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Leading Supplier Melink Brings Sustainable Innovation to Home Turf

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CINCINNATI, OHIO—If you were to look at all of the companies servicing the hospitality industry, there are few that have reached the level of sustainability as Cincinnati-based Melink Corp. The list of its accomplishments is long and so too are its future goals—from the headquarters it operates from to the products and services it offers.

The company has been around a while. “I started the company in 1987,” says Steve Melink, Chairman & CEO. “We started as an HVAC company doing commissioning for restaurant chains.” It was not long before Melink saw that many restaurant ventilation systems were running constantly, even when cooking was not taking place. Melink soon developed its Intelli-Hood kitchen hood controls that dually monitor the level of cooking activity and automatically adjust the kitchen’s exhaust fan and supply fans to operate only as needed—saving energy of course.

Today, the company is much more than a hood controls company. It offers HVAC test and balance services, partners with businesses of all sizes to build solar ground-mounted, roof-mounted, or canopy arrays, provides turnkey management of geothermal projects for architects, engineers, ESCOs, and building owners, serves as a consulting engineer on geothermal projects for architects and engineering firms, and offers PositiV, a standalone system that monitors a building’s pressure and remotely tracks building health. Alerts are sent when the system detects anything is out of set parameters. Moreover, PositiV monitors temperature, relative humidity and CO2 so that one can gain a full picture of the health of its facility.

Inspired at Green Building Event

In 2004 Melink said he attended a green building conference in Cleveland and was inspired to build the first LEED Gold certified building in Ohio. He accomplished that in 2005 and that building is now called HQ1. Since 2005, however, that building has been upgraded significantly and is now classified as Zero-Energy, Energy Star 99 Rated (only achieved by 1 percent of the population), and LEED Platinum-Certified. Its progressive integration of conservation, efficiency, and renewable technologies make it one of the greenest buildings in the world. The following are many of the features of HQ1:

  • Highly insulated, prefabricated “building envelope” consisting of concrete walls and R19 insulation;
  • Solar PV modules (100kW);
  • Geothermal HVAC system including heat pumps and geothermal wells;
  • Energy Star appliances;
  • Reduced water consumption through automated faucets, dual flush toilets, and waterless urinals;
  • Retrofitted building automation system;
  • Awnings and shades for windows;
  • LED lighting;
  • 24 Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations;
  • Skylights and large windows for natural light;
  • Pellet stoves for heating; and
  • Battery storage for generated solar energy.

Melink’s second headquarters was completed in 2019. HQ2 serves as a model Zero-Energy Building (ZEB) for architects, engineers, and contractors to learn best practices to mainstream ZEB construction. While HQ1 utilizes a roof-mounted solar system, HQ2 features its 85-kW system on the parking lot canopy so that it can serve as a visible sign of the company’s commitment. The canopies also provide shade.

Reasonable Cost Premium

“To get to net zero energy on our second headquarters building we needed fewer solar panels,” Melink says, adding that it was because the building was so efficient. “We designed it to be net zero energy at the lowest cost possible. The cost premium was just 9 percent.”

The following are many of the features of HQ2:

  • Highly insulated, prefabricated “building envelope” consisting of concrete walls and R30 insulation;
  • 85 kW solar bifacial PV parking lot canopy to produce electricity for entire building;
  • Super-hybrid geothermal HVAC system including heat pumps and geothermal wells;
  • Energy Star appliances;
  • Reduced water consumption through automated faucets, dual flush toilets, and waterless urinals;
  • Building automation system;
  • Auto window shades and window awnings to minimize heat gain in building;
  • LED lighting;
  • 39 Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations;
  • Skylights, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an open stairwell to maximize natural light;
  • Pellet stove for heating;
  • Large fans in plant for air circulation;
  • Double-glazed thermally broken windows and doors;
  • Water feature to help control building humidity in cooler months; and
  • Cistern for rainwater collection; and
  • A wind turbine that produced 769 kWh in 2019.

All of these investments have brought a lot of attention to Melink Corp. “It has been a rewarding journey we have been on,” Melink says. “We are a very mission-oriented company. We want to make the world better one building at a time.” He adds that he plans to fully leverage HQ2 as a showcase.

A lot of what has taken place over the years at Melink has had to do with building the company’s brand. “We are trying to be true to our mission,” Melink says. “Passion can be a key differentiator in the marketplace. There is probably nothing more important than your brand. More and more you see the most successful companies investing in their brand. Future generations of customers are very mindful of sustainability. They vote with their pocketbooks. A hotel developer should look where the consumers are moving. The world is moving to a cleaner, greener economy. I take a longer-term view than the average businessperson.”

Super Hybrid Geothermal System

One of the most interesting advancements Melink is currently working on is a super hybrid geothermal system that does not need the ground and all its related expenses. “We are trying to make it more cost-effective for more people to do it,” Melink says. “We are trying to eliminate the need for drilling. We are looking at other heat sources and sinks that can mimic the ground at a fraction of the cost. The goal is just a large thermal battery. We have received two DOE grants. We don’t have a product to sell but we hope to be there by the end of the year.”

Recognizing that not every company can do what it is doing, Melink recommends first doing the easy things to reduce your company’s impact—LED lighting, for example. He also highly recommends solar. “Solar cost has come down 80 percent in 10 years,” Melink says.

“We need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels and electrify,” he emphasizes. “Let us create this unbelievable demand for energy in the marketplace. At the very least, buy more clean power from the grid.”

The above is just a taste of Melink’s accomplishments. Take a look at the company’s 2020 Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility Report for more information.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at greenlodgingnews@gmail.com.

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