Snapshot Column Archives

Re-Sus-Citate Resilience and Sustainability for the Health of our City
Michele Oberholtzer
Dec. 2, 2013

Buildings Tell The Truth
Chris Benedict, R.A.
Oct. 7, 2013

Building Efficiency and Blower Doors: Essential Responses to Sandy
Ken Levenson, A.I.A.
Aug. 1, 2013

Language Matters, Or What Should I Do With My Banana Peel?
Kendall Christiansen
Jun. 1, 2013

Getting Serious About Daylighting
Yetsuh Frank
Apr. 1, 2013

From Evolution to Revolution: Enabling Clean Energy at the Edge of the Electric Grid
Thomas Bourgeois & William Pentland
Feb. 14, 2013

Obama's First-Term Eco-Legacy and the Road Ahead
John Tepper Marlin
Nov. 26, 2012

Deficit Could Be X-Factor for Carbon Tax
Charles Komanoff
Oct. 10, 2012

Are Building Owners Leaving Money on the Energy Efficiency Table?
Elizabeth Brooke Stein
Aug. 1, 2012

Realizing the Behavioral Wedge — Getting Tenants Involved in Saving Energy
Mirele B. Goldsmith, Ph.D.
Jun. 4, 2012

Commercial PACE Financing: An Innovative Way To Scale Up The Building Retrofit Market In NYC
J. Cullen Howe
Apr. 2, 2012

From MUSH To The City of Tomorrow: Taking District Energy To Urban Neighborhoods
Christina Grace
Feb. 2, 2012

Inconvenient No Longer
John Tepper Marlin
Jan. 3, 2012

The Sad Story Of The National Infrastructure Bank
Joyce Miller
Dec. 1, 2011

Faster, Stronger, Smarter: The Smart Grid's Informational Efficiency
Dania Nasser
Sep. 19, 2011

Over Our Heads: What Will Design Students Need To Know About The Revolution In Sustainable Roof Design?
Lynn Phillips
Aug. 1, 2011

New York City's Benchmarking Law: Does It Go Far Enough and Is It Fair To Building Owners?
Larry Schnapf
Jun. 15, 2011

Climate Change In The Supreme Court: Will Winners Be Losers?
Simon Wynn
Apr. 1, 2011

Historic Preservation & Passive House Working Together In NYC
Ken Levenson, A.I.A.
Feb. 1, 2011

2011 Green Priorities for Albany
Marcia Bystryn
Dec. 15, 2010

C40: Hammer In Hong Kong
Stephen A. Hammer, Ph. D
Nov. 8, 2010

Disclosure: A Powerful Motivational Tool
Adam Hinge
Oct. 1, 2010

Finding the Proof of Energy Retrofits
Michael Bobker
Aug. 2, 2010

Green Buildings & Perverse Incentives
Albert F. Appleton
Jun. 1, 2010

The Switch: A Green Reporter's New Beat
Alec Appelbaum
Apr. 1, 2010

Hiding In Plain Sight
Victoria Anstead
Mar. 2, 2010

Smart Building Technolgy: Not Smart Enough
Stephen Samouhos
Jan. 1, 2010

Advancing Energy Efficiency in Russia
Mark Izeman
Nov. 3, 2009

Blue/Green — Making It Work Takes Work
Ed Ott
Aug. 31, 2009

Transparency & Innovation: Open Data For Green Building
Bomee Jung
Jul. 1, 2009

Climate Change & Environmental Impact Statements
Michael B. Gerrard
Jun. 1, 2009

Another Berkeley FIRST
Mayor Tom Bates
Mar. 1, 2009

New Space, New Faces
John Tepper Marlin
Feb. 2, 2009

Taming the Concrete Dragon?
Stephen Hammer & Elizabeth Balkan
Dec. 1, 2008

Green Zoning
Caroline G. Harris
Oct. 1, 2008

International Influences on City Sustainability Plans
Gail Karlsson
Aug. 1, 2008

Growing Green Collar Jobs in NYC
Joanne Derwin
Jul. 2, 2008

USGBC to Accredit Green-Building Certifiers
John Tepper Marlin
Jun. 5, 2008

Energy Efficiency in NYC: The Problem of Split Incentives
Kate Bashford
Apr. 7, 2008

Contractors Wanted
Wendy Fleischer
Feb. 1, 2008

The Status of LEED in NYC, Positive Lessons
John Tepper Marlin
Dec. 3, 2007

The Healthy School and The Sustainable City
Stephen Boese
Oct. 1, 2007

The Green Manufacturing Scene
Sara Garretson
Jul. 31, 2007

Energy and Environmental Reality Check
Peter Fusaro
May. 30, 2007

Plant-Based Heat for Your Home
John S. Nettleton
Apr. 16, 2007

The Color of Money
Jon Lukomnik
Mar. 1, 2007

Saving Energy In Existing Residential Buildings
Richard Leigh, P.E. & Eduardo Guerra
Jan. 4, 2007

Birth of 21st Century Construction in Harlem
The Full Spectrum Team
Nov. 1, 2006

To Move Mountains, Fix Markets
Charles Komanoff
Sep. 27, 2006

Make Room for Green Work
Jenifer Becker
Aug. 29, 2006

Wendy E. Brawer


Mapping The Way To A Brooklyn Passive House

March 11, 2015

By: Wendy E. Brawer

Given the opportunity to do something with the potential to be world changing, would you take that chance?

Our story begins in 1992, when the original Green Map of NYC debuted. The creative outcome of my 'light bulb' moment — enriched by a group process — provided people with a surprising perspective on a familiar place. That place-based visual catalyst has sparked a global sustainability mapping movement, and today, in 65 countries, locally made Green Maps generate meaningful action as they bring resources for sustainable living into view. Each edition is a powerful tool for finding our way and finding that we're not alone.

Here's how energy moved to the forefront. Green Mapmaking had already spread to every continent when the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003 struck. Coming so soon after 9/11, it propelled me to consider the security crisis of our dependence on fossil fuel, and before the lights came back on, the Powerful Green Map of NYC began taking shape. It was exciting to assess our city's progress as our nonprofit highlighted everyday efficiency and renewable investments in the five boroughs along with the dark side of our energy choices. See this map's genesis since 2006.

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Chris Benedict, R.A. & Henry Gifford


The Perfect Energy Code

January 20, 2015

By: Chris Benedict, R.A. & Henry Gifford

A building is a complex system, set within a larger complex system. Systems can work elegantly or poorly.

Acknowledgement of senseless waste, and the desire to be kinder to the life on our planet have spurred the creation of energy codes for our buildings. It is imperative that a code devised to intervene into a poorly performing system be as elegant as its desired outcome in order to be effective.

On 25 November 2014, as guests of the Building Enclosure Council of New York (BECNY), Henry Gifford and I performed a play entitled, The Perfect Energy Code, at the Center for Architecture in NYC. In the play we dramatized an Architect's visit to the NYC Department of Buildings and her pursuit of energy code approval for her building design.

Please take a look:

Or read on...

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Rory Christian


Amid Global Efforts, NY Plants Seed For Energy Reform in 2014 That Will Bloom In 2015

December 26, 2014

By: Rory Christian

In the future, when we look back on 2014, I believe it will be remembered as the tipping point for climate action. In the Northeast, we'll remember the devastating early-season snowstorm that caused over a dozen deaths. In the Southwest, many will remember the third-straight year of a drought that seems without end. And, nationally, many will remember 2014 as one of the hottest years in recorded history — the hottest since 2010 and the 11th time the record for hottest year has been set since 1998.

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Llewellyn Wells


Resiliency. Sustainability. Equity.

November 04, 2014

By: Llewellyn Wells

There are those who say resiliency, sustainability and equity are at odds with one another. They are wrong. We can have all three — and we must. Like the old saw, "You can have two of these things, but never all three: Fast, Cheap and Good", we are told that equity, resiliency and sustainability can't be achieved concurrently. But I am convinced of the opposite: it is not possible to develop any of these things within a 21st Century city without developing all three of them equally. Inequality is not sustainable, and it most surely isn't resilient. If a place isn't resilient, how can it be sustainable? And what matter sustainability if there isn't social equity and long-term resilience built into the fabric of a community? You see what I'm driving toward and now I want to show you we have pathways to get there.

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Pat Sapinsley


Energy Efficiency: Markets or Mandates?

September 01, 2014

By: Pat Sapinsley

Implementation of Energy Efficiency* in the US Building Sector
The implementation of energy efficiency savings in the US has been more difficult than its advocates might have hoped. Americans are relying on a patchwork system to achieve energy savings. That patchwork is derived from local, state and federal government regulations and from market forces. On the local front, there are as many as five actors: local governments, local utilities, local energy service providers, local financing programs and a panoply of local building codes. At the national level, the federal government uses frequently changing tax code provisions and various user standards. Market forces include confusing utility pricing regimes, Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) and a variety of financing mechanisms. The result is that there is enormous confusion in the marketplace about how and where to stimulate more widespread adoption of energy efficiency. Other countries have eliminated such confusion by relying more heavily on unified regulation, with far better results.

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Kendall Christiansen


Organic Wastes Are Energy-Rich Resources: Towards A New Era of Productive Alchemy

June 30, 2014

By: Kendall Christiansen

Prediction: by 2020, New York City's wastewater treatment facilities could produce biogas to heat and power their own operations, power some of the agency's fleet, and provide biogas to Con Ed and National Grid pipelines. In addition to the economic benefits, less trash shipped to distant landfills and waste-to-energy facilities reduces truck miles, greenhouse gas emissions from landfills, and creates carbon-positive benefits — all of which are goals of PlaNYC/2030.

How will that prediction be achieved? It's not crystal ball-gazing to see a combination of upgraded and expanded facilities, capable of accepting new sources of materials, or "feedstock" for their anaerobic digesters, complementing the energy potential already present in the city's sewage sludge. Kathryn Garcia, the new Commissioner of Sanitation, notes that digesters love "diner food" — clean, energy-rich, and maybe a little too much fat. But what is anaerobic digestion?[1])

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Llewellyn Wells


Eco Districts: Making NYC More Sustainable & Resilient, One Neighborhood at a Time

April 30, 2014

By: Llewellyn Wells

What is an Eco District? I am glad you asked.

"An Eco District is a neighborhood or district with a broad commitment to accelerate neighborhood-scale sustainability. Eco Districts commit to achieving ambitious sustainability performance goals, guiding district investments and community action, and tracking the results over time. An Eco District is a neighborhood committed to sustainability with the components of empowered people, green buildings and smart infrastructure."

But why now, and more importantly, why in New York City?

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Aleksi Neuvonen & Tuuli Kaskinen


Gatekeepers: Unsung Heroes Of A Smart Economy?

March 02, 2014

By: Aleksi Neuvonen & Tuuli Kaskinen

Ever had to personally refurbish a house? Ever had to think of buying windows, replacing the old roof with a new one or changing the heating system? Have you taken energy efficiency and climate emissions into consideration when making these decisions? Anyone who has gone through all this knows the right answers and solutions can be hard to come by.

Although it is well-known that the most efficient way to cut residential carbon emissions is through thoughtful building renovations, it is far from common practice. The challenge is that these potential improvements require decisions by millions of people in homes and at workplaces — people who usually don't feel themselves very competent in the area of energy efficiency. Adequate policy measures are rare: traditional public awareness campaigns are rarely nimble and voluntary participation makes their impact is slow, but introducing ambitious building performance norms for already existing building stock often faces strong opposition.

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Nick Lombardi


We're Beginning To See The Light

January 27, 2014

By: Nick Lombardi

Among the groundbreaking package of laws and regulations that comprised Mayor Bloomberg's Greener, Greater Buildings plan, the Local Law 84 Benchmarking requirement (LL84) was designed to be simple and straightforward, intended to lift the veil that concealed the energy use details of New York City's commercial building stock.

Access to new information generated by benchmarking and disclosure would, it was hoped, transform real estate transactions by introducing energy considerations into the space and investment markets decision chain. Now, three years in, there seems to be some appetite to take stock and measure the true effectiveness of LL84, and to respond to some bubbling sentiment in New York City that it hasn't really "worked" as intended.

Let's start with the take-away; despite what feels like a long time since its enactment, it's still far too early to make such declarations, and the evidence we do have suggests LL84 has indeed started to have its intended impact.

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