Local Sourcing Can Save Money, Earn Green Points

by Robert Bell  on Monday, Jul. 26, 2010 12:00 am  

Phil Brandon, who started Rocktown Distillery, is using several Arkansas products, from the grains used in the liquor to barrels for aging and boxes for shipping.

The fresh brown eggs and heirloom tomatoes from old man Jones' farm just over yonder will more than likely taste better and cost a bit more than their mass-produced and shipped from who-knows-where counterparts from the mega-mart. That's fine for someone whose aim is to make a tasty omelet.

But when tasked with something a bit larger in scope - say, a multimillion-dollar building project - affordability usually trumps local flavor and environmental concerns. However, there's a good possibility that if Arkansas developers choose their ingredients wisely, they can have all three.

The yellow sandstone used on Polk Stanley Wilcox's $17 million Arkansas Studies Institute in Little Rock is one example of a locally sourced building material that was more affordable than something similar from out of state, said Reese Rowland, who worked on the award-winning project and is a principal with the firm.

Many building materials can be sourced in-state, Rowland said.

"You can pretty much cover all the exterior building materials with Arkansas products," he said.

Via e-mail, he cited several examples: brick from Malvern and Fort Smith; stone from several quarries; pine from south Arkansas; insulation from BioBased Technologies in Fayetteville; structural insulated panels from Noark Enterprises Inc. in North Little Rock; and several others, some of the which are not headquartered in Arkansas but have significant operations in the state.

Sandstone Source

Locally sourced building materials can also earn points for projects aiming for LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. As far as the USGBC is concerned, local means from within a 500-mile radius, and the idea behind local sourcing is to lower emissions used in transporting materials - as well as boosting the local economy.

But Rowland said that for many years, whenever possible, his firm had sought materials from closer than that. At the outset of the Arkansas Studies Institute project, the firm was looking at getting the stone from Minnesota, he said.

"Minnesota is known for that yellow stone, and we were looking at a very thin kind of, what's called a veneer system," he said. "And we figured out we could get a full, thick stone if we just changed the size of our stone pieces to smaller and laid it up like masonry [and then] we could use an Arkansas stone, which was what we needed to do and wanted to do anyway."

In addition, he said, the cost was significantly less than getting stone from out of state. He did not specify dollar figures but said that using smaller pieces of local stone was about half the cost of using out-of-state stone. 

"Until we went to Batesville and walked the quarry and found that stone, we didn't realize we were going to be able to get that yellow of a stone or in that cut here in Arkansas," Rowland said.



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