Mark Richey Woodworking and Design has been in the news lately, as the high-end architectural woodworking company expanded its green initiatives with the March 2009 ribbon-cutting ceremony for a 600-kilowatt wind turbine at its Newburyport, MA, headquarters. In its first 18 working days, it produced 70,000 kilowatt hours, enough energy for the plant’s needs, plus additional energy sold back to the grid to power 14 to 15 homes a year. It is just one of many initiatives that puts the company at the forefront of green efforts.

Richey started his company building fine cabinetry and grew into doing high-end residential and commercial work. The quality of the company’s work has been recognized: “Our Convexity Capital Management project received the Architectural Wood-work Institute’s Standard of Excellence Award in the corporate category, and we were also awarded grand prize of 2008 Standard of Excellence overall winner,” says Richey, company president.

After expansions in and around the Boston area, Richey moved his operations to historic Newburyport, MA, in 2005. “We bought and renovated the former Owens Illinois building,” he says. “We could have built a new place, but it was part of our green initiative to renovate an existing structure.”

The Newburyport facility needed extensive updates. The company uses 85,000 square feet for its offices and manufacturing, and rents out an additional 50,000 square feet.

Why the emphasis on green manufacturing? “The answer is a two-part one,” Richey explains. “As a longtime mountain climber, world traveler and explorer, I have seen the effects of global warming on the world first-hand. I’m inspired to try to counter those effects through better conservation and green technology, plus renewable energy. I also see it as an opportunity to reduce costs while being a better steward of the environment.”

A Number of Initiatives
To date, the company has implemented a variety of large and small green initiatives. It burns all its wood waste in a Mawera biomass furnace. “It provides heat for our facility while cutting our fossil fuel consumption,” says Richey. “Used in peak heating season, it saves us $15,000 a month, cutting our energy usage by 80 to 90%.“

Sawdust collected in the company’s vacuum system is combined with ground wood scraps and chips, then transported to large silos and fed into the furnace as needed. The system was the first of its kind installed in a woodworking facility in Massachusetts and cost about $500,000. Richey expects it to pay for itself in 10 to 12 years.

“Because we use all our wood waste as fuel, we don’t have to dispose of it in landfills. We save energy and money that was once spent hauling it away. We estimate it will save us $40,000 to $50,000 annually in fuel and landfill costs,” Richey says.

Other green initiatives, smaller but equally important, include the use of energy-efficient lighting throughout the building, and banning the use of paper cups and plates. “We all use washable porcelain cups for coffee and serve clients the same. We recycle packaging, metal clips and plastic wrap. It might seem like little things, but they add up,” Richey says.

He recently added two hybrid cars to the list of green expenditures. “Our designers and people in the field can use the Toyota Prius cars. We also installed a bike rack and promote the use of public transportation by our employees,” Richey says.

“We have looked at every aspect, from reducing energy use and conservation methods to reducing waste, while investigating ways to be more self-sufficient. The biomass furnace is a magnificent example of energy self-sufficiency,” he continues. “Also, one of the best returns on investments has been our Ecogate system, which allows for energy-saving dust collection via on-demand ventilation. It is a good choice for a custom manufacturing place like ours, because not all the machinery is in use all day or every day. While it was an initial investment of $120,000, we received a $90,000 rebate from Massachusetts and we saved $30,000 in energy costs in one year. It essentially paid for itself in one year.”

Richey advises other companies to be on the lookout for such tax rebates and incentives. In addition to the Ecogate rebate, his company was awarded a Large Onsite Renewables Initiative (LORI) grant through the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust that partially paid for the installation of the wind turbine.

Promoting Wise Use of Materials
The company has taken a stand on making green initiatives part of its profile, stating, “Mark Richey Woodworking
follows environmentally sensitive manufacturing methods and is

committed to sustainable practices. Using wood for built interiors is the wisest choice for the environment because it is a clean, renewable resource with the least impact on total energy use, greenhouse gasses, air and water pollution, solid waste and ecological resource use.“ 

Richey says the company tries to substitute “green alternatives” and is a big proponent of using FSC materials. “We don’t want to discourage people from using wood, but we do suggest ways to conserve materials. If veneer will work in place of a solid, for example, without affecting the integrity of a piece, we might suggest that as an option. We don’t warehouse materials and buy only what we need.”

The company’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint has earned it many accolades, including the 2008 Innovation Award from the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “We were acknowledged for our innovative efforts and environmental responsibility because of our biomass furnace and wind turbine generator,” Richey says.

He is happy to share tips with other manufacturers and business owners. “It can be as simple as doing an energy audit or using natural along with energy-efficient lighting. If you want to tackle an expensive project, look for any possible tax incentives or other means of financing. We also can make a difference by the materials we use and the way we engineer our products, and how we recycle the waste we create.”

Mark Richey started in woodworking as an apprentice to harpsichord-builder William Dowd. By 1979, he was building fine cabinetry in the basement workshop of his Malden, MA, apartment building, while studying architecture at the Boston Architectural Center at night. As interest in his work grew, Richey and his wife Teresa moved the business to a small workshop in South Boston, near the harpsichord shop where he first learned his trade.

Through the years, Mark Richey Woodworking and Design expanded steadily. Today, the company employs more than 85 workers and has annual sales of $21 million. The firm serves corporate, institutional, residential, restaurant and retail environments, and also designs and builds custom furniture.

Mark Richey Woodworking serves a number of high-profile clients. This project was done for Blue Cross/Blue Shield. Photo by Warren Patterson.

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