Posts Tagged ‘New York

26
Jun
08

U.S. Green Building Council Makes Revolutionary Change

the Solaire in New York

John Tepper Marlin likes the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Standards, and he enumerates the reasons in a Green Building News article, which also delineates what he sees as a very big problem, and predicts how the problem might be solved. The reason why we listen to Dr. Marlin is clear: he is an expert who has published fifteen books about the complicated economic realities of large cities, chiefly New York. He served in the office of the New York City Comptroller for over thirteen years, as both Chief Economist and Senior Policy Adviser. He knows all about the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and also about the not-so-good aspects of LEED certification, one of which he describes as follows:

If the estimate is accurate that half the cost of LEED certification is USGBC’s fee, this is very high compared with other certification programs, where the bulk of the cost is for meeting higher standards. One can hope that the certification cost will drop by the end of 2009 as more certifiers are accredited.

Before getting into that, however, let’s look at what Marlin likes about LEED: just about everything. The LEED point system is broad-based, transparent, and easy to follow, and the most basic level of approval is not too difficult to attain. There’s flexibility built in, and scalabilty and expandability. Independent third-party certifications are recognized. Builders have gotten on the bandwagon, and are anxious to achieve LEED’s blessing, which is a major selling point. Using green products has become fashionable. Leaders in the construction industry have adopted a LEED-friendly attitude, and willingly aim for the best recognition they can win under the system. It gives them a well-deserved reputation for civic responsibility, which is always a plus.

The downside of LEED is, the process is slow as molasses in January. Marlin cites the numbers for New York City as an example: Four years into the LEED program, only 15 certifications had been issued, out of 294 registered hopefuls. This, obviously, will not do.

So, here is the new procedure, which Marlin feels is not getting the attention due to such a major shift in policy. Starting in 2009, USGBC will continue to set the standards, but will outsource the certification process to the bodies accredited by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI), who will then do the certifying. In other words, GBCI will become an Accreditation Agency that will give third-party certification bodies their licenses to issue certificates to individuals, companies, facilities and products.

This is good for two reasons: first, it will bring the U.S. in line with the best practices already adopted by other countries that have been doing things differently and more effectively. This has to do with the “Who’s watching the watchers?” question that always haunts such bureaucracies. Separation is needed between the organization that sets standards, and the organization that decides whether these standards are being met. The offices and officials who are doing the accrediting must maintain the highest degree of credibility themselves. Otherwise, the potential for mischief is enormous and unacceptable.

Second, the new method should clear up the equally unacceptable backlog of buildings awaiting judgment. There could potentially be hundreds of third-party certification bodies, each one holding itself to the most stringent requirements, because it wants to retain its accreditation when it comes up for renewal by the top-level overseers, the GBCI.

In summary, Dr. Marlin says:

USGBC’s move to open up its certification process to outside certification bodies, and to focus on accreditation, is a very good sign that the green-buildings program is going to catch up on its backlog and to be credible, so that the public will know whether or not the claimed standards are actually met.

He will be tracking the success of this far-reaching and much-needed change on his own City Economist website.

Pictured: the Solaire at 20 River Terrace, New York City’s first LEED-certified building (2004).

SOURCE: ” Green Building News – USGBC to Accredit LEED Certifiers” 06/06/08
photo courtesy of Payton Chung , used under this Creative Commons license

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06
May
08

Dinkins Gardens: Innovative Ventilation Only One of Many Features

Harlem Overlook

Recently, Anuradha Kher reported in Multi-Housing News on the completion of an ambitious project, an 85-unit apartment complex designed for both sustainability and affordability. Located in Harlem, David & Joyce Dinkins Gardens allots nearly one-third of its apartments to young people who have graduated out of foster care situations, with the remainder of the units meant for residents who make less than the area’s median income. (Incidentally, since an illustration of Dinkins Gardens was not available, the photo above is one titled “Harlem Overlook.”)

Designed by Dattner Architects, the building was created with the reduction of both energy demands and water use in mind. The mechanical systems are energy-efficient, and each apartment has its own electric meter, so tenants can experience the satisfaction of seeing a cause-and-effect relationship between their good conservation habits and their electric bills. There is a modular green roof system. Rainwater is harvested from the roof, stored in tanks, and used for the community garden. The roof terrace and backyard garden are important components in the quality-of-life goals the designers aimed for.

During construction, non-toxic paints and sealants were used as much as possible, and many of the materials used were recycled or locally made. As an energy-saving bonus, Dinkins Gardens lies nearby to mass transit. Solar shading, high-performance insulation, and operable windows are all part of the HVAC plan, and in fact the most innovative thing about the project seems to be the individually ventilated apartments, as described by Kher:

Fresh air is drawn into each apartment through window “trickle vents” and expelled horizontally at the façade through voids in the concrete plank. Instead of using vertical ducts that can allow smoke or smells to be transferred between apartments, each apartment is individually ventilated, resulting in better indoor air quality.

The project was developed by Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement (HCCI) a non-profit interfaith group comprising more than 90 congregations, which owns and manages the building. In keeping with the organization’s mission, Dinkins Gardens also contains space for the Construction Trades Academy, HCCI’s job training and job placement program specializing in access to construction industry careers.

The co-developer is Jonathan Rose Companies, which incidentally produces a marvelous newsletter that is not just a PR vehicle, but contains many articles with substance. Kher quotes Jonathan Rose:

“Dinkins Gardens is the new model for affordable housing. Green projects like these are tremendous investments in the future of the community. By integrating social services, job training, affordable housing and green design, we’re modeling what the future of Harlem and New York City – in fact, cities nationwide – can be….Green building is particularly important for affordable housing because it protects residents from rising energy costs and promotes good health.”

Dinkins Gardens is not the only such Harlem project to reach completion in April. The Kalahari is a mixed-income development of 249 units, built to LEED Certification standards. A quarter of its energy needs will be supplied by solar and wind sources.

New York City has been making sustainability news lately. The executive director of the U.S. Green Building Council, New York chapter, announced his picks for ten green places in the metropolis, including the Conde Nast Building, the Schermerhorn Building, General Theological Seminary, the Visitor Center at Queens Botanical Garden, and the offices of the Natural Resource Defense Council. In lower Manhattan, Battery Park City boasts four LEED-certified buildings.

The venerable YMCA Young Men’s Institute, which opened in 1885 and later became a loft co-op, will soon house a 3,000-square-foot Green Depot showroom.

Now that New York City has made such an excellent start, is there any limit to how green it can become?

SOURCE: ” $19.5M Affordable, Green Project Opens in New York City” 4/01/08
photo courtesy of striatic , used under this Creative Commons license