beat! Summit Brewing Company of St. Paul, Minn., local master of handcrafted micro-brews, donated its Ratskeller Tap Room to host the Conservancy’s first ever Freshwater Hops event. The event was in celebration of the Mississippi River, which flows just below the brewery.

The event highlighted TNC’s freshwater program, where the 47,500 square-mile Mississippi River Headwaters north of the Twin Cities metropolitan area is a priority focus. Efforts to keep “healthy waters healthy” begin by protecting the forestland around the headwaters. Securing these waters not only ensures safe drinking water for local residents, but enhances recreational opportunities, protects jobs and provides refuge for wildlife. Moreover, making the investment now avoids future high costs of water purification if water sources degrade.

Summit Brewery proved to be the perfect venue as it is located along the banks of the river and understands the value of preserving fresh water supplies as well as prairies for hops. The brewery recently implemented a Bottle Line Rinse Water Reclamation system resulting in an 85 percent reduction in water use per case. Learn more about Summit’s water conservation efforts here.

Local restaurants Cossetta’s, Gandhi Mahal, Bulldog and BreadSmith donated food while the local band Absolute Gruv donated musical talent. Freshwater Hops wonderfully celebrated the Mississippi River, fresh hops and The Nature Conservancy.

2nd Annual USGBC MN Chapter IMPACT Conference

The Minnesota Chapter of the US Green Building Council (USGBC) held its 2nd Annual IMPACT Conference this week in Bloomington, MN. Entitled Building a Better Tomorrow, the event offered educational presentations for architects, builders and others working to improve performance and lessen environmental impacts within the building industry. The event was held at the recently opened, impressive Radisson Blu – a destination hotel located steps from the popular Mall of America. It is the first hotel in the state striving for LEED Certification.

The conference began with keynote speaker David Lehrer of The Center for the Built Environment, UC Berkeley, presenting Changing the Rules: Innovative Occupant-Responsive Buildings. Additional break-out sessions offered engaging topics around resilient landscapes and insider tips on the Leadership on Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification process. Highly anticipated results from the chapter’s study, Describing Operational Energy Performance for Minnesota’s LEED Certified Buildings, were released as well. Attendees received a hard copy of the results which will be posted on the USGBC MN website in June. Watch this blog for summary details later this summer.

The day ended with a tour of the new hotel. The striking, glacier-like white sculptures hugging the escalators were contrasted by the warmth emitted from reclaimed barn wood blanketing the lounge. Attendees were given some of the first sneak peeks into the luxury suits on the top floor, offering stunning skyline views.