St. Joseph company is leader in ‘green’ building

About 20 men and women in the construction industry recently journeyed to St. Joseph to get a lesson in a growing area of environmentally friendly building practices.

Hosted by Borgert Products Inc. of St. Joseph, the two-day school offered an introduction to permeable-interlocking-concrete-pavement installation, a practice that helps reduce the amount of run-off in rivers, that can save money and provide a natural groundwater filter.
Susan Borgert, chief executive officer for Borgert, a concrete manufacturer, said the company started the “Borgert Technical School” a few years ago to certify contractors on the installation of concrete paving stones. They held their fourth class Nov. 12-13.
“We are the first company in the nation to have our own PICP class,” Borgert said. “We’ve had four classes so far. We are one of the original manufacturers of concrete paving stones in the U.S. and the first west of the Mississippi.”
Borgert offers permeable interlocking concrete pavements made from Bogert’s pavers. It’s a permeable surface and is considered a best-management practice for storm-water management. Because it is a flexible pavement system, Borgert said it has the ability to move but stays intact. It does not heave from freezing and thawing, she said.
Students in the class earlier this month watched as a fellow classmate dumped gallons of water on the interlocked pavers. It looked as if the water disappeared instantly as it seeped down through the pavers instead of standing on the ground in puddles.
Frank Gandora, one of the instructors for the class, explained the pavers require less maintenance and last longer than asphalt or concrete. He said in the long term it’s a more cost-effective option.
“It’s a 50-year design product,” Gandora said. “It’s three times as strong as concrete.”
Students in the class were using the pavers to create a parking-lot area for Borgert Products Inc. Because the business is creating a permeable surface that is not considered hard cover, Borgert said she plans to apply to the city for a reduction in their stormwater fee. Borgert has a satellite yard in Colorado. The business pays about $10,000 for the amount of hard cover it has on its property – a fee most municipalities charge businesses. Borgert said the company pays about $3,000 in storm-water fees to the City of St. Joseph.
Borgert explained the federal government regulates municipalities to take action in managing stormwater runoff. A lot of the infrastructure in larger metro areas can’t handle the amount of runoff because of all of the hard cover, like roadways and parking lots. The PICP will now be a part of Minnesota guidelines, something that took time to develop and for engineers to embrace.
“It’s a huge problem,” she said. “It (the traditional way) puts pollutants in our groundwater.”
While the PICP is an engineered system, it’s a practice that is starting to be incorporated more into building projects. George Strzala, president of Borgert, said the company is a leader in manufacturing this product that can be used for parking lots, roadways and driveways.
“It’s like a filter; it recharges the groundwater,” Strzala said. “You have to give Mother Nature something back. It’s gaining momentum.”
Borgert Products Inc. has used the paving system for businesses and schools throughout the state and beyond. Those who walk the campus of the College of St. Benedict can see some concrete pavers installed by Borgert. The pavers at CSB are different from the ones installed during the recent class.
“We have to start doing stuff like this,” Borgert said. “It’s the future. If we destroy our water sources, you can’t live without water.”
St. Joseph is regulated by a federal pollution permit. St. Joseph City Engineer Randy Sabart recently informed city council members the state is requiring a change in managing illicit discharges in the city’s storm sewer.  Sabart explained the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is looking for an ordinance that protects the storm sewer, not just the sanitary sewer. The council will consider a new ordinance Dec. 6.
“What we have in place today isn’t quite strong enough,” Sabart said. “The MPCA is requiring we strengthen that protection against pollution in the storm-sewer system.”
The revised ordinance will define what’s exempt and explain what is allowed to be discharged, Sabart told officials.


TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.
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