Whatcom Educational Credit Union's New Commercial Lending Center Swathed in `Green'
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Whatcom Educational Credit Union's new commercial loan and real estate center will see an abundance of "green." The $379 million credit union is planning to construct a 9,000 square-foot center that will meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, a building rating system that stresses environmentally-friendly construction. WECU has already submitted applications to the city to break ground on the $2 million project, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2006, according to Robert Langei, WECU assistant vice president. LEED systems are not yet required for today's buildings but several city councils have passed resolutions encouraging government buildings to have LEED certification. LEEDS also looks to promote cost-effective water systems and energy efficiency. WECU's strategy includes creating an indoor environment that lets in large amounts of natural light and heating systems that employees can control at their individual workspaces. The credit union's growing commercial and real estate lending activity prompted it to move forward on the new center, which will be located next door to WECU's main branch here, said Teresa Flinn, WECU vice president, business services. The credit union has been offering the loans for nine years but within the last three years, commercial lending has taken off. WECU currently has $33 million commercial and real estate loans outstanding. "Part of the problem is we've experienced growth throughout the entire credit union," Flinn said. "Real estate has maximized all of their space on the third floor (of the headquarters)." With WECU recently applying for a waiver to exceed the 12.25% member business lending cap, the timing for new the center could not have come sooner. "A lot of the banks have decentralized their lending and most of the loans are going out of the state," Flinn said. "What we're finding is people like a more centralized relationship. They want to be able to walk in and talk to someone. And, we're going full tilt and hitting a niche that the commercial banks are not." In addition to a high quality indoor environment, the WECU will be 35% more efficient than a building constructed following conventional building practices, according to Zervas Group Architects and Be Green Consulting, the design and construction team. Lighting integration between daylight and electric lighting, a high efficiency mechanical system and an under floor air distribution system will help make the building more efficient. WECU is building on an existing parking lot and includes the renovation of an adjacent existing gravel parking lot. Rain gardens and impervious paving will be installed in these parking lots to help reduce the amount of stormwater runoff leaving the site. The rain gardens will also treat the stormwater, removing pollutants that can damage area wetlands, according to the team. WECU will also install some vegetated roofs to help reduce and treat runoff, reduce cooling demands in the summer, and reduce the heat island affect, which can have a negative impact on the local ecosystem. The building will be constructed using a minimal amount of wood. Building materials will be selected based on proximity to the site, recycled content and using materials that have low or no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Construction waste management will help the project reduce waste by recycling, reusing or composting materials. The design and construction team said WECU will install only native and adaptive plants to eliminate all irrigation from the site, which will reduce the amount of potable water that the building uses. In addition, WECU will install waterless urinals and dual flush toilets to reduce the amount of potable water on the interior of the building. WECU says it is the first private project to register with the LEED Rating System in Bellingham and hopes that this building will serve as a model in green building to the community. Both Bellingham City Council and the Whatcom County Council have decided to pass LEED resolutions for their own buildings, according to WECU. -firstname.lastname@example.org