Five Questions for: Michael Paulus

Michael Paulus, Five Questions, BGSU, LEED certificationPreparing for construction of a new dining hall is full of challenges. Add the goal of LEED certification onto a new construction and the project can seem daunting. Michael Paulus, director of dining for Chartwells at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, spoke to FSD about how his team is preparing to implement sustainable design, with hopes of LEED certification, at the university’s new McDonald’s Dining Center.

How did the idea of going for LEED certification first come about?

The Bowling Green State University campus is going through a green transformation. The McDonald Dining Center is scheduled to open August 2011. We wanted to try for LEED certification because it was right for the environment, good for the students and desired by the university. Bowling Green State University was already a big supporter of eco-friendly expansion and did not need convincing about sustainable campus development. It was natural for Chartwells to provide insight for the new freestanding dining center considering Chartwells' design and building team members are experienced in LEED certification and sustainable facility development. We want our dining facilities to reflect our commitment to the students, client, community and environment.

What are some of the plans in place for this building to meet the LEED certification with regards to the foodservice aspect of the building?

Our plan includes ways in which we could capitalize on opportunities to create cost savings by improving energy efficiency, performance levels and the impact our foodservice operations have on the environment and healthy living. We plan to accomplish this by: using energy-efficient cooking equipment, exhaust hoods and HVAC; conserving water by using low-flow fixtures that reduce water usage; incorporating strategically placed windows for natural light or day lighting to conserve energy; using recycled and sustainable content and materials in dining center construction; using campus electric vehicles powered by a hybrid solar system and wind energy; and growing a rooftop garden to provide fresh produce for students and staff that will be prepared in the dining center.

We will also be implementing green programs and practices under our Project Green Thumb sustainability platform categories, which are Build it Green, Run it Green, Source it Green and Return it Green. Build it Green refers to sustainable design, construction or renovations. Run it Green includes Chartwells programs that ensure all daily operations are managed according to our green standards to help reduce all forms of waste and increase efficiency. Our programs include Project Clean Plate, trayless dining and Trim Trax food waste reduction programs, recycling and composting initiatives as well as providing biodegradable disposable and reusable packaging and containers. Source it Green and ethical eating identifies our relationship with our food sources. By sourcing food and products locally or regionally from family farms and minority vendors and women-owned businesses, we are able to provide the freshest, highest quality foods and products that support the local community. We also provide many food choices that are produced by means of higher ethical standards as a responsible brand including cage-free eggs, seafood from sustainable sources, poultry, pork and milk free of unnecessary antibiotics and growth hormones and Fair Trade-certified coffee and tea.

What are some of the other features you hope to include in the building?

The plan will incorporate aesthetically pleasing features that promote functionality and fun in the dining center under our proprietary Pulse on Dining program. Students will notice the added value, comfort and quality of indoor and outdoor spaces created for the purpose of interaction and a fun dining experience. There will be an exhibition-style open production kitchen with buffet-like appearance and a direct link to the kitchen will take center stage. Students will be able to make themselves feel at home by visiting myPantry, which is a home-style kitchen set-up. The self-assisted kitchen allows students to help themselves to a full refrigerator, stocked cabinets and counter space complete with countertop appliances, counter seating and televisions. There will also be outdoor common areas for students include patios with tables, group and solo seating, swings and a fire pit.

What is the planning for LEED certification like for a director?

Planning, applying and following through with LEED certification is a very defined process where specific standards and criteria must be met bar none. Planning involves working with and coordinating efforts from a number of participants from many different fields. The process requires understanding how to meet the expectations of the client and understanding operational objectives. In the end operators should focus on the food and the guests they will serve within the function of the space while maintaining total commitment to sustainability. Once you've gone green you should not become complacent. We have a great experienced team concentrating on collaborative efforts and a common goal. Constant communication is paramount. Time and staying within budget will be difficult. We hope to attain either Gold or Platinum level certification for an independent or freestanding dining hall structure for the McDonald Dining Center. Everyone on our team agreed upon a plan of action and setting the bar. With assistance from The Novus Group, we hope to achieve the highest certification possible.

What advice would you give to other operators who might be gearing up to try for LEED certification?

Start early, do your homework, define and plan your resources, build a qualified team and task force, agree on realistic goals, obtain input from students and the community and be committed. Be aware of standards and requirements including any local, state or national legalities and have complete documentation. Then have fun.