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Profile

Jonathan Moss
Age: 42
Birthplace: Castleford, England
Role model (and why): Maternal grandfather, Clifford Woollin. In the Royal Engineers in World War II, Woollin cleared mines from the beach as British forces landed under fire. He returned home to become a builder. “He had a very wry sense of humor,” Moss said. “But he had a real sense of confidence about him.”

Consultant helps contractors go green

Auburn cost manager guides energy-saving projects

Moss

There are two kinds of green in Jonathan Moss’ world, and he’s trying to demonstrate there isn’t much difference between them. Buildings can be easy on the environment and on a budget at the same time, Moss says.

His growing list of clients indicates he might be right.

Five years ago, Moss and his wife, Megan, moved to her hometown of Auburn and started Moss Construction Cost Management. The company provides financial services to builders, and it focuses on projects that strive to be environmentally friendly.

“Every project we work on these days has got some sort of sustainable component,” Moss said.

The firm estimates costs during the design and construction of major projects. It also represents owners as they go through the planning and construction phases.

The firm has worked on more than 100 projects, many for tens of millions of dollars at hospitals, universities and federal agencies. They include a $1 billion expansion of the Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.

But when the Mosses started their venture, success was far from assured.

Jonathan Moss had run the cost-management department in the Washington, D.C., office of the Detroit-based architectural firm SmithGroup.

“There were people who were skeptical,” Moss said, explaining that with no client list to point to, his company struggled through a first year that generated less than $100,000 in fees.

The company now has seven employees, offices in three states and annual revenue that has grown eightfold. Further growth seems likely.

“It’s only in the last year or two that we’ve built up momentum,” Jonathan Moss said, crediting Megan with marketing the firm. “We’re at a critical mass right now where people are calling us.”

A big key to that success, Moss says, has been the firm’s ability to show that it’s easy being green, after all.

“People say, ‘I want to be environmental, but it’s going to cost too much,’ ” Moss said. “We’ve got the tools to show this is really not the case.”

A renovation project at the Eckhart Public Library in Auburn is an example. Moss’ firm represented the library as it started planning in 2006 to renovate and add a second story to a building across the street.

Under the plan, the annex would house maintenance equipment on the lower floor, and administrative workers would be moved from the basement of the main library to the upper floor of the annex.

The basement of the main library would then be renovated to house a newly expanded children’s services section.

“The impetus for our renovation was to expand the children’s section,” library Director Janelle Graber said.

As they pitched the project, library officials promised it would be environmentally friendly. And they promised to do it on a shoestring.

The work is now complete. Graber says the project used 80 percent recycled materials and used myriad strategies to be energy-efficient.

It’s awaiting certification, but Moss expects it to get the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental Engineering “silver” designation. That’s the third-highest designation a building can receive.

Final project cost was $413,000.

Part of that was the result of the donation of some materials and the sale of others to the library at cost, Moss said. But the fact it was to be a green project inspired vendors to participate.

“People wanted to be a part of it,” Moss said.

Another reason for the savings was Moss, Graber said. He always sought to balance designers’ green dreams against the bottom line.

“He would come in here and say, ‘As an ecologist, this is how I’d love to do it, but we can’t afford it,’ ” Graber said. “That’s what I just love about Jonathan.”

To Moss, being green and being economical should ultimately be the same thing. Green construction should seek to spare the environment by saving energy and using space as efficiently as possible.

But that’s only possible within the parameters of a project budget. How to do that varies from job to job.

“In every building project, there are right ways and wrong ways to do things,” Moss said.

“But the right ways and the wrong ways won’t be the same on the next job as on this one.”

mschladen@jg.net

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