Making it Easier to be Green
Green design includes energy conservation, but that's not what it's all about. It's about having good air quality both indoors and outdoors, making the environments in which we work, live, study and play healthier and more comfortable and conserving all of our natural resources.
This site will provide a balanced, holistic view that includes advice about saving energy, water and other natural resources, improving indoor air quality, using environmentally responsible design and construction techniques and minimizing waste.

I will be focusing on interiors for three reasons:

  • We spend about 90% of our time indoors.
  • Buildings in the United States annually consume about 30% of our total energy and 75% of our electricity.
  • As a New York State Certified Interior Designer and a LEED Accredited Professional, I want to share my knowledge and expertise with you.
Sustainable design and construction can be done in many different styles and using a wide variety of materials. There are examples of healthy, sustainable, comfortable and inviting interiors for commercial, not-for-profit and residential clients on the web site for Interior Design Solutions.
You can use the labels on the sidebar to locate entries that you want to read. For instance, most people might want to look at the entries for "Green Homes," but "Green Finance" would be of more interest to professionals involved in the design, construction, management, financing and marketing of buildings.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New York City Energy Conservation Legislation

On Wednesday the New York City Council enacted legislation to dramatically reduce the energy use and carbon footprint of buildings. These bills are a cornerstone of PlaNYC, because building energy use is responsible for nearly 80% of total CO2 emissions.

Three out of the four bills only apply to buildings over 50,000 square feet, and do not apply to individual residences within those buildings. While it might seem fairer to enact bills that affect all building sizes and types equally, such legislation would be virtually unenforceable. Although only 2% of buildings in New York City are over 50,000 square feet they account for 45% of the total energy used by all buildings, so just focusing on these buildings for most of the legislation actually makes a great deal of sense.

The bills include:

1. Int. 564-A. This is the only one of the bills that applies equally to buildings of all sizes and types. It creates a New York City Energy Conservation Code that is more stringent than the current New York State Energy Code. This bill closes a significant loophole in the New York State Energy Code by requiring that all renovations must comply with the Code and meet greater efficiency requirements, not just those that impact at least 50% of a building subsystem. It is extremely important, since most renovations in New York City typically happen on a piecemeal basis, rather than building-wide.

2. Int. 0967. This requires auditing and retro-commissioning of buildings over 50,000 square feet every ten years. Buildings that have demonstrated superior efficiency, such as Energy Star Buildings, will be exempt, and tenant spaces within residential buildings will not be included in the auditing and retro-commissioning. This bill is effective immediately, but the first reports are not due until 2013. Energy audits are comprehensive evaluations of energy efficiency, broken down by system, and normally include recommendations for cost-effective changes. Retro-commissioning is a process of testing building systems and controls and identifying those that are not functioning properly. Retro-commissioning identifies maintenance and operations issues, and making the recommended changes often results in a significant payback in a matter of months.

3. Int. 0973. This requires buildings of 50,000 sq. ft. or more to upgrade lighting systems to meet energy code standards and to install sub-metering when non-residential tenant spaces 10,000 square feet or greater are renovated. The bill does not require sub-metering to be used as that basis of allocating energy costs, but a tenant who will be sub-metered and who will be incorporating energy efficiency measures into the new space will be likely to want to be billed for electricity based upon actual usage, rather than on a square foot basis. Lighting retrofits typically pay for themselves within two years. Lighting of all areas other than those occupied by residential tenants must meet energy-efficiency requirements by the end of 2022.

4. Int. 0476-A. This requires owners of buildings 50,000 sq. ft. or more to conduct an annual benchmark analysis of energy and water consumption and to report the results. The primary tool used for benchmarking will be the Environmental Protection Agency's Portfolio Manager. While the potential impact of this bill may not be immediately apparent, the City of New York will make the results available to potential tenants, purchasers, and lenders. So this fairly innocuous looking piece of legislation may make energy retrofits a financial, if not a legal, necessity.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Green Jobs / Green New York Act

The State of New York is taking a significant step toward eliminating one of the roadblocks to energy efficiency retrofits. NYSERDA will establish a revolving loan program to provide up to $13,000 per residential customer to retrofit a home, and up to $26,000 to retrofit each qualifying business, and also conduct energy audits, program administration and a credit enhancement for critical private sector capital investments. The program will front the cost of the work, enabling property owners to afford energy efficient retrofits.

Although property owners will repay the full cost over time, their total energy usage will be reduced by 30-40%, and the loan payment on their energy bill will be less than what they saved, yielding a net saves to the property owner. The program will serve owners who surpass the income ceiling for the Weatherization Assistance Program but cannot afford retrofits on their own.
In partnership with the Department of Labor, NYSERDA will also create workforce training programs throughout the state to ensure that the state’s workforce is highly trained and in place to handle mass-scale retrofitting.

Local contractors, certified to perform the retrofits will be able to expand their crews, creating new and permanent jobs in green construction and additional jobs in local businesses and manufacturing that serve those new workers.
The program will be funded with revenue raised by the auction of carbon emission credits through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This funding will be used to leverage private and federal investments. The bill allocates $112 million from these auctions to NYSERDA. Auctions of carbon emission credits over the last two years raised $126 million, with an estimated $75 million more expected in the next two auctions this year alone.

For additional information visit the following link for the New York State Senate:

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Green vs. Greenwashing

A colleague of mine asked how I would define green. My knee-jerk impulse was to cite the usual “meet the needs of the present without jeopardizing those of the future,” but then I realized that she has probably heard that a thousand times. My second reaction would normally be to define green as it pertains to my own field of endeavor, design and construction, but such a definition would be too limiting. After a bit of thought, this is how I define green:

Green products and services are those for which the aggregate positive environmental effects far outweigh the negative ones and any environmental claims are specific, well-defined, relevant and substantiated by a reliable third-party certificate or easily accessible supporting information.

While working on my definition of what is green, I reviewed TerraChoice’s excellent, easily understandable definition of what is not green as presented in “The Seven Deadly Sins of Greenwashing.” For any of you not familiar with it, here’s a link:

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Best Reasons for Sustainable Practices

Most of us know children whose health and happiness we care about, so doing everything we can to foster sustainable practices makes a lot of sense. Climate change and pollution have already had a significant impact in many parts of our country, and the problems are escalating.

My nephew and his beautiful little daughters live in Los Angeles, one of the areas in which climate change has contributed to severe drought. Recent forest fires have not only increased the level of pollutants in the air, they have also forced the family to evacuate their home. And because drought and fires kill plants that help the soil adsorb water, when it does rain there are mudslides and floods.

It is often said that for sustainable initiatives to be accepted, they must benefit the triple bottom line --- people, planet and profit. I believe that if everyone realized that the "people" who are at risk include their own children and grandchildren, they would be more likely to adopt sustainable practices for which they do not perceive immediate positive effects on their own income.

"Natural" disasters also cost us all a lot of money. Taxes must be raised to support government aid, insurance premiums increase, and the cost of construction goes up considerably. For instance, the cost of renovation projects in New York City went up 10% in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Thank You, Mayor Daley!!!

A colleague accused me of lionizing Donald Trump in a presentation on sustainable design and construction that I gave two days ago. Guilty as charged! I believe that Donald Trump would make a great poster child for sustainable design and construction because his very high level of visibility and proven track record for maximizing profits will encourage many real estate investors to follow his lead.

In keeping with his statement that "Environmental concerns should be the norm..." Donald Trump is currently developing projects in Stanford and in Philadelphia to meet the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Even those who are not fans of Mr. Trump believe that when he invests in something, it must make sound business sense.

In his own inimitable fashion, Donald Trump has had no compunction whatsoever in redefining LEED. I think that his definition of the rationale behind green building is terrific, because it will resonate with investors. While the first four bullet points below could have been directly copied from any description of LEED, from then on the focus is purely on the financial benefits of going green. According to the Trump Organization's web site, LEED-qualified buildings are designed to:

  • Reduce waste sent to landfills.
  • Conserve energy and water.
  • Be healthier and safer for occupants.
  • Reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Lower operating costs and increase asset value.
  • Qualify for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives in hundreds of cities.
  • Demonstrate an owner's commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

So why am I thanking Mayor Daley instead of Donald Trump personally? When I was lecturing on "Saving with Sustainability" at NeoCon in Chicago last June, I had lunch at the new Trump Hotel and Tower. The view from the dining room (shown above) was inconsistent with what I viewed as Donald Trump's aesthetic or value system, so I asked the head of Chicago's Green Roof's Program whether green roofs were required for new construction. He explained that projects that are built to recognized green standards and incorporate green roofs qualify for incentives and, perhaps more importantly, get special expedited treatment and cooperation from Chicago's Department of Buildings. While I don't know how important this policy was in Donald Trump's adoption of LEED standards for projects in other parts of the country, I'm fairly certain that it got his attention.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Why Energy Efficiency Does Not Pay - Split Incentives

Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to address climate change and energy security concerns. Efficiency presents a unique opportunity because not only does it save energy, it reduces costs and lowers CO2 emissions. But unfortunately many opportunities for energy efficiency improvements are wasted because of split incentives. Often the consequences and benefits of energy choices do not affect those making the choices.

I've already addressed how sub-metering can encourage tenants to be more energy efficient. In apartment houses that are sub-metered the resident who leaves his air conditioner on all day pays more for electricity than the one who conserves energy whenever possible. And when commercial buildings are sub-metered a tenant who invests in energy efficient lighting, equipment and practices pays less for electricity than the energy hog in an adjoining space.

A property developer or building owner may be unwilling to pay any incremental cost for energy-efficient equipment and appliances because the building occupants will be paying the electric bills.

Split incentives are particularly challenging in commercial real estate. Most leases enable owners to buy bulk energy and charge tenants a higher rate than they pay, so they profit from energy use rather than from energy efficiency. Leases normally do not allow owners to assess tenants for capital improvements that would save energy and save the tenants quite a bit of money. To add to the owner's dilemma, mortgage terms often restrict the ability to finance capital improvements.

The significant obstacles outlined above can be overcome. Solving such a complex problem requires legal and financial expertise and the ability to think outside the box.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Greening The White House

President Obama intends to pursue LEED Certification for The White House. While the lawn will represent a challenge to achieving LEED points (short, well-groomed grass is often maintenance-intensive, and needs more water, fertilizer and herbicides than field grass), the building itself has a number of features that make it relatively energy efficient already.

I was amused to read that the windows would be of particular concern. The White House, like many older buildings, has a ratio of mass vs. glass that makes the building envelope intrinsically more energy efficient than modern buildings that make extensive use of glass. Most of the tall, relatively narrow windows appear to start 30" or more above the floor, which means that they admit maximum daylight with minimum heat gain.

Window treatments can help to increase energy efficiency the old-fashioned way. In summer, draperies should be closed during the day in rooms that are not being used to minimize solar gain. In winter, closing draperies (especially at night) can help keep rooms snug and warm.

The White House, like many older buildings, was designed to be comfortable and healthful without central heating and air conditioning. Of course, it the building could probably benefit from retro-commissioning and new lighting design, but "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Some time ago I wrote a blog entry entitled "10 Tips for Greening the Obama White House." It's on my original web site:

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Update - Green Buildings not Living Up to Green Labels

Henry Miller's Theatre is the first theater in the United States to be on track for LEED Gold certification. My enjoyment of a performance there last night (and that of fellow theater-goers with whom I spoke) was marred by extreme discomfort caused by air conditioning that made those of us with orchestra seats feel as though we were sitting in a meat locker. This seems ironic, since two of the main tenets of LEED are energy efficiency and occupant comfort.

Everything seemed right when I first toured the theater. While the facade of Henry Miller's Theatre has been retained, it is actually part of a building that is a poster child for LEED, the Platinum-rated Bank of America Tower. Both the architects, FXFowle and the building owners, The Durst Organization, are recognized leaders in sustainable design, and the project represents an honest attempt to address core concerns, rather than focusing on easier and less expensive ways to achieve LEED points.

Often costly equipment that can improve occupant comfort and energy performance, such as an under-floor air distribution system, is value-engineered out of projects. So it seems unreasonable to grouse about a project that includes this amenity. It's like a teenager who asks for a car and is given a Ferrari complaining. But just as the Ferrari would not be useful to a teenager unless someone took the time and trouble to teach him or her how to drive it, sophisticated systems that are not properly explained to the people who have to operate them don't do anyone any good.

This highly visible LEED project is consuming much more energy than necessary, and my guess is that the cause is lack of proper training of and communication with operations personnel. I certainly hope that's the case, because that would be much easier to fix than a problem with the design or installation of the system.

Effect of Lighting on Air Conditioning

Okay, now she's really lost it!!! What does an Easy Bake Oven have to do with lighting efficiency and air conditioning bills? Quite a lot, actually.

The heat source that bakes all of those little cakes and cookies is an ordinary 100 watt incandescent bulb. Only 2% of the energy used by this type of light bulb generates light, and the rest generates enough heat to bake a cake (admittedly a small one) in twelve minutes. If you substituted a compact fluorescent bulb for the incandescent one in an Easy Bake Oven your child would be very disappointed because the batter would probably never turn into a cake. A fluorescent bulb is from four to five times as efficient as an incandescent one, so it generates a fraction of the heat.

Well designed lighting, properly used, can save quite a bit on your energy bill. Normally, the predicted savings are calculated using a simple formula that only accounts for the direct cost of the electricity used for lighting and ignores the savings on air conditioning.

Although accurately modeling the predicted energy use of air conditioning systems is complex and requires considerable expertise, intuitively it makes sense to assume that when you cut the amount of watts your lighting consumes, you are also cutting air conditioning requirements to some degree.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Split Incentives Hinder Sustainable Initiatives

There's an 800-pound gorilla in the room when most companies discuss sustainable initiatives. Intraorganizational split incentives present significant barriers to sustainable design and construction. Departments often compete for resources and recognition, and sometimes they seem more focused on competing with each other than with outside organizations. Individual departments are often only willing to make investments for which the returns benefit them directly, rather than their "competition".

Interdepartmental cooperation that benefits the overall bottom line and planning for the future are especially challenging when money is tight and cut-backs are required.

In an ideal world, everyone (or at least everyone with a shared mission) would work together for the common good. But in reality, personnel charged with design and construction within an organization are sometimes reluctant to dip into their budget in order to realize savings in operations and maintenance costs. Why spend money in order to make your competition look good?

There's been a lot of talk about revamping financial practices to consider the triple bottom line of "people, planet and profit." If that goal seems too challenging in the current economic climate, how about "profit, profit and profit?" Many sustainable initiatives have less than a five year simple payback, and a 20% ROI is certainly nothing to sneeze at, especially when it also benefits people and planet and improves an organization's image.

While addressing split incentives between organizations (as in landlord vs. tenant) can be challenging, split incentives between different departments within a single organization can be effectively addressed by its finance team.

Addressing the issue of intraorganizational split incentives can have a significant positive impact on an organization’s bottom line. For instance, Harvard University has set up a revolving fund that enables departments to obtain grants for sustainable initiatives. The grants are repaid from savings on operations and maintenance within less than five years. Harvard's Green Campus Loan Fund has been averaging an ROI of 20% per year, which is considerably better than the endowment funds of most universities.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some Reasons Why Buildings May Not Live Up to Green Labels

Recently The New York Times published an article entitled "Some Buildings Not Living Up to Green Label." The main thrust of the article was that a number of LEED buildings are not sufficiently energy efficient to qualify for the EPA's Energy Star Building label. The article addresses a few of the possible reasons for this disparity, one of which is that some LEED project teams "chase points" by incorporating as many inexpensive criteria as possible, rather than focusing on more capital-intensive energy management solutions.
A significant reason that LEED buildings are not meeting the Energy Star Building standard may be that Energy Star focuses chiefly on energy at the expense of other important characteristics of green buildings. The Energy Star rating system for buildings is a set of tools that enables building owners to evaluate their properties in relation to other buildings of the same type based upon energy consumption per square foot. The EPA does say that buildings should be tested for compliance with minimum acceptable standards for ventilation, thermal comfort and adequate lighting, but does not allow additional energy consumption for buildings that exceed those standards.
Here are some other reasons that I believe LEED buildings may not qualify as Energy Star Buildings:
  • Energy Star rates buildings based upon energy consumption per square foot and does little to account for variation in occupant density. New buildings (including LEED buildings) often allow fewer square feet per person, and of course more people will use more energy. So an older building with large perimeter offices for executives could get a better Energy Star rating than a new LEED building with superior space optimization.
  • Energy Star groups office buildings that operate at least thirty hours per week ten months per year into a single class for comparison, and often building modeling systems that predict energy use in buildings assume that most occupants will leave at about five or six o'clock. A number of LEED buildings in New York have considerably extended hours of operation, especially those housing law firms, publishing companies and financial institutions.
  • Many LEED buildings have large expanses of glass from floor to ceiling. Glass between the level of the floor and approximately 30" above it introduces a lot of heat into an interior with very little daylight to compensate for the solar gain.
  • One of the chief advantages of LEED buildings is enhanced indoor environmental quality. Increasing the level of ventilation and thermal comfort over that specified by ASHRAE standards and building codes benefits occupant health and productivity, but can result in higher electrical costs for HVAC than that of a less healthful building.
  • LEED professionals jokingly say that the buildings are perfect until people start using them. Unfortunately, there's quite a bit of truth in that statement. Often building maintenance personnel, cleaning personnel and building occupants are not properly trained about the effective operation of the new building.
  • Sometimes building systems do not perform as expected and initial commissioning does not address the problems adequately.
The EPA has acknowledged that Portfolio Manager is not always effective for urban buildings and promised a NYC specific overlay to support Greener, Greater Buildings legislative mandates. Hopefully, the new parameters will provide methods for addressing both our 24/7 work schedules and the high occupancy densities of all of our buildings.

    Green Computing Initiatives

    Computers consume a lot of energy, especially when you factor in the amount of energy used in air conditioning server facilities. Energy consumption and cost driven by growing demand for computer services is a major problem for many organizations. Data centers in the United States consume annually more than 62 billion kilowatt hours of electricity - equivalent to the amount used by approximately 5.8 million U.S. households - for a total cost of about $4.5 billion. If current trends continue, that usage could double by 2011. The good news is that there are a number of ways in which you can decrease the energy use and cost associated with computers.

    Throughout Your Office, School or Home
    • Purchase only energy-efficient hardware (Energy-Star should be the minimum requirement for all new equipment).
    • Replace desktops with laptops in areas of light usage *
    • Replace CRT monitors with flat screens *
    • Consolidate peripheral equipment. Using shared printers in centralized locations not only saves energy, it can improve indoor air quality.   
    • Use power management features to turn off equipment when not in use
    • Deactivate screen savers, which waste energy
    • When you will not be using a computer for several hours, power it down and turn the power strip off to eliminate "vampire energy" drain.
    • For schools and offices that have centralized computer facilities, consider replacing distributed computers with thin clients. Thin clients depend primarily on the central server for processing activities, and mainly focuses on conveying input and output between users remote servers.
    For Data Centers
    • Evaluate potential of software applications to be migrated to external web facilities. Email is a prime candidate for outsourcing.
    • Consolidate servers. You may have twice as many as you need. *
    • Replace older servers with more energy-efficient ones. *
    • Reconfigure server layout to avoid "hot spots."
    • Adjust room temperature. Many server rooms are colder than they need to be.
    • Use energy-management software.
    • Consider alternate cooling methods. For instance, IBM's Rear Door Heat eXchanger "cooling doors" reduce server heat output at the source.
    • For large data centers, consider co-generation. Co-generation is on-site production of electricity and heating or cooling, and is considerable more efficient than using electricity from the grid.
    * Make sure that all e-waste is disposed of responsibly.
    For additional information about advances in server room design, please consult the following post on the Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire:

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    Changing Fluorescents to Fluorescents

    We're hearing quite a bit about replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps ("CFLs"), but much incandescent lighting is in homes , where the major energy consumption is from temperature control and appliances. Fluorescent lights, while much more efficient than incandescents, have several disadvantages:
    • They contain mercury, and breaking them releases a toxic substance. So they should always be recycled, rather than tossed into the garbage.
    • They don't last as long as predicted when turned on and off frequently.
    • Most of them will not work with dimmers.
    • They do not function well in recessed fixtures that have lenses covering the bulbs.
    But Lighting is the major single source of energy consumption in commercial buildings, especially when you include both the energy consumed by the lighting itself and the energy consumed by cooling the increased heat load that the lighting generates. So improving lighting efficiency in commercial buildings can save an enormous amount. For instance, if your office was designed more than five years ago, the general ambient lighting is probably accomplished using T12 lamps and fixtures with magnetic ballasts. Changing to T8 lamps and electronic ballasts can improve efficiency (and reduce energy costs) by 40%, especially if you use the new generation of high performance T8s. In addition, T8 lamps last longer than T 12s and have better color rendition. Some people think that if T8s are so much better than T12s, T5s must be even better. T5s are great for certain applications, but they are better left to lighting designers who understand the advantages and disadvantages of using them.

    There is quite a bit of useful information about fluorescent lighting on GE's web site:

    Thursday, September 3, 2009

    Efficient Lighting Lowers Air Conditioning Bills

    Okay, now she's really lost it!!! What does an Easy Bake Oven have to do with lighting efficiency and air conditioning bills? Quite a lot, actually.

    The heat source that bakes all of those little cakes and cookies is an ordinary 100 watt incandescent bulb. Only 2% of the energy used by this type of light bulb generates light, and the rest generates enough heat to bake a cake. If you substituted a compact fluorescent bulb for the incandescent one in an Easy Bake Oven your child would be very disappointed because the batter would probably never turn into a cake. A fluorescent bulb is from four to five times as efficient as an incandescent one, so it generates a fraction of the heat.

    Well designed lighting, properly used, can save quite a bit on your energy bill. Normally, the predicted savings are calculated using a simple formula that only accounts for the direct cost of the electricity used for lighting and ignores the savings on air conditioning.

    Although accurately modeling the predicted energy use of air conditioning systems is complex and requires considerable expertise, intuitively it makes sense to assume that when you cut the amount of watts your lighting consumes, you are also cutting air conditioning requirements to some degree.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2009

    Find Hole, Plug Hole, Save Money

    One of the best ways to save energy is often overlooked, perhaps because it's so simple. While I'm using a single-family home for illustration, the same techniques are just as effective for apartment houses and commercial buildings. If you find air leaks and seal them you can often save about 15% on your energy bills.

    Air leaks occur not only in ductwork, windows and around doors, but in any place in which a wall, ceiling or floor has a hole. It's easier to install things like plumbing and appliances with nice, big holes, but contractors often fail to close up the holes when their work is done.

    Often people fail to insulate all of the areas they should, like underneath the floorboards on the first floor.

    Up on the Roof

    High albedo roofs reduce the heat island effect. What was that??? Translation: white reflective roofs help keep both the buildings they are on and the surrounding area cooler in hot weather. A white roof can reduce your air conditioning costs by up to 20% on hot sunny days and normally costs as little as 15% more than a dark roof.

    So if a white roof saves so much electricity, why would you consider a green one, which costs considerably more? A properly installed green roof will last longer than any other type of roof, because it protects the membrane beneath it from weather extremes. And green roofs help control storm water runoff. Huh??? Translation: green roofs absorb rain and reduce the amount of water that flows into the sewers. This is important because New York, like many older cities, has a combined sewage system, and as with as little as 1/4" of rainfall raw sewage overflows into our rivers.

    Monday, August 17, 2009

    GSA Study Shows Benefits of Building Green

    There's good news for proponents of sustainable design and construction who have been questioned about the validity of statistical analyses of benefits that are based upon modeling, rather than actual data. A comprehensive post-occupancy study of twelve green buildings by the Federal Government's General Services Administration using actual performance data has confirmed some of the benefits of green building. Eight of the buildings in the study were LEED Certified and the rest were built to other standards such as Energy Star or CA Title 24.

    The graph above shows some of the results of the study, which was based upon a minimum of twelve months of operating data for each building beginning no sooner than six months after occupancy.

    There is additional information on this subject on this eco-structure blog:

    The entire study, “Assessing Green Building Performance,” is available in this section of the GSA site:

    Moving Your Business?

    How Tenants Benefit from Green Buildings

    There are a number of benefits to locating your business or organization in a building that has sustainable features. The degree to which a base building is green has an enormous impact on all of its tenants, so it pays to make sustainablity a key criteria for your site selection. The chart above reflects some of the reasons that companies are interested in sustainable building. Some of the key advantages to tenants of green buildings are:

    • A building that uses energy, water and other resources efficiently costs less to run, so tenant costs for maintenance and utilities are reduced.
    • Locating your business in a building with superior indoor environmental quality can safeguard the health and improve the productivity of your employees.
    • Locating your business in a green building can be good for its image. Many people prefer to purchase goods and services from businesses that operate in a sustainable fashion.
    • Characteristics of the base building determine the ease, and even the feasibility, of pursuing LEED certification for any tenant space within the building.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Attention Building Owners -

    Go Green to Make Green

    If you are evaluating sustainable initiatives for your buildings purely based upon a simple payback, you may be missing the boat. Energy Star buildings command an average rent premium of about 20% over their peers. Occupancy rates of LEED Buildings are increasing as those of their peers are decreasing. And those figures don’t come from USGBC, AIA or any other entity that has a strong interest in sustainable design and construction. The figures come from CoStar, a service that in the words of a TV detective who was popular when I was a child, reports “The facts, ma’am, nothing but the facts.”

    Even a simple calculation of ROI for many sustainable initiatives proves that “going green” is good for business. The incremental cost of sustainable design and construction is decreasing and energy costs are increasing.

    Federal, state and local governments are encouraging (to put it mildly) sustainable design and construction. Right now everyone seems to be focusing on the carrots, rather than the very big sticks that they are also holding.

    Real Estate, like every business, is driven by supply and demand. If you don’t pay attention to the demand for sustainable building, you’re likely to find yourself with a very big supply of empty space.

    Thursday, August 13, 2009

    Be Afraid - Be Very Afraid

    Optimizing energy performance in buildings is a critical element in minimizing climate change, which is why so many government initiatives on the federal, state and local levels are aimed at increasing energy efficiency. However, making buildings more airtight without being vigilant about improving air circulation and reducing the toxins that we introduce into our buildings can have serious consequences for our health.

    Americans of all ages spend an average of 90% of their time indoors, where the level of pollutants is often two to five times higher than it is outdoors and can be considerably higher. The air in most homes, schools and offices is already not what it should be, and as air quality worsens, so does health. While children are the most at risk (childhood asthma has increased 140% in the past 10 years), good air is important for everyone. Improved indoor environmental quality has been linked to improved productivity, higher test scores and even patient recovery rates.

    There are two reasons that our indoor air quality is so bad:

    • We don’t introduce enough fresh air from outdoors.
    • We fill our spaces with toxic mixes of chemicals, organic matter and dust.

    Most energy initiatives are based upon ASHRAE Standard 90.1, which governs energy performance. Equally important is ASHRAE Standard 62.1, which governs ventilation. Unless compliance with the second standard is policed, a less than 100% scrupulous building owner could reduce energy consumption by reducing the amount of fresh air for building occupants.

    Homeowners need to be educated on safeguarding their health and the health of their children as they improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

    Significant energy savings and superior indoor environmental quality can certainly be achieved simultaneously. But it does require some thought and planning.

    For additional information, please go to the blog below and read the entries on “The ABCs of LEED – Part 6 - Indoor Environmental Quality,” “10 Tips for Making the White House Greener,” and “Improving the Air We Breathe.”

    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    A Green Classic

    Sustainable design is often mistakenly associated with certain materials that are very much of the moment, but a classic design that reflects its architectural context and will never go out of style is actually more sustainable in the long term.

    A small kitchen like this one uses less energy and other resources than a large one, but needs to be well designed to function properly. Creating adequate counter space and storage while incorporating a full sized dishwasher, a large microwave and even a wine cooler into an irregularly- shaped 88 square foot kitchen is a challenge even for an experienced design professional.

    Some of the features that make this kitchen sustainable are:

    • Design is timeless and suitable for its setting
    • Size is compact, minimizing use of raw materials
    • Materials are durable
    • Appliances are Energy Star rated
    • Lights are on dimmers
    • Paints and adhesives contain minimal volatile organic compounds
    • Cabinets are made from sustainable resources and contain no added urea formaldehyde
    • Tiles were manufactured locally
    • Air conditioners were covered and dust was contained during construction

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Proposed New York City Energy Bills

    The New York City Council is currently considering legislation to dramatically reduce the energy use and carbon footprint of buildings. Passage of these bills is essential for PlaNYC to work, because building energy use is responsible for nearly 80% of total CO2 emissions. The bills include:

    1. Legislation to create a New York City Energy Conservation Code that is more stringent than the current New York State Energy Code.

    2. Legislation that requires owners of buildings that are 50,000 sq. ft. or larger to conduct energy audits and make improvements that can be paid for by energy savings within five years.

    3. Legislation calling for buildings of 50,000 sq. ft. or more to include energy-efficient lighting systems when tenant spaces are renovated. Lighting of all areas other than those occupied by residential tenants must meet energy-efficiency requirements by the end of 2022.

    4. Legislation that requires owners of buildings 50,000 sq. ft. or more to conduct an annual benchmark analysis of energy consumption and to report the results.

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