Seven shades of green: An inside look at seven of Cleveland's most sustainable buildings

This week, 2,300 energy professionals flocked to Cleveland’s convention center for the Department of Energy’s Better Building Summit. While usually held in Washington, D.C., the event moved to Cleveland this year to coincide with the DOE’s Energy Exchange—collectively creating the DOE’s largest trade show and networking event of 2018.

“People are traveling from all over the country to see what the leaders are doing,” says Maria Vargas, director of the DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge.

<span class="content-image-text">Better Building/Better Plants tour of ArcelorMittal</span>Better Building/Better Plants tour of ArcelorMittalOne of Cleveland’s other calling cards for attracting the Summit was its status as the second city in the country to join the now-nationwide network of 2030 Districts dedicated to helping commercial buildings cut energy usage, water consumption, and commuter transportation emissions in half by the year 2030.

Collectively, Cleveland has 57 million square feet of commercial properties working together toward that goal—and so far, they’ve been able to reduce energy usage by 20 percent, water consumption by 18 percent, and commuter transportation emissions by 15 percent. “We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to do,” says Cleveland 2030 District executive director Cynthia Cicigoi.

Part of the Summit included showcase tours of 11 select Cleveland buildings that exemplify Cleveland’s commitment to sustainability—from the Metzenbaum U.S. Courthouse to Metropolitan at the 9 (both part of the Cleveland 2030 District). 

In honor of the Summit setting up shop in Cleveland, FreshWater has compiled its own list highlighting some of our city’s most compelling eco-friendly buildings across various categories. From a green-minded school to a sustainable brewery to even an energy-efficient steel mill, these seven buildings are shining examples of Cleveland’s commitment to going green.

<span class="content-image-text">Ruffing Montessori School</span>Ruffing Montessori School

EDUCATION: Ruffing Montessori School (3380 Fairmount Blvd., Cleveland Heights)
In 2010, Ruffing Montessori School became the first school in Northeast Ohio—and the first building in Cleveland Heights—to earn LEED certification. Among the school’s many sustainable features are solar panels that power up to 20 percent of the school’s electric consumption; a “living roof” and on-site greenhouse; waterless urinals and low-flow toilets; and a geothermal system for efficient heating and cooling.

The school’s eco-friendly approach also extends to its curriculum, which teaches students key tenets of conservation, sustainability, and environmental stewardship. In 2013, the school built a Stormwater Learning Lab, partially funded by the Ohio EPA.

The “green” philosophy is a way of life at Ruffing, where staff use recycled office products and non-toxic cleaning products and students are encouraged to bring zero-waste lunches with reusable lunch containers and eating utensils (eliminating 13,000 pounds of garbage each school year). Students also compost their lunch waste, reusing the materials in their classroom gardens.

Thanks to its efforts, Ruffing has received a proverbial A+ from the Northeast Ohio Green Energy Tour, on which it has become a frequent stop.

INDUSTRIAL: ArcelorMittal Cleveland (3060 Eggers Ave., Cleveland)
One wouldn’t normally associate sustainability and clean building with one of the largest steel producers in the world, but ArcelorMittal’s 7 million-square-foot, 950-acre steelmaking facility is far from the norm.

In 2013, ArcelorMittal USA became the first steel company to partner with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star and Better Buildings, Better Plants programs. The company joined the program with the goal of reducing energy intensity by 10 percent across its U.S. plants by 2023, according to Rishabh Bahel, ArcelorMittal’s energy engineer.

<span class="content-image-text">ArcelorMittal Cleveland</span>ArcelorMittal Cleveland

Two blast furnaces power its two Cleveland steelmaking facilities, where products are made to serve the automotive, converter, construction, and distribution markets. In going greener, the facility has installed efficient LED lighting; upgraded the compressed air system; and installed variable frequency drives to efficiently run operations.

The Cleveland site has twice been awarded specialized In-Plant training workshops by Better Plants, geared at improving employees’ knowledge and capacity to improve energy efficiency. Additionally, earlier this year, ArcelorMittal Cleveland became the first integrated steel mill in the country to be recognized by the Department of Energy (DOE) as ISO 50001 Ready.

FOOD/DRINK: Great Lakes Brewing (2516 Market Ave., Ohio City)

Great Lakes Brewing Company isn’t just responsible for sparking Cleveland’s craft beer movement back in 1988—they’re also leading by example with social and environmental responsibility.

The Ohio City brewpub boasts a radiant heat floor and straw bale wall, while the brewery next door houses a 62-panel solar array installed in 2017. The company is also committed to supporting local agriculture, sourcing 30 percent of total food purchases for its restaurant from small family farms and its own urban farms (Pint Size Farm and Ohio City Farm) in Northeast Ohio.

In addition to normal recycling programs, Great Lakes Brewing recycles everything possible—even using spent grains as feed or soil amendment on its farms. Short-filled bottles of Great Lakes brews often find their ways into sauces, sausage, and even ice cream and soaps.

In 2016, Great Lakes Brewing was the recipient of a gold-level E3 (Encouraging Environmental Excellence) Award from the Ohio EPA.

HISTORIC: Calfee Building (1405 E. 6th Street, Cleveland)
Leaders at Calfee, Halter and Griswold took on a mammoth task when the law firm bought and renovated the 1915 Calfee Building (formerly known as the East Ohio Gas building) as its new home. According to Ronald Stupka, director of office service for the firm, the company aims to be responsible stewards of energy and water resources, and help make Cleveland a more competitive business environment.

In its renovations, Calfee installed a white roof to reduce heat gain; replicated the historic windows with energy-efficient windows; incorporated water-conserving fixtures; and utilized lighting controls that dim or turn off the lights in response to daylight levels.

During the renovations, 75 percent of the construction waste was recycled. Low-VOC paints, carpet, and other materials were used in the renovation, and the firm installed energy-efficient HVAC controls and Energy Star appliances. Calfee implemented an office waste recycling program and also utilizes double-sided printing techniques. To date, the firm has reduced its annual energy costs by 10 percent.

Calfee's efforts paid off with a LEED Gold certification in 2016, and the company will act as a sponsor of this year’s annual Sustainable Cleveland Summit.

<span class="content-image-text">KeyBank Tiedeman Road Facility</span>KeyBank Tiedeman Road Facility

CORPORATE: KeyBank Tiedeman Road Facility (4910 Tiedeman Road, Brooklyn)

Since 2011, KeyBank has been releasing an annual corporate responsibility report to illustrate its commitment to responsible operations—including a dedication to green building practices, reduced waste, and reduced energy consumption.

Case in point: KeyBank’s Tiedeman Road facility, which is one of just a handful in Northeast Ohio to attain LEED Platinum certification. The Brooklyn-based facility installed energy-efficient LED lighting projects throughout virtually every corner of the bank, reducing kilowatt use by 90 percent in its Boon Edam revolving security doors alone; by 70 percent in the parking garage; and by 60 percent in the stairwells and cafeteria. HVAC and plumbing systems with temperature controls and low-flow fixtures also helped to cement its LEED Platinum status.

The facility’s 3,000 employees take the sustainability mission quite seriously—having reduced paper use by 60 percent (with a goal of reducing use by 90 percent by 2020) and installed recycling containers throughout the building to further encourage a zero-waste mentality.

<span class="content-image-text">Collinwood Recreation Center</span>Collinwood Recreation Center

RECREATION: Collinwood Recreation Center (16300 Lake Shore Blvd., Cleveland)
In 2011, the City of Cleveland opened Collinwood Recreation Center—its first new recreation center in more than 10 years. Not only did the project transform a former Big Lots store that had long been vacant, but city officials and Panzica Construction were able to secure LEED Gold certification by utilizing sustainable green building methods for the 45,794-square-foot space.

Made with materials such as salvaged wood and metal from the original site and recycled concrete, the end product embodies the “repurpose” spirit of the project. A sundeck fence is made of recycled shipping containers, while a rain garden captures and filters stormwater runoff from the center’s 200-space parking lot.

Other eco-friendly features include bamboo flooring for the gym’s basketball court, volleyball court, and running track; a rooftop solar array that accounts for four percent of the building’s energy costs; and a solar thermal domestic hot water system.

<span class="content-image-text">Cleveland Clinic Tomsich Pathology Lab</span>Cleveland Clinic Tomsich Pathology Lab

HEALTHCARE: Cleveland Clinic Tomsich Pathology Lab (10300 Carnegie Ave., Cleveland)

In 2007, the Cleveland Clinic decided to adhere to LEED standards for all new major construction projects, and the Tomsich Pathology Laboratories—built in 2012—are no exception. The state-of-the-art diagnostics lab employed various green building standards to reduce energy use and increase efficiency, earning the lab an LEED Gold certification. (Currently, the labs are one of four Cleveland Clinic buildings to achieve LEED Gold, with another eight having achieved a LEED Silver rating.)

Large windows are designed to let in ample natural light, while efficient LED lighting changes depending on how much natural light is flowing into the space. The windows also provide views to 92 percent of the building’s regularly occupied space—a necessary tenet to be considered a “healthy building.” Occupancy sensors are installed in all offices and conference rooms, while high-efficiency HVAC systems regulate the temperature.

Vegetative roofing covers 27 percent of the roof area, with solar-reflective white EPDM roofing covering the remainder. The two combine to further raise the efficiency of the building, keeping the Clinic true to its mission and saving millions of dollars each year in energy costs.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.