Environmental project awaits green light

Glen Burnie company to turn old farmhouse into a Jessup showcase

March 10, 2003|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

An old farmhouse turned lumberyard on Route 175 in Jessup soon will become a local showcase for environmental friendliness and an incubator for green company startups, if Stanley Sersen has his way.

The president of Architectural Support Group Inc., a Glen Burnie company that helps builders incorporate solar panels and windmills to condominiums and apartments, plans to transform the aged brown and yellow eyesore into an office, resource center, incubator and public educational facility for companies involved in building more environmentally friendly structures and recycling building materials.

The Environmental Design Resource Center will incorporate a number of features, including a facility to manufacture and sell a diesel fuel made from used vegetable oil, underwater tanks to collect and disperse rain runoff and windmill-generated backup batteries.

"We want to team up with other professionals that are as committed as we are" to the environment, Sersen said. "With the increase in environmental awareness, professionals are interested in networking opportunities, and the center is going to provide that."

Environmentally friendly buildings - ones that incorporate energy saving features, environmentally conscious products and practices - are becoming more common nationwide since the federal government has created standards for certifying buildings' effectiveness through the U.S. Green Buildings Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

In Maryland, then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening issued an executive order in 2001 requiring all new government buildings and leases of more than 7,500 square feet to become LEED-certified, and industry has responded.

Mark Bundy, the state Department of Natural Resources' representative to the state Green Building Council, also oversees an ad hoc group called the Maryland Green Building Network.

Bundy said the number and types of companies becoming involved in building environmentally friendly commercial and residential buildings is expanding rapidly. More than 400 participants attended a conference on green buildings last year that was expected to draw only about 250, he said.

"Interest is growing and it's growing exponentially," Bundy said. "It's still a very small fraction of the total development that's occurring, [but] it leaves us with a great deal of hope and optimism that one day it will be a much larger component of the building industry."

Sersen is expected to begin construction within weeks on the interior of the 3,500-square- foot building that is using the shell of an 1805 farmhouse. His company bought the building and the surrounding three-quarters of an acre last year for about $270,000, and gutted the building, recycling most of the materials - even the wood, Sersen said.

Now the company is waiting for building permits and financing for the project, estimated at $300,000.

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