Builder and Leading Force Energy & Design Center founder Steve Weise supports sustainable building.
MANY BUILDERS TOUT the top-of-mind benefits of building greener: saving homeowners money on utilities and being more responsible environmental stewards.
But there’s one reward often overlooked in the push to be more environmentally conscious when it comes to building homes, and that’s where Yakima, Washington-based Leading Force Energy & Design Center leads the way.
Founder Steve Weise has been building homes in the region for more than 30 years, most recently through his company, Steve Weise Co.
“I’ve concluded that a healthy home is the No. 1 priority if we’re going to be a responsible building community,” Weise says. “When my clients ask me to focus my attention on that, everything else is pretty easy.”
That realization prompted the experienced builder to launch a showroom – the physical manifestation of a new collaboration for building that leads to healthier living. Broader than an array of products, education is among the partners’ missions, and trainings and seminars in energy efficient strategies and codes are just some of the courses that are routinely offered at the in-store conference room.
With a team approach to design and construction, Leading Force members display a uniquely integrated approach to developing projects, based on close collaboration, and at a level not found elsewhere. Just some examples of what builders, subcontractors and the public can discover there are solar panel options for power generation, geothermal heating/cooling for comfort, thermal shell design, low-voltage lighting and control systems, advanced air sealing techniques and whole house energy audits. Architecture and interior design services are available through the expertise of Leading Force professionals. Of course, the showroom features a wide array of healthy finish materials, cabinetry and plumbing fixtures, too.
The overall goal is to offer clients all the tools and knowledge they need to develop healthy, energy efficient projects within a manageable budget.
“Building green is here to stay,” Weise says. “It’s true that the public has focused their attention, in the Northwest especially, on energy efficient building. It is often considered an environmental movement with a political agenda. When you try to approach the subject of green or sustainability, people associate it with that.”
His mantra is now, ‘Everybody deserves to live in a healthy home. Nobody likes to pay the power company bill. Why not do something responsible along the way?’ Changing the message so that anybody would listen and not assume that he had a political agenda came naturally after working with clients that had true environmental health issues.
A Dream Realized
Launched in December 2014, Leading Force is the manifestation of a vision that started with Weise’s heart for people’s health.
Weise was commissioned to build the first five-star green home in Yakima County for a family whose children were experiencing severe health problems, from asthma to what was diagnosed as mental health issues.
This home was awarded the five-star green designation by the Central Washington Built Green Association for the extent of the details – a high-quality electronic air filtration system to solar water-heating, reclaimed wood and wood from renewable forests and an absence of products and paints that emit volatile organic compounds – which went beyond what had been built in the region.
The result was a family who not only got a new home; they have a new life, relieved of their health issues, which Weise and others feel were symptoms of living among chemical-laden materials. A three-weekend open house showed how much interest others in the community had in living cleaner and greener, according to Weise.
“That was my introduction to how many people have under-theradar environmental health issues,” Weise says. “The medical community often wouldn’t know how to diagnose that. They treat the symptoms.”
Building the Dream
From there, Weise started a journey of assembling a team of builders, suppliers and subcontractors to create a one-stop shop that could offer homeowners the same options the owners of the first five-star green home enjoyed.
“When I share with people the concept of Leading Force and the mantra of health, energy efficiency and sustainability, I usually get a positive response,” he says. Yet, he was somewhat surprised to discover he couldn’t find a comparison model – in Washington or elsewhere.
“Why hasn’t it been done before?’” Weise adds. “’Why hasn’t this model of product and service coming together under one roof been done before?’ I turned over stone after stone looking for something to help me model my dream. It just wasn’t out there.”
Since Leading Force’s launch, the partners have enjoyed a warm welcome from homeowners and the building community.
“Because people have different value systems regarding sustainability and health, you really can’t preach just one message to everybody,” Weise says. “From a building perspective, energy efficiency has been a priority. Between building codes and consumer demand for lower energy costs we will continue to promote these aspects. But I also feel we need to promote and support the message of health and healthy homes. We have to tailor the message to the needs of our clients.”