Sam Wainer discovered his niche in the sustainability movement as a student at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management in 2010, when his department’s main building, Gallagher Hall, earned a LEED Platinum certification.
While giving a tour of the new facility to the university’s board of regents, Wainer realized how nice it would be if there was signage that described the sustainable features of the building.
So in 2013, Wainer and co-founder, Matt Krysiak, started buildingplaques.com, a company that sells customized anodized aluminum plaques that not only acknowledge a building’s level of LEED certification, “but educate the community at large, and recognize the builders, owners and stakeholders of the project,” Wainer says.
Unlike traditional LEED plaques that only show the USGBC logo, buildingplaques.com’s product features a high-resolution image of the project, a LEED scorecard (which includes ratings for each LEED category) and recognition to the building’s architect, owner and general contractor.
Plaques can also include an optional 500-word description of the sustainable design elements of the building to further educate visitors about how a project earned LEED certification.
And because the company is integrated into the USGBC database, Wainer says it is fast and easy for customers to design and order their plaque online by simply typing their LEED-certified project ID into buildingplaques.com.
“[The USGBC] has been huge champions of us since the very beginning,” he says. “They are very interested in the entire sustainability ecosystem, whether that means architects and builders being certified as LEED accredited professionals or working with building materials companies to make their products more sustainable. So I think they were excited about using buildingplaques.com to continue to educate the public about LEED certification.”
Printing turned green
Today, buildingplaques.com is a subsidiary of Ohio-based Horizons Incorporated, an internationally recognized manufacturer of signage and other identification products. As a result, buildingplaques.com fabricates all its plaques at Horizons’ state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Cincinnati.
Wainer says controlling the manufacturing process gives buildingplaques.com a huge cost advantage because typically customers have to pay for a graphic designer to design the plaque, and then contract a manufacturer to build the actual product. The price of this custom signage could be anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000.
As the subsidiary of a printing company, buildingplaques.com not only has the capabilities to manufacture durable, architectural-grade aluminum plaques in house, but can do it at a lower price than most competitors.
buildingplaques.com sells plaques in two sizes: 18 inches by 24 inches for $750, and 23 inches by 35 inches for $1,000. Designed by Krysiak, the company’s head designer, the plaques can be oriented vertically or horizontally. Customers can also choose between color and grayscale, the former being best for indoor use and the latter better for outside use. Wainer says the products are built for permanence, but if they must be replaced, the company’s plaques are 100 percent recyclable.
Because the product is based on a customizable standard design, buildingplaques.com makes it easy for large organizations like West Chester University (WCU) in southwestern Pennsylvania, to design and install plaques for multiple building projects that maintain the same look across the campus.
“For me personally, I value the ability to engage in a business activity that is good for the planet, and I also enjoy the fact that the people we deal with in this industry share that belief,” says Co-founder Sam Wainer.
Since WCU signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in 2010, it has been busy building LEED certified facilities throughout its campus. The university has ordered one plaque from buildingplaques.com, and is in the process of ordering two more.
“The beauty of our product is if [WCU] wants to have a cohesive signage system throughout the university, they don’t have to spend hours working with a graphic designer,” Wainer says. Instead, every time a new LEED building is finished, the project engineer in charge of sustainability can design and order a new plaque that matches the style of the others in minutes, “and boom! It’s shipped out in three to four weeks.”
Signs of a purpose
By educating visitors about exactly what makes a LEED building sustainable, Wainer says he, and business partner Krysiak, feel they are furthering the USGBC’s mission of environmentally conscious design, construction and building operation.
“For me personally, I value the ability to engage in a business activity that is good for the planet, and I also enjoy the fact that the people we deal with in this industry share that belief,” Wainer says.
In November 2017, buildingplaques.com will head to Boston to participate in the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building, where the company will showcase its latest plaque designs and ideas for the future of “green signage.”
Krysiak is already working on a series of designs for smaller plaques that would describe specific sustainable features in the different spaces of a LEED-certified building.
While these newer products aren’t ready for production, “it’s great to do work that, at the end of the day, is going to matter and is going to accomplish something for our planet,” Krysiak says.
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