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This year, KAEE’s Excellence in Environmental Education Award for Outstanding Businesses was given to the Campbell Lane branch of Service One Credit Union (SOCU), located in Bowling Green, Kentucky. There, sustainability is built into the entire infrastructure. Their building features sustainable materials, all the way from a total green roof system to eco-friendly paint, floors, and even furniture.

SOCU’s sustainability journey as a business began in the 1990’s, when former CEO and president Valerie Brown (who retired in 2012) first started creating her vision.

Brown believes one of the most important things a CEO can do is read continuously while keeping up with ongoing trends, ideally to see how your business will fit into the future. This strong focus on the future enabled Brown to think ahead, completing her sustainable vision for SOCU more than ten years ago, when sustainable business thinking was not yet mainstream.

One of only 100 buildings in the United States during this time to represent a sustainable business model, SOCU’s feature that has always stood out most is their famous grass roof. The grass on the roof of the building is part of the business’s green roof system, which reduces stormwater runoff and provides a heat-island effect to the area, while also assisting in building insulation and air quality.

The business also has a bio-retention basin and green pavers in their parking area, both which assist in reducing and flushing stormwater runoff while supplying clean water to a nearby aquifer. Additionally, SOCU increases their insulation through the use of Nanogel-insulated windows, insulated concrete walls, and earth berms. Because the building also features geothermal heating and air conditioning systems, SOCU keeps their environmental footprint low (along with their billing statements).

Brown’s sustainability vision for SOCU did not stop here, though. Another feature of the building’s infrastructure includes the use of reclaimed wood timbers from the former Poole Milling Company in Webster County, Kentucky. Since these local wood timbers are so aged and strong, they provide a sustainable structure for the building while also eliminating the need for a sprinkler system. Some other sustainable features include recycled drywall, non-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint, recycled floor coverings, and furniture purchased from only green companies. Additionally, the building’s design allows for optimal natural light entry with the correct placement of windows, as well as a stairwell lit by a skylight. Because they also utilize highly energy efficient lights, SOCU once again cuts down their environmental footprint and bill statement with these innovations.

From the floor to the roof, SOCU represents a sustainable vision well ahead of its time.


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