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Shades of gray

Half-moon puts rainwater to good use

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When it comes to green-friendly businesses in the Lowcountry, Half-Moon Outfitters just might be at the head of the pack. In December 2006, Half-Moon opened a new building in North Charleston. The facility, which serves as both the company headquarters and a warehouse, became the very first building in South Carolina and only the 25th project in the nation to receive the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum award.

"There isn't a higher or better award we could have received," says Half-Moon founder and owner Beezer Molten.

LEED certification is defined by the Council as an "independent, third-party verification that a building project meets the highest green building and performance measures." The Platinum rating Half-Moon received required that the company follow very specific guidelines, covering everything from energy and water efficiency to design to indoor environmental quality.

Molten learned a lot about passive solar power from his architect father. "I remember as a child, in Columbia, S.C., we used window placement to direct heat toward the house in the winter time," he explains. "We ended up using a minimal amount of heat."

That idea stuck with Molten. "I knew building sustainably was a contribution we could make," he says.

The contemporary warehouse is equipped with active solar power, through panels on the roof. "The solar power is huge," Molten says. "It offsets about 18-21 percent of our overall power bill." Molten claims that although conditions are rare, the entire 10,000-square-foot warehouse can be powered by solar on a sunny, yet mild day.

The Half-Moon facility uses a gray water collection system to capture rainwater and uses it in the building instead of potable water — in certain situations, of course. Gray water gets its name from its cloudy appearance and because it is neither potable water nor heavily polluted black water.

Molten says that rainwater is collected from the roof into two enormous (1,550 gallon) storage tanks. It is then pumped into the building's plumbing and used for plant irrigation and to flush toilets. There are also low-flow showers and sinks in place. The warehouse uses 78 percent less water with this system than it would if it operated a conventional water and sewage system.

Although Molten has definitely set an example with the green-friendly Half-Moon Outfitters, he points out that there are little things anyone can do to make a difference.

"A lot of it is simple stuff," he explains, "like using locally harvested wood, recycled or refurbished fixtures, and using energy-efficient lights."

He insists sustainable practices are not necessarily more expensive, and expects to begin to recoup the cost of the warehouse in as little as five years, at which point they will be saving money. Molten hopes that by then, many more Americans will be using clean energy. He says, "If certain guidelines and policies were in place, we could change the way we use energy overnight in this country."

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