Meredith Hendricks at Brick Avenue Lofts

The Power of Little Things

It’s 18º out and we’re on a construction site wearing our hardhats and high-visibility vests.

It’s 18º out and we’re on a construction site wearing our hardhats and high-visibility vests.

We’re here to see Meredith Hendricks, a sustainability consultant who works for Entegrity, an Arkansas sustainability and energy services company. The mud that usually mires our feet is frozen into miniature peaks and valleys. Workers unload cypress siding from a tall mechanical lift. Heavy equipment drones all around us.

In some ways, this looks like a typical busy construction site, but there’s something different about Brick Avenue Lofts. Like each of the apartment communities Specialized has developed, Brick Avenue is registered for LEED Certification. But what does that mean, really?

“LEED or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building rating system,” Meredith explains. “A LEED building is third party verified to use design and construction strategies that improve the walkability of the site, energy use, water use, incorporate careful stewardship of resources and provide better indoor air quality.”

As we open up an apartment door, drywallers are at work inside.  Meredith ducks inside a utility closet. “I’ve been wanting to see this,” she says.  She emerges with a small square pleated air filter.

“This is something very different from the average apartment,” she says. “LEED Homes have a fresh air supply duct that brings in a small amount of fresh air every day to dilute any pollutants that might be building up. And this filter cleans air on it’s way in.”

In the living area, Meredith points toward a rectangle of metal foil on the ceiling. She explains that this cover will remain on the building’s ductwork during construction to prevent dust and debris from collecting in the ventilation system. This means cleaner and healthier air for future residents.

They might not appear on the cover of the leasing brochure, but these interventions add up. It’s Meredith’s job to identify these seemingly little things that will have a big impact on residents’ comfort and health.

“My role is to guide choices around sustainable construction during design. I lay out the options so that the design team can decide what strategies make most sense for the project,” she says. “I’m the squeaky wheel for sustainability.”

“I’m the squeaky wheel for sustainability.”

Beyond suggesting best practices, Meredith’s team also verifies that construction is following them.  “LEED Certified homes are monitored during the design and construction stages to confirm that the building materials meet stringent emissions testing. A LEED Certified home won’t have the ‘new car smell’ that you typically get from a newly built home,” she says.

From slab insulation to shut-off valves, Meredith Hendricks’ green building contributions will be multiplied over decades and hundreds of units. These “little things” will make a big impact on this place and the people who call it home.

Meredith Hendricks on the latest Bentonville project site—Brick Avenue Lofts

Meredith’s Tips for Clean Indoor Air

Many of the products that we bring into our homes contain VOCs  (Volatile Organic Compounds). Things like cleaning products, products with fragrances (candles and air fresheners) and cosmetics can all be sources of VOCs in your home. To keep the good quality of indoor air inside your home:

  • Reducing the amount of fragrance-producing products will help keep the VOCs in your home low.
  • Don’t store materials like paints or other harsh products inside.
  • Look for cleaning products that meet Green Seal or Environmental Choice standards.
  • Open the windows on a nice day (make sure you turn off your heater or air conditioner)

The original version of this story by Sarah King appeared in Connection, our quarterly newsletter.

Read more about Meredith’s tips for green and healthy living.

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