Volunteer of the year 2013: Danny McGee

Danny McGee approached after talking to the director at the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, who pointed him our way.. Danny came to our office in Grand Rapids MI asking how he could help get involved in our many initiatives. After our ED, Brett Little explained to him the several new initiatives is hoping to launch, Danny dove into assisting us with many of them and showed up several times a week to work in our office and get to know our staff.
Danny Mcgee

Danny hails from the East Coast where he got his feet wet with green building by interning with Sasaki Associates and overseeing the LEED Documentation of a commercial project & worked on a street corridor plan in Boston. Danny went on to seek his Masters Degree of Architectural Engineering at Colorado University of Bolder. While there he served as an Energy Solutions Provider for Sustainable Tribal Housing in Wyoming and sought his BPI Accreditation.

Danny took his BPI to the next level by becoming a MI GreenStar Qualified Rater and is working on the certification of the Man up House with Bethany Christian Services Youth Build for the Urban Transformation Ministries. Danny has also assisted with our new MPG for Existing Homes label by testing it out, learning how to use the tool and giving us feedback on what works.

When Danny learned about the new non profit forming, Homes of Hope, he loved the idea of helping with a veteran house build and West Michigan’s first Living Building Challenge registered home. He has showed up to every meeting to help with project management, website set up, building science & product research, volunteer recruitment and management and community engagement.

Lastly, Danny has just recently become Srinergy’s West Michigan Solar Community Rep to help reach out to local residents and business to get solar up and to help with performance energy analysis before projects move forward with solar. Learn More

We are very grateful for Danny’s time, talent and just overall being a great and exciting person to be around. is making Danny our Volunteer of the Year. Thank you Danny!

Learn More about Danny McGee Here

Becomes Homes of Hope Fiscal Sponsor – Helps with Veteran Housing & Living Intentional Community

SUSAN JULIEN LARIMORETUESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2013 VIA the Grand Rapids Urban Innovation Exchange uixhomesofhopeb

The goal of newly formed nonprofit Homes of Hope and the dream of its founder, homebuilder Rich Bloem, share roots in community. They aim to bring people together to help others thrive by building new homes and restoring neighborhoods, while offering hope and a blueprint for success in life’s journey.

Fueled by a passion for sustainability and changing lives for the better, Homes of Hope, the Green Home Institute, Matt and Kristin Fowler, and many other community members are partnering to make two projects a reality in Grand Rapids: The Nest and Home for a Hero.

The idea for Homes of Hope emerged in April when Bloem bought a vacant lot on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. Initially, he thought he’d construct a home and make a profit. A few days later, he thought otherwise.

“It’s almost as if I had a vision, maybe from God,” Bloem said. “I decided to do something totally different and not for profit.”

Through research, Bloem discovered Life Remodeled, a Detroit-based company that builds free homes for low income families. He wanted to do something similar, but realized he couldn’t do it alone—and didn’t want to do it alone.

“I wanted to bring builders, architects, electricians, plumbers, and other professionals together to do this,” he said.

Bloem shared his vision with a few friends, including Brett Little, Executive Director of . They shared Bloem’s passion and put plans in place to meet regularly. Word got out fast. There were 23 people at the first Friday meeting. Since then, the ever-expanding group meets weekly at the offices of (920 Cherry Street SE). Volunteers are welcome to attend and join one of over 20 committees on everything from construction to communications.

Through these meetings, Bloem was introduced to Matt and Kristen Fowler. They shared their dream of creating a living building in the Baxter neighborhood. Shortly after Bloem visited the Baxter neighborhood and proposed site for The Nest, Homes of Hope partnered with the to make the Fowlers’ dream a reality.

The Living Building Challenge: The Nest 

The International Living Future Institute defines a living building as “a building designed and constructed to function as elegantly and efficiently as a flower: a building informed by its bioregion’s characteristics, and that generates all of its own energy with renewable resources, captures and treats all of its water, and operates efficiently and for maximum beauty.”

The Living Building Challenge through the ILFI is the world’s most rigorous design and construction standard.

“There are 20 requirements to be met in order to obtain Living Building status,” said Kristen Fowler.

According to the ILFI website, only four buildings in the world to date have achieved living building certification. If the living building proposed for Grand Rapids becomes certified, it will be the first building in Michigan to receive this distinction.

The Fowlers have lived in the Baxter neighborhood for several years and, as Kristin said, “We have fallen in love with the people here. Matt and I recognize people need structured programs and assistance, and it is awesome these programs exist, but sometimes, what’s needed is a relationship-based place to just be; a space where people from all walks of life can feel welcome and safe.”

Passionate about seeing healthy food reach the tables of people in the Baxter neighborhood, the Fowlers created the Treehouse Community Garden in 2012. They raised over $20,000 in labor and materials for the garden space. Today, more than 10 neighborhood families are currently receiving fresh, seasonal produce from this garden.

More recently, the Fowlers began raising funds for a living building next to the community garden. To date, they have collected nearly 58 percent of their goal, but also recognize the need for many skilled professionals and donated materials to pull the project off. The start date for The Nest is dependent on funding and materials.

“We are inspired to do this by the radical, genuine hospitality of Jesus; where there is always room at the table for others,” Kristin said. “This is community at its best.”

In addition to a large kitchen and dining area, the Fowlers envision the floor plan to include a library, arts and crafts room, guest rooms, greenhouse, root cellar, and front porch.

The name, The Nest, was inspired by the Sociable Weaver, a tiny bird in southern Africa that builds a giant nest, housing over 100 different species of birds.

“We think this is a beautiful model of how we can all live and function together,” said Kristin.

Sustainable Building for a Vet: Home for a Hero 

Bloem has spent a great deal of time at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. He had always admired veterans for their service and courage, but when he sat down and heard their war stories, he knew in his heart he wanted to do something more.

“If you look at the statistics about veteran depression, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder, you understand support of veterans is needed,” Bloem said.

This spring, Bloem will lead the transformation of the lot at 336 Donald Place SE into a LEED-certified and cost-efficient residence.

“Homes of Hope doesn’t want it to end with the built house, we also want to offer hope and a blueprint for success. It’s part of our vision,” Bloem said. “If someone needs counseling or training to get a job or deal with an addiction, then we want to help people find it.”

Volunteers of America and Wounded Warriors are taking charge of the veteran application process and selection. The plan is to surprise the selected recipient with the news on the July 4, 2014.

Transformative Change through Collaboration

Through the collaborative work of Homes of Hope, the , and the community, positive changes are beginning to take place in neighborhoods and in people’s lives.

“What we’re doing isn’t about any one individual. It’s about bringing people together to help others, make a difference, and lead by example,” Bloem said.

Brent Fisher with Green Property Management and Homes of Hope Board member agreed.

“It’s truly marvelous to see what can come to fruition when people put their mind to good purpose and collaborate,” Fisher said. “I appreciate being on a team that’s a catalyst for positive change in our great city.”

Kristin said she and Matt are humbled by the generosity and support of the community and are, “excited to create a place of light and hope. We are hopeful people will follow our example. We want everyone to ask themselves what they can do in their own neighborhoods to make the world a more beautiful place.”

Homes of Hope’s website is currently in development. To learn more or volunteer, contact homesofhopemi@gmail.com

Susan Julien Larimore is a freelance writer for UIX Grand Rapids

in 2005 was labeled as a Michigan Energy Demonstration Center. In keeping up with our title we are moving forward with innovative and tangible projects that show case sustainable building. One aspect of this partnership is that The Nest will showcase design using Stawclay or a type of cob for the structures thermal envelope. Straw & Clay are both natural, non toxic waste products that are usually burned or landfilled. We will be teaching other builders how to utilize this abundant resource. 
You can help support these projects Below!
Homes of Hope General Fund Donation 

The Nest – Living Building Challenge Registered Home  – thenestgr.com

Home for a Hero Fund 


Vote for Michael Hobbs to be on the USGBC-Illinois Board of Directors!

I’ve been selected as a candidate for an at-large director position on the USGBC-Illinois Chapter 2014 board and I’m asking for your vote.  If you are a member of USGBC-Illinois, please take the time to cast your vote before December 1 at 6pm!

Michael Hobbs, SRA, LEED GA
PahRoo Appraisal & Consultancy
P: 773.388.0003

 Candidate Particulars

Why do I wish to be a member of the USGBC-Illinois Board?
  • As a practicing professional in Illinois, I wish to become a member of the USGBC-Illinois Board to give a voice to the valuation profession which is woefully under-represented while expanding the awareness and positive impacts of USGBC initiatives.
Please provide a summary of your professional qualifications, knowledge and experience of most relevance to the Chapter.  Also indicate the degree to which you have senior management and executive level experience. Please include any current work you may be doing for the chapter.
  • For the past 13 years, I’ve been a certified real estate appraiser in Illinois and started PahRoo on the basis that someone with hands-on knowledge of building, rehabbing, investing, developing and managing would be much better suited to do perform real estate valuation.  My firm employs 10 real estate appraisers for residential and commercial assignments.   More recently, I have attained the following designations: SRA (Appraisal Institute), RAA (National Association of Realtors), and LEED GA (United States Green Building Council).  Additionally, I have owned and operated a property management firm and a real estate development firm.  Prior to that, I was vice president and interim-CFO at Engineered Glass Products which was a C-suite position.  I’m currently on the board of the Chicago Chapter of Entrepreneur Organization.
The Chapter is committed to strengthening its membership diversity. What resources could you bring to bear (e.g., demonstrated expertise, leadership positions, and willingness) to help further Chapter participation from high priority sectors including: real estate, energy/utility, finance/insurance, residential, corporate, product manufacturing and developers? You can also address other sectors you think require greater involvement in the Chapter.
  • As noted in the prior reply, my personal and professional experience is far-beyond the ‘typical’ real estate appraiser.  Currently, running my 7th firm, I feel that I have vast experience in leadership and helping others to succeed.  Given that my efforts for the past 15 years have been in and around real estate, our client base consists of developers, real estate professionals both residential and commercial, as well as working with other professionals to solve their real estate problems.
Describe what expertise, experience and resources from other organizations with successful chapter programs.
  •  As a board member of the Chicago Chapter of Entrepreneur Organization (a 9,000+ global membership organization comprised of business owners and entrepreneurs who meet or exceed stringent qualifications), we have consistently increased member value (as quantified through annual survey results) while growing membership (directly resulting in increased operating budget).
  • As a former board member of the American Red Cross Auxiliary Board Chicago Chapter, I contributed to the efforts to raise $250,000 in the 2nd year of existence and that amount was maintained over 5 years.
Describe what expertise, experience and resources you’ve experiences in leadership positions (volunteer or professional staff) with nonprofit governance.
  • Present – Board Member & Forum Chair – Entrepreneur Organization (EO)
  • Present – Board Member – Real Estate Investor Association (REIA)
  • Past – Board Member – Circle Family Care
  • Past – Board Member and Vice President – American Red Cross Auxiliary Board
Candidate Information
Reference Letters
LinkedIn Profile

ZeroStep Certification

Environmental Sustainability () are joining forces to take, ZeroStep™, a certification for home and building accessibility, beyond its current multi-state capacity to influence home construction over the rest of the country.  The ZeroStep™ standard is based in universal design which, according to DAKC Executive Director, David Bulkowski, J.D., is “an approach to creating environments and products that are usable by all people to the greatest extent possible.”


 Twenty percent of Americans have accessibility needs and that number is growing.  ZeroStep ™ helps to influence the design, development, construction, and use of new and existing homes through training, education, design review and third party verification/certification of proper construction.

Sign up

Zerostep 1.0 is now available for plan review and plan certification.  Please review the program Guidelines & Checklist and then Register your project here by answering a few quick questions. From there we will follow up with you and give you online access to submit your plans.


ZeroStep 2.0 Development is underway and will include not only Universal Design but opportunities and guidance on Aging In Place, ADA, Assistive Technology, Visibility and other necessary accessibility issues. Be on the look out for program upgrade by Spring 2014.

Questions? Brett.Little@allianceES.org or 616 458 6733 ext 1

See ZeroStep in Action – Rosemarie Rossetti from the Universal Design Living Laboratory has 1 hour recorded webinar that takes you through her ZeroStep Certified Gold Home in Columbus Ohio and explains the thought behind the design and construction. This is a free webinar worth 1 AIA/GBCI/Nari Green & Potential State Contractor CEU. 

In the News.

featured in Chicago 7 News helping make a home more accessible and therefore sustainable:  

ABOUT ZeroStep ™

ZeroStep™ takes universal design for homes, which is the art and science of creating environments that are attractive, marketable, and user friendly for people of all ages, desires, and abilities, to the next level with the intentional accommodation of people’s needs for their total life span.  As people’s needs change, their home remains accessible and family friendly.

The value of ZeroStep™ is its applicability to commercial buildings, retail spaces and even neighborhood design because it just makes good sense.  Joanne Feutz, a co-author of the ZeroStep™ Guidelines, describes the value as:

“For an architect, builder, and developer, the ability to advertise a home as “ZeroStep™ Certified” and use the ZeroStep™ logo says that you are not only about quality homes, but also about responsible and sustainable building.  ZeroStep™ universally designed homes are a personal or company mindset, philosophy, and choice exceeding the standard perceptions of quality to include comprehensive home designs that enhance all stages of life for everyone.

 For the home owner or home buyer, ZeroStep™ Certification means the home not only meets, but exceeds current standards for residential construction.  It also means they can expect a return on their investment because the home addresses not only today’s needs but tomorrow’s needs, as well as saving costs in remodeling or possibly relocating.

“A ZeroStep™ Certified Home is truly a home for a lifetime,” says Renee Thompson, a co-author of the ZeroStep Guidelines.  She built a ZeroStep home in 2006 for her young growing family.  “I love our ZeroStep home because it is first and foremost family friendly.  It accommodates our ever changing stages of life very cost effectively from babies in strollers, teens on crutches, mom recovering from surgery to grandpa in his wheelchair.  I’ve come to realize that people do not notice our home has ZeroStep entries until they need it.  That’s when they realize the true value of ZeroStep.   We chose ZeroStep because we believe it is the smart way to build.  Why wouldn’t you build a home that works for you and your family both today and in the future?”

Determining Value of Solar Just Got Easier

The additional property value of solar has always been an issue in the industry. Homeowners and professionals both recognize the inherent asset value of solar just as you realize asset value for other home improvements such as a kitchen remodel or bathroom addition.  But quantifying that for real estate appraisers, brokers, and lenders has been an issue – until now.

Consistent appraisals of homes and businesses outfitted with photovoltaic (PV) installations are a real challenge for the nation’s real estate industry, but a new tool developed by Sandia National Laboratories and Solar Power Electric™ and licensed by Sandia addresses that issue. Sandia scientists, in partnership with Jamie Johnson of Solar Power Electric™, have developed PV ValueTM, an electronic form to standardize appraisals. Funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the tool will provide appraisers, real estate agents and mortgage underwriters with more accurate values for PV systems.

“Previous methods for appraising PV installations on new or existing construction have been challenging because they were not using standard appraisal practices,” said Geoff Klise, the Sandia researcher who co-developed the tool. “Typically, appraisers develop the value of a property improvement based on comparable properties with similar improvements as well as prevailing market conditions. If there aren’t PV systems nearby, there is no way to make an improvement comparison. When a PV system is undervalued or not valued at all, it essentially ignores the value of the electricity being produced and the potential savings over the lifetime of the system. By developing a standard methodology for appraisers when comparables are not available, homeowners will have more incentive to install PV systems, even if they consider moving a few years after system installation.”

The tool uses an Excel spreadsheet, tied to real-time lending information and market fluctuations, to determine the worth of a PV system. An appraiser enters such variables as the ZIP code where the system is located, the system size in watts, the derate factor – which takes into account shading and other factors that affect a system’s output – tracking, tilt and azimuth, along with a few other factors, and the spreadsheet returns the value of the system as a function of a pre-determined risk spread. The solar resource calculation in the spreadsheet is based on the PVWattsTM simulator developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which allows the spreadsheet to value a PV system anywhere in the U.S.

“With PV Value™, appraisers can quickly calculate the present value of energy that a PV system can be estimated to produce during its remaining useful lifetime, similar to the appraisal industry’s income approach,” said Johnson. “Additionally, a property owner thinking about installing PV can now estimate the remaining present value of energy for their future PV system and what it could be worth to a purchaser of their property at any point in time in the event a sale of the property takes place before the estimated payback date is reached.”

The tool is being embraced by the Appraisal Institute, which is the nation’s largest professional association of real estate appraisers. “From my perspective as an appraiser, I see that this is a great tool to assist the appraiser in valuations, and it connects to the Appraisal Institute’s recent Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum. It’s an easy, user-friendly spreadsheet that will not bog the appraiser down with a lot of extra time in calculations, and if they fill out the addenda properly, they’ll be able to make the inputs and come up with some numbers fairly quickly,” said Sandy Adomatis, SRA, a real estate appraiser and member of the Appraisal Institute.

Although the tool is licensed for solar PV installations, it could be used for other large green features in a home that generate income, such as wind turbines. The spreadsheet, user manual and webinar explaining the tool are available for download at http://pv.sandia.gov/pvvalue.

Solar Power Electric™ located in Port Charlotte, Fla., is an electrical contracting and solar integration company specializing in the installation of commercial and residential photovoltaic systems.

LEED Professional Credentials Gain ANSI Accreditation

LEED Green Associate, LEED AP O&M and LEED AP Homes, among other GBCI-administered credentials achieve recognition from the American National Standards Institute.

“This accreditation from ANSI validates the integrity of our processes under a global standard. That provides a mark of differentiation for our credential holders, and the respect of the market that employs them” said Beth Holst, Vice President for Credentialing at GBCI.

Read the full article here.

What this will do in the marketplace is assure employers that their AP staff are uniquely qualified and trained individuals who are setting the bar for green building by meeting the rigorous demands set by this organization. This will add demand for these credentials amongst employers and add value to those employees looking for a competitive edge in a growing green market.

Especially in a residential green market with an alphabet soup of credentials available under every rating system, having ANSI recognize LEED AP Homes as the “most qualified, educated and influential green building professionals in the marketplace” will not only increase the demand for these LEED AP individuals, but will subsequently increase the demand for their LEED certified homes.

To find other green professionals in your area visit the Green Home Guide, or to learn more about how to become a LEED AP Homes visit our Tools page.