Breakell Inc. Walks the Talk

Breakell Inc.’s new green roof.

Breakell Inc.’s new green roof.
Breakell Inc.’s new green roof.

Breakell Inc. employees recently began going to work in a “green” building that has been renovated with cutting-edge and smart technology. The changes include conversion to a vegetated or “green” roof system (which keeps buildings cooler), a solar photovoltaic installation, solar panels, a pervious paving system that allows rainwater to seep into the ground, and a computer system to regulate energy.

Located on Patterson Avenue, Breakell Inc. is a general contracting firm that has been involved with several LEED projects. By implementing these renovations, the company also hopes to lead other businesses in the area by example. The firm, now in existence for over 50 years, celebrated its renovated home with a “Sustainability Showcase” last week.

Because of his advocacy for environmental design and development, Stan Breakell, President, was named Business Person of the Year by Blue Ridge Business Journal in 2008. Breakell Inc. also became the first general contractor in the southwest region to have a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional (AP) on staff to meet the demanding requirements for sustainable construction.

There are now seven LEED AP’s in the company.  The certification criterion examines energy, efficiency, building material sources, and a host of other measures. Jeff McClellan, Vice President Operations at Breakell, said the test for certification was “the hardest test” he has ever taken.

The work by Breakell Inc. on Roanoke’s 100-year-old State and City Building earned the U.S. Green Building Council’s (LEED) Certification. In addition to being the first LEED-certified building in the Roanoke or New River valleys, it is also the nation’s first LEED certification for a historic, multi-story conversion. State and City houses a retail business (Frank L. Moose Jewelers), offices and residential apartments.

In May the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition recognized the general contractor firm as a leader in the sustainable business practices movement, by having the greatest impact toward reducing greenhouse emissions, the principal cause of global climate change.  At the same time, Stan Breakell was hailed for founding Roanoke’s Clean and Green Business Coalition, an effort to encourage companies to consider how to adapt and adjust operations, to emphasize conservation, recycling, energy efficiency, monitoring and reduction of green house gas emissions and other green practices.

In July, Breakell Inc. was presented with the Kroger Award of Excellence by The Clean Valley Council, the highest honor given by the council. The recipient is chosen as a model for the community in the areas of recycling and waste management.

Breakell’s support for sustainability extends to the company parking lot, where several Toyota Prius hybrids can be found.  One features a network of batteries that Blacksburg’s VPT Energy Systems developed, to boost the car’s gas fuel efficiency to 135 miles per gallon.

The battery-packed car can be plugged in at work; a computer in the building charges the car during off-peak hours when less electricity is in use. Later in the day energy can be retrieved from where it is stored in the battery packs.

True to the mantra, “Taking the Lead,” Breakell Inc. embraces green building techniques through a commitment to sustainable business practices. At the showcase Stan Breakell acknowledged that “taking the first step is hard,” but he added, “once that step has been taken, it becomes easier.”

By Susan Ayers
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