THE SALLAN FOUNDATION ANNUAL REPORT 2008
Executive Director's Report
2008 was a year of dramatic changes. The world's financial and economic systems reeled. America elected Barack Obama to the presidency. While the ranks of climate-change "skeptics" diminished, debates over what to do about a warming world and how to pay for chosen courses of action grew. Meanwhile, cities everywhere continued to serve as laboratories of innovative ideas and practices for living in a carbon-constrained world. Through targeted investments and local legislation, urban early adapters advanced toward making cities critical centers for smart and effective sustainable practices as well as potent broadcasters of replicable new ideas. With the economic woes and job losses of 2008, ideas coming from "green collar job" advocates, started to take hold in the speeches of elected officials and editorial pages in the context of calls for combating climate change. In short, the grand urban experiment in sustainability faced unprecedented economic turbulence while gaining new political leadership. As usual, New York City remained an epicenter of all that was happening.
The Sallan Foundation focuses on sustainability initiatives arising in global cities, which can be carried out at an urban scale. Nancy E. Anderson, Ph.D., Sallan's Executive Director, mobilizes the Foundation's resources to identify, incubate and disseminate trends and practices that could transform the built environmental and its underlying energy systems. This focus forms the core of Sallan's endeavors. A key goal is to make cities into centers of environmental innovation through the efforts of government and the private sector, academics, advocates engaged professionals and concerned citizens. In pursuing this goal, the Foundation serves as a force for envisioning and advancing useful knowledge for greener cities. At the same time, it cultivates effective advocacy on behalf of greener cities but is not aligned with any profession, discipline or political party. Thus, it serves as an independent convener and facilitator of collaborations among stakeholders and the public.
The Sallan Foundation accomplished the following:
Commissioning Original Research
Last year, to develop a new tool for advancing useful knowledge for greener cities, the Sallan Foundation contracted with the City University of New York to undertake research and produce a research report on the role of the 2007 New York City Building Code in helping the City to meet the carbon and energy reduction goals laid out in PlaNYC 2030. This year, Decoding the Code: How Can NYC's 2007 Building Code Help Meet PlaNYC 2030 Energy/Carbon Reduction Goals? was published on Sallan's website and made available for download to all visitors.
The Foreword set the stage.
In overhauling its Building Code for the first time in nearly four decades, New York City not only achieved a major milestone in 2007; it created a sturdy platform and mechanism for future improvements in the Code.
Much rides on this.
As stated in its groundbreaking proposal, PlaNYC 2030, the City aims to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions 30% from 2005 levels by the year 2030. Carbon dioxide dominates them, and nearly 80% of carbon emissions are related to our building stock. Reducing carbon emissions won't be easy. By 2030, the city's population is projected to grow by roughly 900,000 people. Energy demand is projected to rise by 28%. But incentives for lowering demand are significant. Lower energy consumption will yield cost savings, particularly as the costs of heating oil, natural gas, and electricity relentlessly rise. Moreover, New York must maintain a reliable, affordable, and cleaner supply of electricity to remain a global competitor. Minimizing demand can help avoid the need to build costly new power plants that would boost high rates higher still. It can also help ease the burden on our aging electric grid, thereby avoiding blackouts and brownouts.
In a nutshell, the main finding of this work is that the 2007 New York City Building Code, as introduced and through the normal workings of the real estate and construction industries, will have only limited impact on progress towards the carbon reduction goals of PlaNYC 2030. The report details why this is so and describes a spreadsheet-based tool for quantitatively assessing the impact under various assumptions and scenarios. We estimate that not more than a third of the 30% carbon reduction targeted by the plan from more efficient buildings can be expected from the new code in its present form.
Broadcasting Emerging Ideas
The Sallan Foundation website served as a crucial communications component of the Foundation's work. Dr. Anderson authored five Torchlight columns. One of the most-read columns, The Deep Green Quartet, parses the green building legislative package developed by the Bloomberg administration, which seeks to increase the energy efficiency of the City's existing building stock because current law does little to drive energy improvement at a scale large enough to make a difference.
Over the year, she solicited eight Snapshot columns written by guest contributors. Contributors brought wide-ranging expertise to their columns — from engineering to measure and verify the performance of building energy upgrades to urban political economy to advocate for an urban growth dynamic requiring education and training to foster a labor force equipped with the skills for an urban green economy. One contributor drilled down to analyze the problem of 'split incentives' between landlords and tenants that acts as a stubborn barrier to improved building performance. Another made the case for New York City's potential to create and upgrade thousands of good green collar jobs in building retrofits, building maintenance and energy management. When a new column is posted, each preceding column is archived and remains available on the website.
A 2008 website innovation was the launch of Flash Module displays of public events either sponsored by the Sallan Foundation or in which the Executive Director participated. The year's first display contained video, text and photos from the Green Committee of the American Jewish Committee's Symposium on US Energy Independence and Dr. Anderson's presentation. In May, Greening the Apple, a panel co-hosted by Sallan, SIPA at Columbia University and the New York League of Conservation Voters examined progress made on PlaNYC 2030. In September, Building a Greener Gotham, a panel organized around the Sallan-commissioned report Decoding the Code was co-sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment. The Foundation, the NYC Bar Association's Environment and Energy Committees, and the Environmental Law Institute jointly sponsored A Nuclear Tomorrow, a debate on the future of nuclear power in the US, in October.
This year, the web site attracted a loyal and growing readership from some twenty-eight countries, as well as government entities and academic institutions. Through this medium the Foundation continued to widen its informational scope while enhancing its education impact. Featured web pages Nancy's Subway Reading, Worldwide, and In the Carbon Age provided a constantly changing array of press, academic and NGO articles as well as feature reports from around the world. The Events calendar made up-to-date information and registration easy to access for Foundation-related meetings as well as numerous happenings around town.
Fostering an Informed Public
As in previous years, Sallan developed, produced as well as participated in public and by-invitation-only panels. In light of ongoing interest in nurturing effective strategies to combat climate change, Sallan developed and co-sponsored A Nuclear Tomorrow a debate about the future of nuclear power in the US. The organizers decided on the debate format because it was ideal for engaging complex issues associated with strongly-held opposing views. This debate brought together the nation's leading scientific, business and financial experts, in addition to an energy policy analyst from the British government to address the pros and cons of committing to a new generation of nuclear plants.
The Foundation organized the Greening The Apple, Building A Greener Gotham panels and the debate on A Nuclear Tomorrow described above. Pursuing a public education path that combines live events and electronic media has been a powerful way to extend Sallan's reach and impact.
Over the year, Dr. Anderson continued to serve as a member on the Environmental Sciences Section of the New York Academy of Sciences while joining its Environmental Sciences and Green Building groups, which developed and produced a series of climate and energy-themed panels. This affiliation enabled the Sallan Foundation to advocate for broad agenda setting, develop targeted subjects, and communicate with a wide range of expert speakers.
For the first time Dr. Anderson was invited to give academic talks. She lectured twice at the NYU Real Estate Institute Dollars and Sense certificate seminar for real estate professionals, taught an Environmental Law class at New York Law School. She was invited to lecture on New York City's sustainability challenges to a graduate urban planning class at Cornell University and taught a group of high school students at a special summer program at Columbia University based on the theme of sustainable cities.
She also was invited to give a talk on making high performance building New York's 'new normal' at the Women's City Club and she made a presentation to the New York City Committee of Interns and Residents about the role of high performance building and its place in the Mayor's PlaNYC 2030 climate change agenda.
The Executive Director continued to advance the Foundation's goal of fostering an informed public by successfully reaching out to the mass media. The website's "In the Media" page linked to Dr. Anderson's comments in electronic outlets like the New York Times blogs Dot Earth, Green Inc. and The City Room. She also engaged on the New Republic's The Plank blog and posted comments to The Guardian and the Christian Science Monitor. As well, she was interviewed for the eco-blog 2050 AD.
Dr. Anderson devoted a second year to chairing the City University of New York/CIUS Building Performance Lab's Building Performance Consortium, an assembly of major commercial building operators and real estate professionals. The purpose of this Consortium is to develop and refine an understanding of the energy demand concerns of a major sector of the City's economy and explore effective, business-friendly methods to reduce its carbon footprint.
On behalf of the Sallan Foundation, Dr. Anderson continued to serve on the Steering Committee of the New York City Apollo Alliance, an environment-labor-community coalition dedicated to developing a sustainable energy and good green jobs policy for the US and supporting the development of high performance building. She chaired a meeting that was part of the Alliance's kickoff of its Green Collar Jobs project. Such participation provided the Sallan Foundation with opportunities to work strategically with organizations and professionals dedicated to urban sustainability and to leverage the Foundation's resources for carrying out its mission.
In 2008, Dr. Anderson continued to work on project organized by the Municipal Art Society that provided input and advice on a report to make recommendations on integrating public disclosure on GHG emissions and the climate change impacts of proposed developments that undergo New York State environmental reviews. The report SEQRA and Climate Change will be issued in 2009.
Dr. Anderson was invited by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to participate on an Infrastructure Adaptation/Sea Level Rise Working Group. As well, she was asked to join a working group that sought to articulate innovative ways to use the City's land use to advance high performance building and urban sustainability goals. This group served as a forum that assembled land use attorneys, architects, urban planners, environmental experts and community-based advocates to focus on the zoning code, one of the major shapers of urban life, and to bring their diverse areas of expertise and interest to bear in devising useful ideas for greening this code. The working group organizer, chair of the New York City Bar Association Land Use Committee and its Sustainability Subcommittee, wrote a Snapshot for Sallan entitled Green Zoning.