Event Two Wrap-up
Reimagining the Metropolis, a four-part lecture series examining the trajectory of high performance building in New York City, launched at the Center for Architecture and moved uptown to Pratt Institute. The speakers at this second panel, "Making It Happen" were Ariella Maron, Deputy Commissioner for Energy Management, NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services; Daniel H. Nall, Senior VP & Director of Sustainability, WSP Flack + Kurtz; Andrew Padian, Vice President for Energy Initiatives, The Community Preservation Corporation; and, Wendy Fleischer, Director, Sustainability Services, Pratt Center for Community Development.
Eva Hanhardt, Assistant Professor, Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment, Pratt Insitute moderated the panel.
Deputy Commissioner Ariella Maron started the evening by framing her discussion around the goals of PlaNYC. By 2017 New York City seeks to reduce municipal GHG emissions by 30% and the Greener Greater Building Plan is a key to meeting this target. Currently the City is evaluating all government-owned buildings over 50,000 sq. ft. for their energy use, green house gas emissions and code compliance — in some instances sub meters are installed to monitor specific use over time. Lower lighting costs for government buildings is a good measure of progress. For Maron the key is using a data driven implementation strategy to verify the government claims of energy reduction. By benchmarking, doing efficiency retrofits, verifying measurements and looking at performance indicators City government is able to analyze the operations and management of a building and prioritize facilities in need of attention. In addition to internal audits, Maron's office offers incentives through an outreach strategy of motivation-conditional funding for energy managers, posting performance reports, conditional flexible funding and staff awards and recognition. To date, her office has benchmarked all government buildings over 10,000 sq. ft and completed 216 retrofits and 74 audits, saving NYC $4 million in energy costs and 17,1000 metric tons of green house gas emissions.
Dan Nall examined the relationship between the building and the community where it is situated. He elaborated on the idea of energy efficiency and water conservation as being instrumental to achieving community goals like livability and "uplifting the human environment". The main issues ahead, Nall contends, lay in the exploration of transportation, energy and carbon emissions, economic viability, solid waste and water use at a local scale. Strategies, not technology, would be key to finding solutions in all of these areas and these should include dense buildings, increased pedestrian access, access to amenities and enhanced accessibility from work to home. Nall used the example of community-centered utilities to illustrate how to find synergies between different issues traditionally viewed as separate, and put the most appropriate resources in the place they belong.
Andrew Padian outlined why "green lending" can be a contradiction in terms. He pointed to the roots of green lending — creating investment opportunities for distressed communities — and showed that the lending itself wasn't what was sustainable. Rather, it was the building improvements in underserved communities. Tightening the building envelope, upgrading building control of heating, air conditions and hot water helps create brighter spaces and save water. The ingenuity in building "green" over the last five years has come from prioritizing multifamily home retrofits. In the coming years we need to "green" those professionals that work within the field, such as borrowers, mortgage staff and service departments, to close the high performance building knowledge gap.
Wendy Fleischer highlighted the positive effects of retrofitting buildings: improved indoor and outdoor air quality, improved health and the environment, a more engaged civic community, job creation and increased affordable housing. But even with these plusses, there are many barriers to retrofitting homes. For many homeowners, the upfront cost is hard to swallow when the payback is over the long term. Many people are averse to the idea of being in debt and new "green" ideas can be unfamiliar and daunting. As well, there is a real degree of technical difficulty that makes retrofits harder to take on than the average home improvement project. She then turned to the Bedford-Stuyvesant Green Blocks Pilot Program run by the Pratt Center. In this program all willing homeowners receive energy assessments and residents are engaged directly in the environmental issues at stake as well as the retrofit process. Through this pilot the Pratt Center is also offering job training and placement for residents in green jobs. By tracking neighborhood results the program is able to "package" the incentives inherent in the retrofit process: community engagement, energy savings and job training and placement. "What we are really doing," Fleischer pointed out, "is connecting the dots between behavior, health, energy and environment, and directly engaging homeowners in the process."