By Ansh Sandhu
Conventional power plants produce energy by burning fossil fuel to run turbines that produce electricity, which is then distributed via an extensive transmission system into our homes and businesses. Such systems are expensive to lay out, so utilities worldwide prefer to set these up in urban areas where the population density is higher.
For cities already struggling to reduce emissions from buildings and transportation, conventional power systems have exacerbated the problem. In more remote areas, the fossil fuel model has led to a power disparity, particularly in disadvantaged communities (DACs).
Most people wonder how much energy it takes to heat up water. However, people rarely consider how much water it takes to produce energy or to produce our food and other manufactured goods. These are questions this forum will attempt to answer in order to help participants understand their true water and energy usage. Join us!
Date: Wednesday, June 19, 2019
Time: 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM
Place: TOTO Showroom, 20 West 22nd Street, 1st floor, New York, NY 10010
High-rise Passive House buildings were the subject of GreenHomeNYC’s monthly forum in October. The three presentations provided attendees with an overview of what implementing Passive House standards looks like in real life.
Gahl Sorkin Spanier of the Association for Energy Affordability (AEA) kicked off the evening with a presentation on how best to go about building a high-rise Passive House (PH) project. Kevin Brennan, formerly of AEA and now co-owner of Brennan Brennan Insulation and Air tightness, joined Gahl in sharing learnings from Passive House projects and training. AEA recently worked on an 86-unit PH affordable residence for seniors in Queens, in partnership with the non-profit organization HANAC.
Gahl emphasized the importance of holding training for the various trades building a PH project, noting that the main sources of air leakage are often at details where trade responsibilities are unclear. It is key, therefore, that training not only instill understanding of PH requirements, but also recognition of the importance of collaboration and coordinating across trades. Another takeaway from AEA’s experience is that training should not include more theory or math than necessary. Gahl noted that any general contractor personnel in a supervisory role should not only receive training, but also be empowered to teach others.
by Miaoru Guan
The Sustainable Policy 201 Forum featured four speakers working towards sustainable, affordable housing through diverse but connected roles. Michelle Andry works at New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), where she focuses on energy efficiency, clean energy, and energy affordability initiatives impacting low-income housing. Francesca Camillo, Project Manager at NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), assists building owners in procuring funding for rehabilitation. Elizabeth Kelly, Manager of Sustainability Programs at The Community Preservation Corporation (CPC), leverages private capital to support sustainable multi-family housing and community revitalization projects. Andrea Mancino is Director of New Construction at Bright Power, and manages team members working on ground-up new construction and commissioning projects.
The panelists discussed how effective policy can encourage wider adoption of sustainable practices in housing by facilitating financing from government sources. For example, to qualify for government funding, new construction and rehabilitation buildings must receive building certification, such as Enterprise Green Communities or LEED certification. Mancino mentioned that achieving certification as an Enterprise Green Community requires buildings to outperform standard building code by 15%. Kelly discussed how these standards help the CPC and private lenders ensure projects have fulfilled a sustainability checklist, reducing the time projects spend in due diligence. Andry added that certified buildings are eligible for NYSERDA grants as well as HPD funding.
by Yiran Song
Air conditioning is increasingly considered to be a required amenity in both residential and commercial settings. But concerns about global warming and greenhouse gas emissions gives us no time to waste in achieving more energy efficient AC systems. In the February GreenHomeNYC Forum “How to be Cool and Efficient”, three industry experts provided a detailed description of the mechanics of AC systems and the industry as a whole.
Systems and Relative Energy Efficiency
Brendan Casey, of Fujitsu General America, believes that the Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV) or so-called Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) system is the future of AC systems. Even though VRF can be carried as cooling only, building owners and management companies in places like New York City should consider either heat pump or heat recovery systems which provide both cooling and heating. The heat recovery system carries higher installation cost, but it can provide both heating and cooling at the same time to different zones based on demand with only one control.
by Jenny Nicolas
At the annual GreenHomeNYC Green Catwalk, seven speakers presented the latest information on everything from ventilation to greening the moving industry to O&M to-do lists within the sustainability space.
Part 1: Eat, Breathe, Move, & Check Sustainably
Changing Our Relationship with Food
Ricky Stephens, co-founder of AgTech X, set the stage by presenting some of the biggest flaws within our country’s current food system. He indicated that 80% of the food grown today is not meant for human consumption, with 40% grown to support animals and 40% to be processed into biofuels. Additionally, though the plant kingdom is diverse, 84% of total US cropland is dedicated to just three crops: corn, soybean, and wheat. The long term prospects for the system are also in jeopardy as farming is not attracting new folks to the industry – the average age of a U.S. farmer is 58.
Farm One and Smallhold are two indoor farms housed in restaurants.
What can be done to fix our current system? The goal of AgTech X is to create a new food economy, using urban farming as a vehicle to educate, decentralize, and make farming exciting again. AgTech X fosters a collective community by hosting classes, workshops and tours. Its co-lab workspace supports decentralized urban farming methods like Farm One and Smallhold, indoor farms housed in restaurants that produce farm-to-table microgreens. And a recent “Intro to Aquaponics” class by Oko Farms explained the closed-loop system of raising fish, creating fertilizer for plant growth and filtering the water. While urban farming is not a new concept, innovations in the past five years are making it a more intriguing career option for young professionals!
Residents of the New York City “concrete jungle” are no strangers to construction and development. And while development is booming in New York City, there has never been a project quite like Hudson Yards, the largest private development in the history of the United States. Hudson Yards is located in Midtown West and will consist of 18 million square feet of office, residential and retail space, three parks, and 14 acres of gardens and plazas. It will be populated by 40,000 workers and residents, and up to 65,000 visitors per day. The vast scale of the project, coupled with building a platform to span active train tracks, posed new levels of complexity for Related Companies, the real estate firm responsible for the project.
The GreenHomeNYC Forum, “Spotlight on Hudson Yards”, was co-hosted with AEE-NY and ASHRAE New York at the New York Institute of Technology, and drew a crowd in excess of 80 attendees. Three senior executives from Related Companies took the stage to discuss Hudson Yards’ operational sustainability initiatives, energy performance tracking, and building commissioning and asset management.
by Claire Brown
During GreenHomeNYC’s October Forum, eight women of green led us on a tour of their green building career paths. Through the Pecha Kucha style of presentation, the speakers used timed-slides to guide us through their search for their dream careers in engineering, sustainable design, new construction, and more. In addition to sharing their stories, the speakers offered advice to those seeking green careers. The forum was co-hosted by GreenHomeNYC and the Center on Global Energy Policy’s Women in Energy program at Columbia University.
Lucie Dupas, Entersolar
Dupas had engineering built into her genetic blueprint, with both of her parents working as IT engineers. She finished her formal education in engineering by completing a Master’s program in France, and was proud that the program was comprised of roughly 42% women. Surrounded by so many women in her field, she felt that being a female engineer was “the normal thing to do.” In search of her dream internship, Dupas moved to New York City and joined a renewable energy consulting startup at the NYU Poly Acre Incubator where she built her first photovoltaic system. The internship ultimately led to a full-time job at Sollega, a solar equipment manufacturer where she did “all the things that you think an engineer does”. According to Dupas, “I did a 3-D design of a racking part and tested it in a laboratory and I trained some 200 pound electricians.” Next she worked at Bright Power, where she helped bring solar power to affordable housing and managed the installation of several solar thermal and photovoltaic systems. She is now the Engineering Director at the nationwide solar installer Entersolar where she works on commercial projects with a specific focus on solar PV technology. Lucie is an avid proponent of training programs. “You know how you think you know something, but then you go through a certification program and you realize there’s so much that you don’t really know. And having the certification on your resume is so useful to show yourself as an expert in the industry.”
As business evolves and the solar industry changes, local business owners in New York City face their own set of challenges. In a recent GreenHomeNYC forum, five speakers from different facets of the solar industry explained how they are adapting to changing technology and the needs of city residents.
Gaelen McKee, a former Sunrun employee, noticed an under-served market for solar energy in Brooklyn but was frustrated that potential clients were often disqualified due to the structure of their roof. Obstructions and lack of pitch angles on flat roofs prevented many installations from moving forward. So he collaborated with a few other industry professionals and founded Brooklyn SolarWorks.
Brooklyn SolarWorks does what no other company wanted to do. Working almost exclusively with multistory residential buildings, the company developed a canopy system that elevates the panels above the roof structure to avoid wasted space from chimneys, vents, and raised portions of the roof. But engineering the canopy wasn’t the only obstacle. In order to get supplies to the roof, the company needed to invent a scaffolding system and provide a means of maintaining accessibility for the fire department. Even after these notable achievements, there have still been other hurdles they need to overcome. As solar energy technology advances in the form of high capacity batteries for energy storage, particularly Lithium Ion based batteries, fire departments have voiced concerns about the safety of these products, presenting an implementation challenge across the solar industry.
by Thomas Storck
This year’s Patty Noonan Memorial Forum on Policy addressed concerns over proposed policy changes made by the current White House administration to undermine ongoing sustainability initiatives. Drawing inspiration from the legacy of founding GreenHomeNYC member Patty Noonan, Andy Padian, President, PadianNYC Consulting, joined Marcia Bystryn, President, NY League of Conservation Voters, and Charles Komanoff, Director, Carbon Tax Center/Komanoff Energy Associates, to share past experiences and to offer insight into how to be an affective environmental advocate.
THIS IS WHAT AN ADVOCATE LOOKS LIKE
It was 14 years ago that a group of 30 affordable homes in the South Bronx became the first of their kind in New York State to be built to Energy Star standards. Compared to typical affordable housing in the area, the project cost $1.36 more per ft2 and used one-fifth the energy. Today, all affordable housing is built to similar standards, but we didn’t get there without a fight. “This was thought of as completely berserk,” said Andy Padian. “[The developer] wouldn’t have done it without Patty kicking really hard.”
To provide some historical context, Padian recalled the mood among his colleagues at Mayor Ed Koch’s Energy Office when President Reagan was elected. “We were horrifically depressed.” Yet despite the President zeroing out both weatherization funding and the Home Energy Assistance Program in every budget, he encountered push back from a variety of groups who worked together to voice their opposition. As a result, funding for these programs actually increased under Reagan. When NY Representative Bill Green opposed federal solar and conservation tax credits because his low-income constituents failed to take advantage, Padian called Green’s Legislative Assistant on Housing and Energy and explained how these credits could be useful. Much to Reagan’s disappointment, Green was persuaded to change his vote. “This is what advocacy is about,” Padian said.