GreenHomeNYC Forums Catwalk: The Bridge to a Sustainable City

February 7, 2020

GreenHomeNYC Forums Catwalk: The Bridge to a Sustainable City   By Melanie Mason   To kick off 2020, GreenhomeNYC hosted the annual Green Catwalk, where we heard from a diverse group of speakers on their roles in the sustainability sphere. From pre-war buildings to glass skyscrapers to electric cars and charging stations, the speakers brought a variety of perspectives and ideas on the future of sustainability. If you missed this one, be sure to read on!   Krystal Persaud, founder of Grouphug, believes that creativity and design can get people excited about solar technology. Grouphug is a start-up making solar panels aesthetically pleasing and accessible to everyone, even those who live in tiny NYC apartments. Krystal was a toy designer for seven years before she started Grouphug, wanting to take a more active role in combating climate change. Her first product was a solar powered phone charger that looks just like home decor. The solar panels are built into a bamboo frame and then hung in a window as decoration. Grouphug also made a large cat-shaped solar panel that includes an interactive educational experience for children. Solar panel phone charger by Group Hug (       Haym Gross and Frank Maricic are co-chairs of a project called the NYC 2030 District, which aims to raise awareness and facilitate solutions to greenhouse gas emissions  emitted by buildings. People often focus on transportation as being a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, but buildings need to be talked about as well, especially in New York City. The 2030 District is a collaborative platform for property owners and institutions. 2030 refers to the year that scientists say there will be no turning back from the worst impacts of climate change.     2030’s mission is to radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings and infrastructure by sharing free information, tools and resources. The Climate Mobilization Act (CMA) has grabbed the attention of building owners, but many do not have the knowledge needed to comply with the Act. The CMA covers 50,000 buildings in New York City, and 80% of them will still be here in 2050, which is why it’s critical that energy efficient technology is used. Many NYC buildings are pre-war, which means they are losing energy from leaks and gaps in the building envelope. There are several local laws that set carbon missions caps and heavy fines starting in 2024.   Education and free resources will play an integral role in getting building owners started on their journey to energy efficiency.  Landlord-tenant engagement and overcoming split-incentives to achieve building performance improvements are large NYC 2030 target opportunities for progress. Photo from:       Jeremy Latriano from 475 High Performance Building Supply spoke about the Climate Mobilization Act and how it affects the use of glass and steel in NYC buildings (hint: it doesn’t). 475’s mission is to transform the construction market to high performance construction by providing knowledge, resources and some of the best products and systems available.   Last year, when Mayor De’Blasio introduced the Climate Mobilization Act, he said “we are going to ban the glass and steel skyscrapers that have contributed so much to global emissions.” Mainstream media latched on to this line and many real estate professionals were upset by it. Jeremy points out that there is nothing in the Act that states glass and steel will be banned. The Climate Mobilization Act is not a ban on any materials, but rather a call to action to use high performance materials installed according to best practices. 475 supplies one such high performance solution called the Lamilux PR-60 which is a glass roof system. By utilizing products such as the PR-60 glass roof, it is possible to have energy efficient skyscrapers that comply with the Climate Mobilization Act and also utilize large amounts of glass.       Tom Sahagian, a very passionate energy efficiency consultant, started off his presentation by urging the audience to read Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air by David JC MacKay. Tom says that this book changed his life so you might want to drop everything and go get it. It seems impossible to convert every building to be energy efficient in time, but Tom’s mission is to make this possible. Tom explained that if we can generate electricity without emitting greenhouse gases, then everything can be electrified. Heat pumps operate on electricity to heat/cool homes by moving heat from one location to another. Instead of burning fuel to create heat, it is simply moved from a building to outside or from the ground into a building. This also means that buildings will no longer need two separate systems to heat and cool. If NYC electricity is generated sustainably, then heat pumps will become a great solution. Tom is currently working on a project to install heat pumps in NYC apartments.         Lidia Henderson is the Marketing and Research Coordinator at Empire Clean Cities, a clean transportation nonprofit with a mission to ensure clean air for future generations. Empire Clean Cities works with private and public fleets, including New York City Fleet that is currently the largest green fleet in the nation. The EV Readiness Bill mandates that new parking lots and parking garages have the space and conduit to host electric supply equipment, creating a large opportunity for the buildings sector to complement sustainable transportation goals. The benefits of electric vehicles include money saved on gas, no engine maintenance costs, and improved local public health and the environment. They are also trendy and cool! One of the barriers to electric vehicle adoption in New York City is the lack of charging stations, but a handful of local laws and new curbside charging programs can help solve that. There are several free resources to help drivers locate and reserve charging stations. Contact Empire Clean Cities for more information!     Amina Hassen from WXY Studio promotes EV charging stations in commercial and residential developments. A transition to EV charging doesn’t require a drastic behavior change and price points are decreasing, which makes charging stations more financially accessible. Homes and workplaces are the best locations for charging stations because those are the two places people spend most of their time. There are currently over 160 electric vehicles per one installed charging station. This limits one’s likelihood of purchasing an electric vehicle when shopping for a car. If more buildings install chargers, then consumers will be more likely to purchase an electric vehicle. There are several benefits to building owners, including LEED certification points, attractive amenity for tenants and a higher revenue potential.                            There is a ton of energy-efficient and emissions-cutting technology that has the potential to create an eco-friendly city right here in NYC. From solar phone chargers to heat pumps, NYC residents can play an important role in this sustainability journey.   THANK YOU to Fujitsu Airstage for hosting us and doing your part to create a better future. Fujitsu Airstage is a learning center that displays the latest energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.   Be sure to check out our next forum, Sustainable Food Innovations, on February 19th and the Green Careers’ Resume workshop on February 11th!