Green Design Center Rates Energy-Saving
Window Line Their Best 2011 Introduction
You won't find many folks with more green building experience than Andy Pace. Over the decades, this still-young dealer/distributor has seen an array of highly touted new products, but he's also witnessed small innovations that have made a lasting impact. Andy's perspective usually counts, which is one reason he's a columnist for this magazine.
While many dealers tightened their belts to survive the overall construction industry slowdown, Pace picked 2011 as a good year to re-brand and re-locate to more spacious quarters. Now known as The Green Design Center, his new store has more space, additional product categories, and new ways of going to market. In earlier years, the company focused entirely on interior products that provided superior indoor air quality. “We made the decision this year that we did not want to be as limited about what we sell,” Pace declared. “So in addition to our interior furnishings and finishes, we decided to supply the exterior envelope materials.”
Pace looked for products that weren't already over-represented in his portion of chilly Wisconsin and – surprisingly – discovered a highly-regarded line of energy efficient windows. The manufacturer, Serious Windows, has received national attention in recent years thanks to some very public praise from Vice President Biden. Before adding the line, Pace did plenty of his own homework. “I had a chance to visit the manufacturing plant in Boulder and I was impressed beyond belief,” he revealed. “I have been to other window manufacturing facilities before, and they all look pretty much like third world factories. But this facility was clean, bright, and free of the dust and pollutants you normally find in those places.”
Andy believes it was his company's best product introduction of the last year. “The decision to become a Serious Window dealer has been a great thing for us,” he said. “Out of all the products that we sell, that was the one that brought us the most attention in the past six months.
Builders and homeowners are intrigued by the line's foam insulated fiberglass framing and suspended film technology, which can add up to some serious energy savings. “We haven't sold tons of Serious Windows yet,” said Pace, “but they have really opened our eyes to the whole concept of passive house construction and advanced framing techniques.”
In 2011 Pace moved his company, previously known as Safe Building Solutions, to new quarters in Waukesha, Wisconsin, a community not far from Milwaukee. From floor to ceiling, the new store is a showcase for the products it sells. The entryway walls are coated with AFM Safecoat paint in a new color Andy devised that's titled Grownup Green. Other wall surfaces are finished with American Clay, Fireclay Tiles, or cork and bamboo wall panels. Wintertime heat comes from a working Rais stove.
Pace also continues to tweak his trademark Degree of Green rating system for greater accessibility by end-users nationwide. The system rates green building products from 1 to 4 on three separate criteria: health, sustainability, and environment.
And now there's an App for that. “I wanted to create an app that would have a three important components: first, it would determine your Degree of Green; second, it would list products that would fit your project goals; third, it would show you where to find the products.” That unique breakdown of green attributes is intended to answer some practical customer questions: is it safe, will it help me reduce my energy or water use, and is it a renewable resource?
Few products earn ‘4s' in all three categories. “I tell people that being green is not just about decreasing air pollution or reducing global warming,” said Pace. “What this system shows them is how to improve their bottom line and how to improve their quality of life. When we explain ‘green' to them that way, people get it.”
The new app will be financed through marketing tie-ins with manufacturers and retailers. “Everyone has cut back on their advertising dollars right now, but for a few hundred dollars they can be listed in this app,” said Pace. “If everyone kicks in, pretty soon we can all help people find their way into those stores.”
The Green Design Center now sells from one other important storefront: Amazon.com. As dealers and distributors of building materials across the U.S. were forced to close their doors due to declining sales caused by the recession, Pace responded by supplying green building materials through the largest online shopping service available. “We ship out a lot of orders via Amazon every week, because stores that sold these types of materials have gone out of business in many communities over the last couple years,” he stated. “Those of us who are still in the business should be taking care of those customers. We're still here, and we'll provide what people need as well as we can.”