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Madison’s RenewAire makes sustainability the lifeblood of its business

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When sustainability is part of your DNA, those principles and values run all the way to your marrow.

Take Madison’s RenewAire. The company manufactures energy-recovery ventilators that are designed to improve buildings’ indoor air quality and energy efficiency. But the company has not only walked the walk with respect to its product offerings since its founding 30 years ago, it’s also sprinted in a more sustainable direction in its everyday business operations.

Sustainability has become a watchword for RenewAire in the past few decades, putting the company on the vanguard of the movement.“We were one of the first factories in the U.S. to be LEED-certified, and we’ve been awarded Energy Star building status two times for the efficiency of the building,” said Doug Steege, RenewAire’s vice president of business development. “We have a comprehensive program where, in virtually every decision that we make, we look at the sourcing of the materials and the energy costs of particular operations. We do our printing on 100% recycled paper and soy ink and that type of thing, so basically in every part of our operation, we’re committed to energy efficiency and sustainability.”

​RenewAire recently won an IB Business Sustainability Award in the Eco-Product category for its LE8X energy-recovery ventilator, but at best that represents just a small snippet of a very long strand of its company DNA.

The LE8X, which was launched in early 2014, uses an environmentally friendly design to transfer energy from a building’s exhaust air to its supply airflow without allowing the airstreams to mix. It’s done through a specially designed static-plate core that also captures harmful airborne toxins. And because the system allows buildings to be more energy efficient, they can be constructed with smaller air-conditioning systems.

According to Steege, the return on investment for companies that install one of these systems is significant.

“The technical energy savings possible with our product is very large,” said Steege. “There was a recent study done by Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the State of Iowa that found that energy-recovery ventilation like RenewAire does has a greater potential savings than LED lighting, for example.”

The benefits don’t stop there, either. Steege notes that the cost of providing fresh air to a building’s occupants is extremely low in comparison to the total cost of the building. For instance, construction costs on a school building might be in the range of $18,000 per student, and a state-of-the-art ventilation system like one of RenewAire’s products will cost about $150 per student.

“So for $150, you can have the best fresh air system for the health and productivity of the students, and then that $150 of cost for a RenewAire system is typically paid for in two to three years. So it’s free after a two- to three-year period of time. So the economics are excellent.”

There’s also a likely payback when it comes to improving the efficiency of the building’s occupants.

“There was a study just last year that was conducted and paid for by the State of California where they actually looked at the cognitive abilities of people in buildings with different ventilation rates, where they could actually see a difference in test scores if you had better ventilation rates,” said Steege.

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