10 Changes for Owners

March 2, 2008

For Building, Coop, Condo Owners

  1. Own buildings, coops, and condos in NYC. Dense, urban living is the most sustainable, resource and energy efficient, and environmentally responsible way to organize modern society. Hard to believe? Consider this: ever drive to work? live in a space with more than 1000 ft2 per person? It’s true that NYC buildings can be horribly energy inefficient (and there are a lot of low cost, easy things to do about it), but density by far makes up for it, so that on a per-capita basis, NYC is the most energy and resource efficient places in the country.
  2. Use/Spec non-toxic materials and products. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: If it’s poisonous, carcinogenic, triggers asthma, or wreaks havoc on your nervous system, you probably don’t want it in your building. And yet most of the products we use to build and maintain our buildings – including paints, cleaners, insulation, cabinetry, and carpets – are portable Superfund sites, making their way Trojan Horse-like, into our common and living spaces.
  3. Use high quality, energy efficiency compact fluorescent lighting and Energy Star appliances. Just because it saves energy doesn’t mean fluoresecent lighting looks good. Know what to look for when shopping for fluorescent lighting. See the following article: Understanding Lighting: The Good, The Bad, and the Environmental.
  4. Use/Spec materials and products with post-consumer recycled content. Search for products that state the percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Paper is a biggie. So are plastic and paper packaging (essentially, anything you can recycle should be made from recycled materials to keep the cycle going). And if you’re buying wood, tiles, countertops, carpet, or insulation there are options recycled and resource minimizing options for these as well.
  5. Enact low-cost, fast payback, energy efficiency measures. Schedule a building energy audit from a qualified firm. Auditors can usually quickly pinpoint places where energy is being wasted, and drastically reducing energy consumption and expenditures with a few simple adjustments, often costing very little money.
  6. Install motion sensors for lighting in common areas.
  7. Increase your comfort and reduce your energy consumption by controlling the the indoor temperature. If you have a radiator, and control the heat in your apartment by getting up and adjusting the valves all winter long, or even worse, opening the windows, then having just the right temperature is probably a rare event. The same goes for cooling with AC — turning it off and on is a pretty crude way to control temperature. Erratic temperature is not only uncomfortable, but it wastes lots of energy, especially if the radiator’s kicking out heat or the AC’s keeping things nice and cool when nobody’s home. You can control the temperature in your living space by installing low cost, easy to use, thermostats and automatic radiator controls, simultaneously saving energy and increasing comfort.
  8. Prepare for future building investments/capital management plan by speccing energy efficient boilers, motors, and other equipment today. Otherwise you’ll be stuck with what’s available when the boiler goes down.
  9. Switch to Green Power. Two utility companies now offer “green power,” — electricity made from in-state wind and small, low impact hydro (no dams) — for utility customers in New York City. That means that city residents now have a low-cost, no-hassle renewable energy option. It costs a few bucks more a month, but that money helps grow the local renewable energy industry. The two companies are 1st Rochdale Cooperative, and Consolidated Edison Solutions (a subsidiary of the namesake parent). Read more about green power options for New York City. Or, see the testimonial of a recent Green Power switchee.
  10. Create/enhance recycling and clean trash areas; create reuse opportunities.The City has restored full recycling and your building is required to provide the appropriate bins. If you don’t have bins, ask your super or call your building management company. And check every now and again that the separated recyclables aren’t being tossed in with the trash when it’s all taken out to the curb.
  11. Support Community Gardens.New York needs more greenspace and vegetation. It filters the air and the noise, reduces the summer heat, and cleans the water.
  12. Convert your rooftop – green roofs, solar PV, solar hot water.

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