Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Q/A with Mike Roberts Jr.

We ran into Mike Roberts Jr., a developer and political candidate, at the City Museum. Roberts, 29, was more than willing to talk about his work and the inspiration he's gotten from attending GTH and we were happy to get those perspectives.

GTH: Tell us about your interest in green issues, generally, and where it began.
Roberts: It began with a concern with the environment. We have a lot of issues with greenhouse gases and people who are generally not educated enough about how they can benefit by recycling. As a developer with the Roberts Companies, we've decided to go green. We built the first single-family subdivision in St. Louis, called Roberts Place using insulated concrete forms, geothermal heating/cooling systems, energy sustainable building materials. We're also building Roberts Tower, which is the first Gold LEED certified mixed-use tower in Downtown St. Louis history. And we're building future buildings to at least be energy sustainable.

GTH: In terms of environmental efforts also being good business, can you address that a touch?
Roberts: There was a time when it was too expensive to build green, if you will, but because of the demand, manufacturers in the world are starting to mass produce energy sustainable materials that are cost effective for the business developer. But what's also great about it is that you'll recover your cost through lower utility bills and tax credits that you may get through legislation passed recently. And it's great for PR. It's good PR for developers, which is a good thing.

GTH: Do you think younger candidates and officeholders will come around to this way of thinking in the next couple years?
Roberts: I'm running for State Representative in the 64th District here in the City of St. Louis and my number one initiative is green tax credits. I want to incentivize the state and the City of St. Louis, to where everyone's home, their residential and commercial buildings, are energy sustainable. I believe the younger generations to come, those even behind me, will be aware that we need to do something right now. Our environment is suffering. We have to offset high fuel prices, so that people can continue to live a high-quality life.

GTH: What your take on the conference? Have you picked up anything new? Or has anything been confirmed in your mind?
Roberts: Yes to both. I did pick up a few new items today. I'm intrigued by a way to waterproof insulated concrete forms with a material that is recycled. It creates a film that is waterproof. And the new cork flooring. I remember when it was the regular tan color. Now it's every color you could imagine. And they're really doing some fun things with cork flooring. In terms of confirmation... is this a fad? Or it is something that's moving throughout the country? People are excited about these green initiatives. They're good, clean ways to help the environment, to save money and it's neutral. You don't have to be a Republican or a Democrat. It's right down the middle. It's just a good thing for us.

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