Cornell University Johnson at Cornell University

Alumni Profiles

Michael Rolband '80, MEng '81, MBA '82

Michael Rolband '80, MEng  '81, MBA '82Turning Green into Gold
Michael Rolband believes in leading by example. So when he realized that the natural resources consulting firm he founded, Wetland Studies and Solutions, Inc. (WSSI), was outgrowing its building space, he seized the opportunity to build a groundbreaking new site that put the firm's money where its heart is. So successful was this ecologically and environmentally progressive building project that this spring it became the 96th building in the country to be certified "gold" by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Located in Gainsville, Va., The WSSI facility uses 30 percent less energy and 50 percent less potable water than a conventional building of the same size. Inside, the building's carpeting, walls, tiles, counters, and cabinets are made from recycled materials; the lighting system saves energy through the use of motion sensors and energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs; and workstations are positioned beside large windows to take advantage of natural sunlight. Outside the facility, storm water is managed using a variety of the Low Impact Development (LID) measures WSSI recommends to its own clients, like an 8,000 gallon cistern that collects roof runoff to reuse for landscape irrigation, and a gravel bed detention area that collects and releases rainwater slowly into the wetland system at the back of the site in order to minimize erosion.

Since the building opened in December of 2005, WSSI has given tours to a wide range of curious parties, including environmental activists, architects, engineers, and local government officials. The company has also worked with area college students to develop a program that would monitor the behavior of storm water in LID situations.

In terms of the performance of the facility, Rolband says he'd give it "an A plus." "Everything so far has been better than we expected." Also satisfying are the positive reactions he's received from his employees. Not only are they more comfortable – Rolband says that room temperature and air quality complaints are nonexistent – they also feel good about being a part of something that reflects their ideals. "They like showing off the space, because they're really proud of what we've done here."

More and more people support going green in theory, Rolband says, but are still doubtful that a green building can be both relatively cost-effective and comfortable.

"We're showing them that it can be."

– Mark Rader