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VOL. 37 | NO. 25 | Friday, June 21, 2013

Wilmot finds gold among green

By Hollie Deese

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Tiffany Wilmot puts her green touch to major league, high-profile projects, and yet she’s quick to remember the sustainable needs of those who live in lower-income houses and go to school all day.

Her Nashville-based firm, Wilmot Inc., worked on the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, the first convention center in the world to have Gold and Platinum LEED status, as well as Nashville’s own Music City Center.

“We like to do large projects and don’t take everything that comes along,” she says. “That said, we love doing projects with schools. It is so important to us to have our children in schools that don’t have mold and have daylight and fresh air.

“For low-income housing and schools to be able to be LEED, for me, that is the bomb,” Wilmot adds. “Those are the people who need it. And often, people in low-income housing get the worst of the environment.

“For instance, a lot of low-income housing is near our freeways here in Nashville, so they are getting the brunt of the pollution. The idea is to be able to help somebody in a low-income situation have a house that is clean and really efficient.”

Helping Habitat

Wilmot has been teaching companies how to sustainably save money since starting her consulting business in 1994. In those early days, she focused on pollution prevention, helping businesses reduce their energy costs and waste output.

She moved with the times, evolving along with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) status for buildings established by the U. S. Green Building Council.

It was a natural progression, considering the company was already doing two out of the five things needed to achieve LEED status.

“The three other aspects of LEED are sustainable sites, water and indoor air quality,” Wilmot says. “So we just added those to our repertoire. We still do sustainability consulting outside of the green building rating systems, but this was just kind of like a natural progression.”

In addition to the big projects Wilmot worked on last year, she and her team also completed 100 LEED houses in the state, working with Habitat for Humanity on 60 of them and with the Chattanooga Housing Authority on the other 40.

Right job, right time

Another local sustainability guru, Jeff Gowdy, went to business school at Vanderbilt in 2001 to study sustainability, envisioning that the field was about to explode.

And he was right.

He launched J. Gowdy Consulting in 2006, and has since worked with clients such as Gaylord Entertainment, the World Wildlife Fund, Vanderbilt University and the Cumberland River Compact.

Since 2007, Metro Nashville has required LEED certification for all new city-owned buildings. All municipal facilities that cost more than $2 million or are larger than 5,000 square feet must pursue LEED silver certification, including all schools and Metro Development and Housing Authority and Metro Transit Authority buildings.

“I had a premonition that this was going to hit due to the growing macro issues of a growing population, growing consumption patterns and the issue of climate change,” Gowdy explains. His focus is on large businesses because of the size of the impact they have on the environment.

“Very large businesses are multi-continental, so if you’re in the business of making products, and you’ve got a five-continent reach, these sustainability issues are going to affect your business,” he says.

That can include anything from the resources needed to be able to make the product to the cost of paying for energy, water, to remove waste or to recycle.

“This is really just a new strategic way of looking at business,” he says.

Different niches

Consultants can focus on the whole project from site to completion like Wilmot, or focus on specific niches like Future Vision Energy in Gallatin.

Owner Jason Duncan started the business in 2010, originally as a part-time way to explore alternative energy concepts. But in 2011 his position as a teacher was eliminated, and he switched the focus of FVE to helping businesses reduce lighting and HVAC costs.

“Our first year in business was slow,” he says. “But in the second year, we exceeded the million-dollar mark in sales and we are maintaining steady growth this year that will outpace the last.

“While we still find business through our own marketing efforts, more and more we are getting companies who call on us for consulting and projects. Everyone is looking for ways to cut expenses and save money on their bottom line.”

Duncan’s eyes are on hospitals, as one of the biggest energy users across the country as the lights never go off.

“We focus on large commercial buildings whose electric bills are at least $10,000 per month,” Duncan explains. “While we can certainly help save energy and save money for any size business, it makes the most sense financially for larger companies with sizable electric bills.

“Since we are based in Gallatin, most of our customers are here in Middle Tennessee. We plan to begin expanding our offerings to businesses outside our region this year.

“As a matter of fact, we want to hire some sales representatives third quarter this year to serve major metropolitan areas within a day’s drive of Nashville.”

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