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.

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.

Additional information is available at: