Green business has become big business in Nashville and across Middle Tennessee. For this year's iteration of Green Heroes, we assembled almost 30 individuals and companies in four categories: Adopters, Evangelists, Intermediaries and Makers.
As they and others get us toward a critical mass of sustainability, we will no longer need to make a distinction between being green or not. Green we will simply be.
Owner and president
For more than 10 years, Darron Haralson has offered home repair and renovation services through his Franklin-based Inside-Out Maintenance Co. In 2004, Haralson took a decidedly green turn, then focusing his burgeoning enterprise on the application of foam insulation using various combinations of environmentally friendly ingredients. Haralson believed the idea was to give customers a choice as to how green they wanted to be. And those customers responded. “Everyone thinks of their carbon footprint now,” Haralson said.
Steve Johnson is president and founder of Antioch-based LightWave Solar. We asked him his take on the solar panel industry.
How has the technology within your industry improved the past few years?
The panels are more efficient. By increasing the volume of production, panel prices have fallen significantly, by about 75 percent. It’s huge. They’ve been falling for 20 years, but they started noticeably dropping in 2008. The big drop was in 2011-12.
Are the panels becoming more powerful as they are designed in a smaller size?
As efficiency goes up, the size of the panel decreases. In 2000, the average panel was 60 watts. Now the average panel is more like 240 to 250 watts.
It seems the technology, then, is advancing at an almost exponential rate. Your thoughts?
Not really. The pricing has fallen at a semi-exponential rate but the efficiency has increased consistently and steadily.
How is the green energy business industry collectively keeping up with the greater market?
With any business community there will be certain companies with ups and downs. The solar market is growing. In general, things like LEED, Whole Foods ... it’s a healthy market and it should be. But green washing (the act of companies marketing goods and services as “green” when, in fact, they are not) is not healthy.
So is green washing troubling?
There is difference between a truly sustainable product and a product that is just being marketed that way. The consumer has to differentiate.
What is your take on Hemlock having a presence in Clarksville?
It’s great. We have a Tennessee Solar Industries Association now and a full range of businesses across the state in the solar value chain. Hemlock is the first step in our industry. We’re the last step in the solar value chain. We install a turnkey system. Everything has been done at that point.
Serving Balfour Beatty Capital Group as senior vice president of sustainability and innovation, Crawford is a national advisor and speaker regarding sustainability programs. She has contributed to the Presidential Climate Action Plan and is a spokesperson for The Global Alliance. Crawford is responsible for the creation of “SYNERGY,” a grassroots technology, conservation and employee education program that is included in the Mayoral Climate Protection Manual distributed to 700 cities globally.
Manuel Zeitlin Architects
MZA is known for a cutting-edge contemporary design aesthetic that incorporates various green elements. The most visible example is the 14-story Terrazzo, a silver LEED-certified mixed-use midrise in the Gulch (designed in concert with Hastings Architecture Associates) that was the Southeast’s largest LEED building when it opened. But don’t overlook MZA’s Midtown-based Tennessee Association of Realtors headquarters building (below), a sleek and angular gem that offers geothermal air conditioning and bioswale surface water retention and filtering.
(n)habit environmental supply + design
After almost two years of operating in 12South, Rachel and Edward Martin relocated their (n) habit environmental supply + design in the summer of 2011 to a larger space at 427 Chestnut St. near Greer Stadium. (n)habit offers products such as zero-VOC paints and wall plaster, dual-flush toilets, tankless hot water heaters, low-flow showerheads and sink fixtures, and high-efficiency wood-burning stoves, among many others. The Martins also handle design and contracting work.
SSRCx is a division of Smith Seckman Reid, a Nashville-based engineering design and facility consulting firm with 40-plus years of operations experience. The SSRCx team is currently engaged in, or already has completed, more than 120 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) commissioning projects and more than 50 LEED facilitation projects — with many in the health care sector. Interestingly, the firm’s website features a page devoted to integrated LEED facilitation, commissioning and energy modeling.
Brown & Caldwell
Brown & Caldwell — which operates from 29 states and Guam and has been in business since 1947 (seemingly before “being green” garnered much fanfare) — bills itself the “largest engineering consulting firm solely focused on the U.S. environmental sector.” Locally, the company works from a MetroCenter building, with its engineers, scientists, consultants and constructors assisting municipal and federal agencies, along with private-sector operations, in their efforts to address complicated environmental challenges.
Marion Fowlkes pauses when asked the question: What is the ultimate in green design your firm has undertaken?
Then the unassuming principal of Centric Architecture says flatly, “We haven’t been there yet. It would be wonderful to design for a client a building that generates energy rather than consumes energy.”
And so it is with Centric, a boutique design company that was the first tenant in the reinvented Trolley Barns. Fowlkes summarizes his philosophy, and that of his firm, by noting his emphasis on architectural attributes that are sustainable.
“I could probably say that with any project, we want to incorporate green design opportunities whether the client has asked or not,” he says. “We want to complete a project that is not only artistic but sustainable as well.” To their credit, he says, clients are becoming more savvy.
“I think most clients probably have become more aware,” Fowlkes says. “There has been enough information in the media, in the marketplace, in discussions. Clients are looking for healthy buildings.”
It is worth nothing that the Centric website, under the “philosophy” section, places an “Eco-Centric” blurb before (and, thus, seemingly with greater emphasis than) “Client-Centric” and “Design-Centric” blurbs.
And for a strong example of Centric bolstering its talk with assertive walk, consider that the company did interior design work on Julia Green Elementary School and four of the five Trolley Barns buildings being converted, with three of those seeking LEED certification.
“We are hoping to get LEED platinum certification for our own office,” Fowlkes says.
Not that LEED is always necessary. Indeed, buildings can be sustainable without the certification.
“It depends on the situation and the client,” Centric Principal Gina Emmanuel says. “We had a great opportunity with the Trolley Barns. But [LEED] might not work for everyone. It depends on what you need.”
Hendersonville-based SelectAir markets geothermal heating and cooling systems to government agencies, businesses and homeowners, systems the U.S. Department of Energy says can cut electricity use by 25 percent to 50 percent versus more conventional methods. The company earlier this year wrapped up a project at the luxury Rokeby Condominiums on West End Avenue.
Energy Source Partners
Specializing in renewable energy solutions, Energy Source Partners has provided solar panels for many sites around the Nashville area, including the Factory at Franklin. As of late, the firm has partnered with Music City Center officials to boost the new facility’s environmental sustainability — solar panels will be installed on the facility’s roof. Ron Merville, who has been a professional engineer for 35 years, leads the firm.
As a successful real estate agent and mortgage loan officer, Sharon Reynolds never figured she’d end up being a buzzed-about entrepreneur selling environmentally friendly sanitation products.
But you never know what will happen when you’re a naturally curious person with an abundance of creative ideas and a mind for business.
Although she’s still a licensed agent with Nashville-based Worth Properties, Reynolds has her hands full managing the growth of DevMar Products LLC. She launched the company in 2007 with the idea of helping her husband’s long-standing janitorial company, Reynolds & Reynolds, develop a diversified business plan and product line. Reynolds fell in love with the concept of sustainable cleaning and sanitation products and realized she’d stumbled on a growth industry that could hold her attention for a long time to come.
“At first, I wanted to help my husband grow his business to the next level,” she says. “I quickly realized that what I really wanted to do was make a difference with environmentally friendly products.”
Reynolds incorporated as a woman- and minority-owned business and began adding products and looking for promising contracts. She reeled in a big one when she landed a contract for janitorial and paper supplies for the Nashville International Airport. Her partnership with the airport represented the first major contract with a woman-owned business in the airport’s 75-year history.
Other clients include Metro Nashville Public Schools, an array of colleges and universities, and building service providers, among others. The company’s revenue has tripled in five years, and this year Reynolds launched a manufacturing division with partners. Those partners, she says, have the knowledge and expertise to develop an even broader line of sustainable products. “We have so much going on,” Reynolds says.
“We’re talking to Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies. Everyone is very serious about their sustainability initiatives now. You have to be the real McCoy for them to consider your products.”
DevMar’s most popular products include 4Sure, a non-alcohol hand sanitizer that works for up to 10 washings; Defender, an antimicrobial barrier surface protection that can act as a hygienic shield on surfaces for up to 90 days; and EnCap, a dry cleaning solution that works without chemicals and toxins.
Reynolds says the best thing about heading up an earth-friendly business is the way it makes her feel.
“I’m able to get out of bed every day and know I’m doing something meaningful,” she says. “Not only is it a very exciting industry, I got into it at the right time.”
TLC Engineering for Architecture
Shinn is a registered professional mechanical engineer and a principal and senior sustainability consultant with TLC Engineering for Architecture. He was first certified as a LEED professional back in the sustainability movement’s infancy in 2001 and has been actively involved in hundreds of LEED projects. Shinn founded the Middle Tennessee chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council and was later a member of that organization’s national board of directors. We asked him about the future of sustainability in construction. Check out his thoughts here.
Street Dixon Rick Architecture
Street Dixon Rick’s professional staff is 100 percent LEED accredited and is known for its LEED projects for several universities. For example, SDR designed the master plan for The Commons at Vanderbilt, a 14-building complex that features the city’s first five LEED-certified student residence halls, all designed by SDR. Firm principals have shared their sustainable design expertise at conferences in Canada, China and the United States. In 2007, SDR also installed solar panels at its Nashville office.