The following is a guest post by University of Michigan business student Aaron Ngo.
About a month ago I had the opportunity to embark on a career trek to Detroit with one of my student groups, Net Impact. We’re a community of students who believe business can play a role in solving pressing social and environmental issues (in other words, we love the triple bottom line). During the trek we visited companies that share this same belief and are actively proving that businesses can do this effectively. Green Garage, an incubator and coworking community for businesses and nonprofits in Detroit’s Midtown area, was one of them.
After a peculiar Lyft ride that took us throughout Detroit, we arrived at Green Garage for one of their weekly community lunches. This gave us the opportunity to learn about Green’s coworking space and their commitment to the community and the environment. We also learned about other initiatives they have, such as their sustainable small business leadership lunches and Labs Group.
Immediately after lunch we went on a building tour of Green Garage to learn how they minimize the building’s environmental impact. We were amazed at the amount of work that went into making the Green Garage what it is today. Green Garage co-founders Tom and Peggy Brennan actually walked us through the science and process behind all of their architectural decisions. For example, the building is “super insulated”, keeping heat inside during cold Michigan winters and keeping heat out during summer months, lowering energy needs and costs. Windows were put in place specifically to allow for natural lighting while also preventing extra heat from the sun’s rays. Natural ventilation, which takes advantage of hot air rising and the wind, is also utilized to keep energy use down.
They also explained why they initially chose to install solar thermal panels (instead of regular solar photovoltaics, which were added later) and how they extensively sourced reusable materials from off-site locations. In the kitchen alone they have a refrigerator that only uses $5 of energy a year, countertops made with leftover materials from a local high school, and a dishwasher that allows for smaller loads of dishes. Not to mention everything that went into their indoor greenhouse (repurposed lighting fixtures, worm composting, and details in the walls, floors, and ceilings, including the use of some of the building’s original exterior windows). The culmination of all of these details is what really impressed me about Green Garage, and what makes the building a great example of how we can all lower our environmental impact.
I left Green Garage with a lot more knowledge on passive design concepts, and a few examples of how seemingly small differences can make a big impact. I was inspired by Green Garage and their team’s diligence in creating the coworking space. On the tour Tom said that their most important rule in the building is,“You have to do what you love”. It’s clear to me from my visit to Green Garage that that’s what their team is doing. They’re passionate about and love what they do- whether it’s discovering ways to make the building more energy efficient, fostering learning about the triple bottom line, or giving tours a group to Michigan students.
Aaron Ngo is a student studying business at the University of Michigan. He’s interested in how businesses can address pressing social challenges and bring about significant positive change. His main fields of interests are economic development, public policy, and sustainability. Aside from that Aaron enjoys long distance running, reading a good book, and cheering for Philadelphia sports teams.