The Green Spotlight on BE-NYC: Warren Liebold

September 16, 2013

Countdown to BE-NYC! With only 29-Liebold days until the conference, GreenHomeNYC is shining the spotlight on the experts who will be making the BE-NYC an exceptional industry event!   One of the professionals participating in the conference is Warren Liebold.   LieboldWWarren Liebold is Director of Metering and Conservation in the Bureau of Customer Service at the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  In his 21 years at DEP, he has worked on a variety of conservation and efficiency initiatives, including the world’s largest toilet rebate program in the 1990s, and the more recent Automated Meter Reading project.  Prior to joining DEP, Warren worked in energy efficiency for existing buildings.  He served on the Mayor’s Sustainability Task Force and Green Codes Task Forces (1995-2010) and was a member of NYC DEP’s Drought Variance Board in 2003.   Warren is a speaker in the “Water, Water Everywhere” workshop, in the Multi-Family Track.   How did you become focused on this particular area of sustainability? Personally, I had a life as an energy/environmental activist for years before I came to DEP and from 1980 through 1992 I worked for an engineering firm where my job centered on energy-efficiency projects for existing buildings.  This ranged from tracing the underground steam lines at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center to performing complex building simulations using DOE-2.  I also acted as a technical advisor to a few NGO’s in PSC and State Energy Master Plan proceedings.  When I came to DEP I switched to water, which really isn’t that much different than energy.   What can a conference member expect to learn by attending your track? While part of the reason to offer this track is the policy driver of the Multifamily Conservation Program (MCP) and its deadlines, much of our time will be spent on the practical steps owners need to consider to better understand and manage water use.  We’ll be offering a new voucher-based program for toilet replacements to buildings that need to replace their toilets to qualify for the MCP. We also have several suggestions for monitoring water use and choosing replacement fixtures and fittings.  This is a field that’s been changing pretty rapidly in recent years.  Some meters are now available with built-in data logging and the capability of interfacing with building energy monitoring systems.  There are a large variety of high-performing and low-use fixtures available and some methods of limiting the losses from toilet leaks.   Have you presented at industry conferences before? If so, which ones? Please reflect upon your experiences as a speaker. I have spoken at many conferences in the past, including the Multifamily Buildings conferences,  in 2003 and 2006, HPD’s Healthy Homes conference in 2006, a mid-winter water conservation mini-conference by the American Water Works Association, an invited paper at the Waterwise (UK) annual conference in 2008 and a presentation for GreenHomeNYC, “The Smarter Water-Efficient Home.”   As a speaker, I’m trying to transfer information based on two goals: Information we think people need to know concerning our rules and information building professionals tell me they need to know.   I speak to owners and managers every week and they are usually pretty clear about what they see as the problems they need to solve.   How is your track important to the sustainability field at large? Water is the new energy.   Why should conference members attend your track? Some apartment building owners and managers have buildings that have provisionally been placed on the per-apartment Multifamily Conservation Program rate. They have goals to reach and decisions to make about that rate in the next couple of years.  On July 1, 2012, apartment buildings with four or more units that were on “frontage” billing were provisionally moved onto the MCP rate as part of the phase-out of frontage billing.  “Frontage” is a flat-rate billing system based on a large number of separate charges related to the size of the building, the number of apartments, the number and type of fixtures and occasionally some more uncommon water-using characteristics. The MCP is a much simpler per-apartment flat-rate system, but it is somewhat more expensive than frontage and has a series of conservation requirements if the building is going to remain on the rate for the long term.  We also strongly encourage owners and managers to understand how much water they use and decide whether MCP is really their best option compared to metered billing.  The MCP was really designed for the 5%-10% of high-population density buildings that will have high consumption even if they have efficient fixtures (more than 250 gallons per apartment per day, for example), but owners will make their own decisions.   The idea of metered billing of course is to have people pay attention to their water use.  The MCP does that indirectly.   MCP applications and FAQ can be found HERE!    Other owners have buildings that are on metered billing.  In either case, owners, their managers and consultants need to make sure that their water efficiency toolbox is up-to-date.   What achievements are you proudest of at DEP?  It’s not particularly what I’ve done personally, since everything involves many people playing different roles.  But what I’ve been able to witness is that you actually can get very constructive work done in government.  When I arrived at DEP in 1992 the conventional wisdom was that we were going to have to expand all of our wastewater treatment plants, build a new pump station on the Hudson River and several filtration plans for the water supply.  CSOs (Combined Sewer Overflows) were hardly on anyone’s radar.  Within a few years we’d reduced water use in the city by 20%, and later even more, as we carried out some of the most ambitious water efficiency efforts anywhere. The Hudson River pumping station became a project only envisioned for possible extreme emergencies, and the plant expansions became unnecessary. Only the very oldest portion of the water supply was slated for filtration as the city invested in pollution prevention around our reservoirs instead of filtration.  This saved ratepayers funds, improved the environment and enhanced the relationship between the city and the communities in the watershed.  Today we’re looking to community-based green infrastructure to provide much of the answer to CSO prevention.  Debates continue, for certain, but these are profound positive changes.  We live in a densely populated modern city and we often forget about the basic services and challenges of infrastructure.     What are you most excited to see (to learn) at BENYC? This is a truly unique opportunity to meet and listen to people confronting problems every day in the real world.     Interested in learning more from Warren Liebold?  Look for him at the Multi-Family Track at BE-NYC.    

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Interview conducted by Sarah Hovde.

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