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American Society of Landscape Architects


December 2007 Issue

Walking the Talk
A foundation that offers grants for green building decides stewardship begins at home.

By Adam Regn Arvidson, ASLA

Walking the Talk Photo by Andrea Cooper, ASLA

The newly redesigned headquarters of The Kresge Foundation is tiny, insignificant almost, but impossible to miss. It is a vegetated square surrounded by the asphalt parking lots, corporate wealth, and manicured lawn-and-spruce landscapes of a Detroit suburb. It is a stark three-acre contrast in prairie grass and permeable paving. It is wildly out of place here, but its appearance is a key aspect of Kresge’s new Green Initiative grant program, which is meant to create and reward awareness of sustainable design practices. As such, its reach is expansive.

“The Kresge Foundation has long supported facility grants to nonprofits that are building,” says Elizabeth Sullivan, Kresge’s senior vice president for programs. “Over time, we began to ask the question: What is the impact of green building?” Kresge has supported nonprofits since 1924. But it was not until the early 2000s that sustainability came into the discussion. At that time, Kresge launched an in-depth planning process meant to reassess its mission while considering more environmental stewardship.

The Green Initiative was launched in 2003. It included education: Kresge has hosted workshops in 10 cities for nonprofits actively engaged in facility planning. In addition, planning grants were offered to organizations in the early stages of their projects, and a bonus grant program provided extra money to planning grant recipients who succeeded in obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. This approach is meant to assist (nudge, perhaps) nonprofits at every stage of their capital projects.

So far, the planning grants program has given out $6 million to 102 grantees in 3 years. The bonus grant program (now discontinued because nearly every planning grantee gets LEED) gave out $7.2 million to 42 grantees.

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