Each time he says they would take five or six people out and with an organization the size of MTD, that’s quite a challenge in and of itself. “That was a third of our staff that we were taking.”
It’s about a year-and-a-half process and MTD just completed the institute in February of this year. After the final week-long class, one of the faculty does a site visit and a final audit.
The program really forces you to document everything and to track and monitor things, Gnadt says. “We had done some big projects: we put the permeable pavers down, the geothermal system, and would move on to the next thing.” He states, “That’s kind of the mold we were in. This kind of forces us to take a more global approach to it and say, OK, these are things we need to do, this is what we do to follow up, how we plan for the next one, how we monitor and how we manage the systems that we are putting in place.”
An example he cites is with their maintenance department. With Dave Moore looking to retire in the next couple of years, “He is a wealth of knowledge and when he’s gone, there will be a dearth of knowledge. So this helps us to bridge that because more of his knowledge will be documented in the process. The thought process that he goes through documented.”
Moore says, “It basically redefines it in a very organized system for the next people, so they know what we have been doing in the past and so they know how to continue in the future.”
Talking to Gnadt about the other agencies in the program at the same time, he says it doesn’t matter what size an organization is. “It was kind of nice because we were able to all hear about the same thing, talking about the same thing, so we had different experiences with the different-sized systems from different states.” He stresses, “It enabled a lot of really good sharing and conversation between the systems.”
There are some definite advantages and disadvantages, no matter what your size. With a small agency, when MTD staff would come back to do the homework and follow up, Gnadt says, “With a very small group of people doing that and those being the same people significantly involved in running the organization, it’s very challenging in terms of resources.” But the large system has a very different challenge. “They’ve got that core group of people that focus on it, but they’ve got to sell it to everyone else.
“The core group, the EMS team, has bought into it so we didn’t have to sell it. We understand this is where we are, at a critical juncture with our organization. We had so much longevity with employees and with a number of them retiring, it’s critical for us to figure this transition out and to manage it,” he states.
Illinois Terminal Manager Adam Shanks says the EMS process really gets you to think about your green initiatives, though he adds, “Since I’ve been here, they’ve always been forward-thinking about the environment and how some of these amenities could help us meet mixed-use transportation.
“I’ve heard about that since I started here: walking, biking, transit in general, as well as dealing with traffic congestion and creative ideas in how to deal with that.”
Volk says a lot of the sustainability initiatives got started with ARRA funding, though the decision to move in that direction had come sooner. “We had made the decision before that we wanted to do sustainability because we’re going to market to a community that we were the green alternative.”
The first thing I noticed when arriving at MTD was the parking lot covered with permeable pavers to allow rain and melted snow to enter the groundwater system. In addition, in 2010 MTD covered its administration building with a white roof that reflects more than 70 percent of sunlight. Also in 2010, a geothermal cooling and heating system was installed.
Both Volk and Shanks say there were significant changes made at the Illinois Terminal, including the installation of a new chiller that is scheduled to be complete by the end of this year. The system allows for the storage of cooling energy as ice to offset the cooling load during peak hours. And once they get the chiller in, they will be able to get LEED certification for an existing facility.