What is ‘carbon neutral’ living? Bradford Station shows Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — What’s believed to be Grand Rapids’ first carbon neutral housing development is now welcoming residents.

Standing at the corner of Bradford Street and Lafayette Avenue NE, Bradford Station may look like your typical three-story housing development. But Bazzani Building Company President Peter Skornia says the building’s design from Day One sets it apart.

STEP 1: DESIGN FOR LESS WASTEFUL LIVING

Like all of its previous green building projects, Bazzani Building Company started Bradford Station by creating “a good thermal envelope” with quality windows to bring in natural light and plenty of insulation in the walls and roof to reduce heating and cooling losses.

After that, the company tried something new to close in on carbon neutrality: installing only electric utilities and appliances as well as energy recovery ventilators, which hold onto the energy from the stale air they swap out.

(Bazzani Building Company President Peter Skornia points to a minisplit heating and air conditioning unit inside an apartment at Bradford Station in Grand Rapids.)

“So then in the summertime, when you’ve put in a lot of energy into cooling the air, that energy recovery ventilator takes that cooling, cools off the hot air that we’re bringing in from outside so you’re constantly getting the fresh air, but saving the energy,” Skornia explained.

Bradford Station’s 22 one-bedroom apartments and single studio apartment each have their own heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

“We did that before COVID, but it’s certainly going to help now, getting into the realities of wearing masks and being very concerned about air exchanges,” Skornia added.

The ground-floor units feature a patio or enclosed outdoor seating area. Apartments on the second and third floors have sliding glass doors that open to a balconet.

All apartments come with their own washer and dryer and include little touches like a bathroom heating vent that warms towels and an electronic door keypad that can be controlled by smartphone.

(An April 2021 photo shows the keypad to a Bradford Station apartment, which can be connected to a smartphone.)

“We tried to be thoughtful about little details like that, make life just easier, nicer,” Skornia said.

Bradford Station’s first tenant moved in in November. Skornia expects the ground-floor coffee shop to open this summer.

(An April 2021 photo shows the interior of a first-floor apartment at Bradford Station in Grand Rapids.)

“Her employees will all earn at least $15 an hour. And she just wants to show you can have a small business and you can do that,” Skornia said.

Bradford Station’s one-bedroom market-rate apartments cost about $1,175 a month and average about 600 square feet, with enough bedroom space to comfortably fit a queen bed with side tables.

(An April 2021 photo shows the kitchen inside a second-floor apartment at Bradford Station in Grand Rapids.)

The kitchens cater to the eco-conscious urbanite who likes to regularly visit the nearby farmers market and grocery store filled with fresh produce.

“We don’t have garbage disposals, we have a composting system (through Urban Roots). We don’t have giant refrigerators, we don’t have giant dishwashers. We think those lead into that kind of lifestyle,” Skornia said.

(Left: The kitchen composting basket and bags provided to residents of Bradford Station. Right: Bradford Station’s composting bins, which are emptied weekly by Urban Roots.)

STEP 2: COUNTERACTING CARBON DIOXIDE

After whittling down waste, the next step for Bradford Station is tracking CO2 produced by operating the building each year. Skornia says water and utility bills streamline the process so building managers need only track emissions from site maintenance, which includes the hourly use of leaf blowers, lawn mowers and lawn irrigation.

“I equate it to the same you would do for setting up any kind of a budget. But instead of measuring dollars, we’re measuring carbon, we’re measuring CO2 emissions,” Skornia said. “It’s no more complicated than that.”

Bradford Station tallies up emissions then purchases “offsets” through an International Organization for Standardization certified trade program to counteract the carbon dioxide it created. Those offsets range from reforestation to renewable energy, including wind and solar.

Residents of Bradford Station won’t face a carbon cap. The building’s owners hope usage will average out and keep the need for offsets relatively small.

Skornia acknowledges a cultural shift to working from home could present challenges in counteracting tenants’ CO2 emissions. He says achieving carbon neutrality will be a learning process and include ongoing discussions with building residents and the community.

“I think we’re seeing results of climate change. We are definitely seeing seasonal changes, we’re seeing changes in storm activity, fairly well documented. The construction industry and how we live has an impact on that. So, I think having a carbon neutral building that gives people that option of taking that first step to making the real difference is important,” Skornia said.

NEXT GREEN STEPS FOR GRAND RAPIDS

Bradford Station is just one of several environmental firsts for Bazzani Building Company, which also created the area’s first green roof, Skornia said.

Guy Bazzani started the company’s green legacy nearly two decades ago with Grand Rapids’ first LEED-certified commercial building at 959 Wealthy Street SE, which is where the carbon neutral Bazzani Building Company now operates.

Dozens of green projects later, the company is shifting its focus from LEED certified buildings to projects that are ISO certified for carbon neutrality.

“It focuses much more on the ongoing operation of the building. Not just how efficient you say it’s going to be, what are the actual results. And you’re tracked every year against that standard,” Skornia explained.

He said Bazzani Building Company’s vision with Bradford Station aligns with the Grand Rapids 2030 District’s goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions in half over the decade because it takes out a big contributor of CO2 emissions. Buildings and the operation of buildings create 40% of our total carbon dioxide emissions, according to Skornia.

(An April 2021 photo shows Bazzani Building Company’s Bradford Station apartment complex at the corner of Lafayette Avenue and Bradford Street NE in Grand Rapids.)

“Being part of the 2030 District, Grand Rapids has put itself on the map. So we’re proud to be part of that and I think this building works well in Grand Rapids because of the other things that the community has done. It’s not a surprise to anyone, it’s not a big shift — it’s the next step,” Skornia said.

(Information courtesy: City of Grand Rapids Sustainability and Performance Management)

The next step for Bazzani Building Company is to go beyond recycling construction debris to tracking carbon during construction.

“Dump trucks bringing material in and out and diesel fuel and all that, how can we start to impact that change? And then also the material… the embodied carbon that comes in a two-by-four versus drywall versus brick,” Skornia explained. “All of those things can be measured, but we’re early on in that as an industry.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Growing Grand Rapids and Beyond

More Growing Grand Rapids and beyond

Top Stories On WOODTV.com

Know something newsworthy? Report It!

News 8 Links