Case Studies

Donnelly Energy

Sustainability and Profitability

Donnelly Energy is a division of Donnelly Industries Inc. (DII), a group of green builders and property developers based in Wayne, N.J. Rod Donnelly, current president and CEO of DII, founded the parent company in 1977. Rod’s son, R.J., operates Donnelly Energy, which provides sustainability planning and implementation for businesses and buildings alike.

Donnelly Energy has provided energy upgrades to over 750 buildings in New Jersey, all of which were made possible by the state’s robust energy incentive programs. “We provide turnkey sustainability transformations of businesses, which reduce their environmental footprint and lower their operation costs,” explains R.J. “In many cases we found enough incentives to cover 100 percent of the cost of construction. It’s a win for the businesses and it’s a win for the environment.”

The company’s upgrades run the gamut of high-efficiency HVAC equipment to better insulation and air sealing, renewable energy systems and even carbon offsets. The team at Donnelly Energy even manufactures its own LED lighting fixtures in New Jersey. “Every project requires a customized approach,” says R.J. “We provide the right blend of energy measures, incentives and financing to maximize the payback for each project. At the end of the day, our clients save a ton of money on their energy costs. Sometimes, we cut their utility bill by more than half.”

Embracing New Markets

New Jersey has implemented some of the country’s most aggressive energy incentive programs, as the state’s businesses consume energy at a high rate when compared with other states. Officials determined through studies that at some point in the near future the state would be consuming far more energy than the electrical grid could handle and started encouraging businesses to convert to more sustainable energy sources.

DII recognized the growing market for green building and energy solutions, so Donnelly Energy was born. “We analyzed the green trends in the marketplace and made a strategic move to get out ahead of our competition,” says R.J. “In 2008 we launched Donnelly Energy.”

Since that time, the company has been growing at an incredible rate. “Even through the recession we’ve seen tremendous growth and profitability,” says R.J. “We started building LEED-certified buildings, then we added solar, wind and geothermal to our services. We currently focus on energy efficiency. The industry is changing so rapidly that you can’t play follow the leader; you have to be the leader.”

Aside from the company’s green-minded clients, Donnelly Energy employs a growing network of green suppliers and subcontractors. “We’ve got some amazing subcontractors,” explains R.J. “We’ve developed great partnerships and we really trust these guys.”

Reliable subcontractors are Donnelly Energy’s key to full service, as the company self-performs some trades and subcontracts the rest. The company provides regular training to subcontractors and its own employees alike in order to keep partners up-to-date with trends, technologies, best practices and of course safety. “We also make sure that our subcontractors and employees fully represent the Donnelly standards of quality, excellence and ethics,” adds R.J.

Client satisfaction is the No. 1 indicator of performance standards for Donnelly Energy. “Our team is completely obsessed with customer service,” says R.J. “It’s reflected in all that we do.”

Donnelly Energy’s second priority is sustainability, which is an integral part of the company’s mission and values. Lastly, R.J. says, “Profitability on a project-by-project basis is critical to our success.” The blend of customer service, sustainability and profitability has proven to be a winning combination for Donnelly Energy.

Putting It to Practice

Donnelly Energy is leading by example by completely transforming its own facilities and operations. “We’re a net carbon-negative company,” R.J. beams. The office has an on-site solar array, which provides 33 percent of the energy for the business. The rest of the energy is purchased through third-party energy contracts, which offer 100-percent renewable power.

“We go even further by purchasing additional carbon offsets in order to give us a negative carbon footprint,” adds R.J. Donnelly Energy also boasts a zero-waste management plan, which continues to recycle up to 96 percent of all construction waste from the company’s jobsites and corporate office.
Transportation can make up an enormous percentage of a contractor’s carbon footprint, but the team is eliminating that, too. “We’re part of BMW’s electric vehicle test program,” R.J. explains. “We’re road testing one of 700 all-electric prototypes so BMW can monitor how the technology performs.”

Donnelly Energy also installed an electric car charging station at its corporate office, which provides 100-percent renewable energy. “We’ve closed the energy loop,” boasts R.J. “This sustainable transportation model may one day help to wean our society off of oil.” The company has pledged to only buy all-electric vehicles for the fleet.

Looking Back to the Future

“We’ve got some pretty outrageous plans for the future,” says R.J. “We can’t give away all our secrets, but I can tell you that we are currently developing a model home that utilizes ancient building techniques, married with the best of today’s technology to meet LEED Platinum, Passive Solar Home and Living Building Challenge Certifications.”

Designed by New Jersey-based Z+ Architects, the 2050 Home will produce all the on-site power that it consumes, use only the rainwater that is harvested, offer a suburban farm and naturally recycle all waste. “Just about all building materials come from recycled or salvaged sources,” says R.J. “The team’s goal was to envision our civilization in the year 2050 and work backward to create a home of the future. We had to consider a more polluted world with limited natural resources, finite fossil fuels, plundered natural watersheds, overflowing landfills, more powerful and erratic weather patterns and a warmer atmosphere.”

The team then designed with those limitations in mind. “As far as I’m concerned, that future is already here,” says R.J. “It is our sincerest hope that this project inspires others to design and build in a more environmentally responsible manner.”

The company also intends to break ground in spring 2013 on another prototype, B&L Savings Green, which involves completely self-sustaining, community apartment living. The team is currently designing a luxury green apartment building in Newark, N.J., which will include urban farming, wellness facilities, electric vehicle charging stations and social living spaces.

“Not only will this building meet the same standards as the 2050 Home, but it is also designed to be an architectural urban jewel, a thing of beauty,” says R.J. “We can’t wait to unveil this project to the public. It will blow everyone away.”

There are more plans on the horizon for Donnelly Energy, but the team is reluctant to offer any hints. “What I can tell you is that we will remain the market leader in the green building movement,” says R.J., who also serves on the executive board of directors for New Jersey’s chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council. “We will continue to innovate and evolve year over year and always stay two steps ahead of the competition,” he says proudly. The team’s future is bright indeed thanks to a marriage of sustainability and profitability, which is Donnelly Energy’s model of the future.

Published on: March 9, 2013


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