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New Leading Force Store Offers "green" Solutions

Yakima Valley Business Times December 2014

By Linda Prier

Steve Weise has built “green” homes in the Yakima Valley for many years, including the area’s first five-star green home in Selah in 2008.

But he faced a problem many green builders face — he couldn’t find the products he needed. The products were available, but they might be in New York, New Mexico or Colorado.

“I ended up traveling all over the country trying to chase down products,” he said.

After much planning and thought, Weise and his wife Stephanie bought the 3,800-square-foot building that now houses Leading Force Energy and Design Center at 17 N. Third St., Suite 101. (It’s in the former Yakima Bears office at the old Yakima Mall.)

And for anyone who will soon be remodeling or building, and who values well-made,beautiful things, this store is a good place to start.

Weise believes that Leading Force Energy and Design Center is operating under an entirely new business model. While he may own the building, he has collected seven specialists in green building to sell their products and services at his store. Each of the seven shares responsibility for manning the store, and they each pay rent, even though they each have their own offices throughout Washington State.

Two architects, Barbara Cline of red moon design, and Terry Phelan of Living Shelter Design, are part of the team, as are Derek Karel and Scott Johnson of e3 Solutions Inc., who are experts in alarm systems and home electronics. Paul Smith, owner of Air F/X, is the HVAC, geothermal and solar water-heating expert. Don Jordan and Gary Nystedt of Jordan Energy Systems Inc., cover insulation, air sealing, caulking, windows, and offer their expertise on insulation to the team. Jeff Greear, owner of Ellensburg Solar, sells and installs solar panels, and Steve Weise displays and sells interior design products.

Weise said the goal of using a team approach to green home construction is to create energy-efficient projects within a manageable budget. Weise and his team promote healthy indoor environments, energy efficiency and sustainability.

“By appointment, on Tuesday nights, our entire team is ready to meet with perspective home builders and find out from them what they want. Together we come up with ways to meet the customer’s needs,” he said.

Leading Force held an open house several weeks ago and the store was packed with people interested in this new concept.

On display is everything a new homeowner might need to furnish his or her new space — from well-made kitchen cabinets, and numerous samples of tile and quartz, bamboo flooring, fabrics, wall finishes, volatile organic compound (VOC)-free paint, and an understated yet lovely concrete farm-style kitchen sink.

Different types of insulation, a water heater run by a heat pump, different energy-efficient windows and doors, lighting and plumbing fixtures all are on display and available for purchase.

Education is one of the missions of the group. Trainings and seminars in energy-efficiency strategies and codes, healthy finish materials, innovative building systems, team collaboration and specialty product installations will be routinely offered at the in-store conference room.

Leading Force has also created a training program for anyone who wants to build or who subcontracts for the store.

Weise said, “The owners of these businesses have to take the course and they in turn teach what they’ve learned to their employees. There are new ways to do things, and we’re trying to get the message out there. I’m trying to carry state-of-the-art products,” Weise stated.

Jeff Greear, owner of Ellensburg Solar, was manning the store last week and eager to talk about his solar panels, which are made in one of three places: Washington state, Hillsboro, Ore., or South Korea.

He said that half of the homeowners who buy solar panels use them to provide all their home’s energy needs, while others use panels to provide about half the energy that their home needs.

“The solar panels use an inverter (typically housed outside or in the garage) to create energy. The panels can be installed on the roof or we can do a ground mount,” he said.

The systems he sells cost from $30,000 to $50,000.

“Usually, all your money is recouped in four years or less,” Greear said.

There is a 30 percent federal tax credit on the cost of solar panels through 2016. Also, the state of Washington encourages people to install solar panels and pays up to $5,000 per year until 2020. There are some stipulations on getting the whole $5,000 each year, one of them being that you must purchase solar panels that are made in Washington.

Greear added, “So you’re getting this money back every year plus you’re getting free energy.” He said that his company is really getting busy now.

“We had a Tour of Homes house this year in which we balanced the insulation, the window package, the geothermal heating and the solar energy and achieved zero energy consumption. The customer saved thousands in construction costs and long-term energy costs,” Greear said.

Leading Force Energy and Design Center is open from Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5p.m. Their phone number is 509-571-1351.