• Green Building Starts at Home: Max Perelman’s, to be exact

    By Cameron Douglas

    At a time that many see as a financial downturn, there are also many who see nothing but opportunity for long-term growth through a commitment to the environment. Green building, graywater irrigation, storm water reclamation, improved forest management, lower carbon footprint, solar power, wind power and incentives for green industry are terms we are going to hear more and more. On the Monterey Peninsula, a grass-roots movement is pushing for our area to lead the way in sustainable living. One of those dedicated individuals lives in Pacific Grove. His name is Max Perelman.

    For a young man, Max Perelman has a long list of titles: LEED-accredited professional; MBA; graduate student; member of the Pacific Grove Planning Commission; president of American Environmental & Agricultural, Inc.; husband and dad.

    “Honestly, I’m a newbie to the environmental movement,” says Max. “About four years ago, I was doing

    E-commerce strategy in Japan. I read a book called, “Natural Capitalism.” It was written by Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken, and came out in 1999. It lays out the business case for being efficient, for being environmentally sound from a number of sectors. After reading that book, I looked at what I wanted to do. I decided I wanted to change industries and really focus on environmental issues. But I didn’t know what issue I wanted to focus on. Usually when those things happen, it’s a good idea to go back to graduate school.

    “A very good friend of mine, Dayton Hughes, lives here. He had received his MBA from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. When I mentioned my interest to him, he said, ‘You should take a look at the Monterey Institute.’ They had a very interesting program where they had merged their MBA program with an additional Master’s in International Environmental Policy. I made a business trip here, fell in love with Monterey, fell in love with Pacific Grove and decided to move here. So I gave notice in Japan and moved the family to Monterey.”

    In his studies, Max looked at the available data and saw that climate change was the key issue he wanted to tackle. He learned that 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to what he calls, “the built environment.” That includes the construction of buildings, the operation of buildings and the demolition of buildings. He further discovered that the combined emissions of China and the U.S. represent about 40 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

    “So looking at that, I saw a need to focus on the built environment in China and the United States. I speak Chinese, I speak Japanese, I have deep experience in China, and I saw a way to be really effective. So I got involved with the U.S. Green Building Council. I became a LEED Accredited Professional, which means I will work with businesses to get their buildings certified.”

    Max is currently doing contract work with Building Wise, a local green building company that works mainly with existing buildings (www.buildingwise.net). The founder, Barry Giles, initially got his building certified LEED Gold when he was a facility manager at Moss Landing Marine Labs.

    Max’s focus is also on existing buildings. “We’re already primarily built out. We need to focus on what we already have and increase the efficiency and lower the environmental footprint of our existing buildings.

    “China’s another story. China, for the next 15 to 20 years, will be building an entire United States’ worth of construction. That’s everything, from the roads to the hospitals to the homes and schools. They’ll be urbanizing about 400 million people. In different ways, I see a need in both countries to focus on the built environment.”

    There is a peculiar connection between California and China. “About a third of California’s air pollution comes from China,” Max explains. “We don’t see it that much in Pacific Grove. It comes via the jet stream over the Pacific Ocean, goes up over the coastal areas of San Francisco and Monterey and then settles in the inland valleys.”

    The pollution from China originates in coal-fired powerplants, which are used for making steel, cement and for producing electricity. In short, they generate the materials and energy needed for buildings. Max sees this a reason to focus on green building in China: to indirectly address our own pollution issues by helping China with theirs. And progress is being made there:

    “From having virtually no green building eight years ago, [China] now [has] national codes in place, they’re developing a national certification system and they have over 4 million square meters of internationally certified building space already built,” says Rob Watson, co-founder of the LEED green building rating system.

    Here at home, Perelman sees his personal roles as focusing on local issues: ensuring his own home has the smallest possible environmental footprint and working on local policy development. Besides serving on the Planning Commission, he is working with Mayor Dan Cort on sustainability strategies in Pacific Grove, especially on water issues. “What I’ve enjoyed doing with Dan is identifying environmental opportunities that make business sense.”

    “Max is one of the most enterprising and creative people I know,” says Mayor Cort. “His green credentials are impeccable as is his desire to make PG a healthy and productive community while protecting our environment and natural resources.”

    Perelman believes there are plenty of water credits available in Pacific Grove. “We do have the water credits we need. We’re just sending them down the drain for no reason.” With a little luck and enough funding, the David Avenue reservoir project could make Pacific Grove a leader in efficient water uses.

    Max’s involvement with American Environmental & Agricultural has taken him to Sacramento to meet with lawmakers. Meanwhile, Tate Miller, the company’s chairman and one of the deans at Monterey Institute, has built and exported wood-framed geodesic dome houses. Says Max: “I see this as a great entrepreneurial group of people trying to have a local company here with close ties to the Monterey institute. I would like to see us as a place for students to intern, a place for collaboration on policy development and a facilitator of trade missions between China and the United States. The Monterey Institute is a leader in a lot of these issues.”

    To find out more about American Environmental & Agricultural, log on to www.americanaea.com.

    Learn about green building in China at: www.greendragonfilm.com.

    Next week: a peek inside – and underneath – Max’s house project.



    posted to Cedar Street Times on July 18, 2009

    Topics: Cameron Douglas, Current Edition, Features

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