It might sound like hyperbole, but not so long ago Neenah, Wis.-based Miron Construction Co. built the greenest school on earth. Last year the U.S. Green Building Council so decreed the Lake Mills Middle School, sited in a Wisconsin town of the same name.
"That was one of those rare instances when everything just falls into place," recalls Theresa Lehman, Miron's director of sustainable projects. "The school district knew it wanted LEED certification for the project, and my thought at the time was that we would probably wind up pursuing Silver."
Instead, the 98,500-sq-ft building was certified Platinum, the first school in Wisconsin to earn the designation, and shortly thereafter took title to the world's greenest school. Seemingly no LEED credit was left unturned for the project. In addition to natural daylighting, exterior sun shelves, high-efficiency lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures and a geothermal ground-source heating and cooling system, the facility was awarded credits for an indoor air-quality management plan that Miron implemented during construction, as well as a waste-management plan that resulted in the diversion of 595 tons—or 77%—of construction waste from the landfill.
The school is one of more than 30 LEED-certified facilities, including libraries, residence halls and community centers, that Miron has built since 2009.
More interesting is the fact that the firm didn't have a sustainable practice a year prior to that, save for just three projects collectively valued at $18 million.
"At the time, Miron was rebranding itself," says Lehman, who in 2008 was serving as a consultant to the firm. "It wanted to integrate sustainability into its corporate culture and business practices, and it was my job to help them create a path toward meeting those objectives."
Progress, at first, was halting, she says. "I eventually told them the initiative wasn't going to go anywhere until they brought a full-time sustainability champion on board." That champion turned out to be Lehman.
"One day Theresa said to me, 'If we're going to sell it, we've got to show it,'" says David Voss Jr., Miron's president. Shortly thereafter, in June 2008, the firm embarked on $10 million in renovations and additions to its 112,000-sq-ft headquarters, an undertaking that incorporated exterior shading and a moisture-sensing drip irrigation system, in addition to geothermal ground-source heating and cooling.
The objective for Miron's home office "was less about creating a showplace than an educational tool for Miron's employees and clients," says Lehman.
In addition to LEED-Gold certification, the facility earned Miron a Wisconsin Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Leadership Award from the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance in 2011.