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Natural smarts: Falmouth business sees advantage in energy neutrality

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Natural smarts: Falmouth business sees advantage in energy neutrality

FALMOUTH — Before TideSmart Global began construction of its campus on Route 1 this summer, it blasted the hills on the property to make room for the new buildings.

Approximately 1.2 million tons of rock exploded in pieces and crumbled around the site. One 18,000-pound rock landed near the front of the planned building space.

"When an 18,000-pound rock falls on your driveway, you leave it there," Stephen Woods, TideSmart president and chief executive, said.

So there the rock sits, directly in front of the new campus, like a welcoming beacon.

Woods uses the rock as a metaphor for the company's policy when it comes to natural resources: Use what you have and be respectful of the natural world.

The rock wall and TideSmart Global sign facing Route 1 is made of the blasted rock from the site, as are the ballasts to protect the utilities. The remaining rocks were used as a fence around the entire property.

In addition to using what it has, Woods said he wants the company to be energy neutral.

As a result, the company has asked the Falmouth to consider a small wind energy ordinance so it can install a wind turbine on the campus. The proposal is being considered by the town's ordinance committee.

Additionally, last month TideSmart had solar panels added to a warehouse roof. Next summer, a green roof of local field grass will be installed.

And there are little things as well.

"We don't have a gutter system on the buildings here," Woods said. "The water is all collected, and goes through a filter and into the town's water treatment facility."

This way, he said, any contaminants are filtered out instead of going into the groundwater.

Next year, Woods said, the company is purchasing electric cars and will be the first agency in Maine with an electric car charging station.

Woods admits all of the company's efforts to be energy neutral come at a much higher price than doing the same things through traditional means. The roof had to be secured with enormous I-beams to support the weight of the sod and solar panels. The thick insulation in the walls was pricey and the radiant heat in all the floors was more expensive than a traditional warehouse heating system. But, Woods said, it was just the right thing to do.

"Change has to happen somewhere," Woods said. "Early adopters ultimately subsidize long-range growth."

And, he said, it hasn't hurt his business model either. As an event-marketing agency, the company works to attract large companies — they currently represent Walmart, Olympus and Levi Strauss — and having a green campus has drummed up more interest in the company.

"It's the right thing to do and it's also really good for business," Woods said.

The company has already scheduled more work for 2011 than it had in 2009 and 2010 combined, something Woods attributes to the green campus as a selling point, as well as to the hard work of his employees.

"I want this to be a place the employees want to go," he said.

The company even has plans for a hydroponic garden in the spring.

"Putting people first is not only good business," Woods said. "It's the right thing to do."

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net