Green is the stuff you DO in buildings

May 13, 2010

“How many members of Sustainable Flatbush does it take to change a light bulb?” asked State Senator Kevin Parker during his remarks at our Neighborhood Energy Forum in March, riffing on the perennial joke.

“None, because you already changed your incandescent  bulbs to CFLs and they last forever.”

Well, maybe not forever, but the long-time advocate for clean energy and the environment made his point.  At our Energy Forum on March 20 at the Brooklyn College Student Center, we learned that to meet our ambitious local, state, and federal energy efficiency goals, we’re going to have to do a lot more than change our light bulbs.

More than 70 people gathered to find out how to make major energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades on the large and small homes of Flatbush.  Our Executive Director Anne Pope fulfilled her promise to share what she learned on her quest to reduce her coop building’s energy use, save money for its residents, and reduce the carbon emissions that damage our health and contribute to global warming.

Multi-Family Buildings

Most of us have had to open a window in an overheated apartment in the middle of winter, and we recognize that, as Anne noted at our panel on multi-family buildings, we might as well be throwing money out the window.  Here in New York City, large multi-family buildings present one of our biggest challenges.  We can’t build new state-of-the-art buildings in our dense neighborhoods; we have to work with what we have.
Because of our density, New York City uses less energy per resident than other cities, but as panelist Andy Padian pointed out, the average NYC apartment uses 3 to 5 times the energy per square foot per heating degree day as a dwelling in Iowa.

Padian, Vice President for Energy Initiatives at the Community Preservation Corporation and this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, also provided the title of this post.  His presentation included a photo of the roofs of Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town housing complex–where 500 vents leak a lot of heat–to make the point that building managers need to know how to find and seal holes.  Padian made other recommendations, too, such as turning off or dimming common area lighting, cutting way back on water use (40% of the heat in our buildings is used for hot water), and fixing those leaks.  One leaky toilet can cost up to $12,000 per year!

Panelist Jonathan Flothow of The Steam Balancing Company advised a “balanced” approach to heating in our large residential buildings.  Before replacing a boiler, make sure the pipes and radiators are properly maintained, sized, and vented.  Simply replacing a boiler won’t save you much energy or money.  If you do replace a boiler, make sure it’s the right size.  Most boilers are wasteful because they’re too big.

Lucas Falk of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and National Grid’s Paolo Morisi touched on incentives offered by the State and utility.

1-4 Family Homes

It’s an ideal time for energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects on our 1-4 family homes, according to panelists Louis Rizzo of National Grid and  Ellen Honigstock, an architect, LEED-AP, and certified building auditor.  With a range of tax credits and government and utility incentive programs, you can get funding for new windows, energy efficient appliances, solar-electric installations, and much more.  Then you can start saving money on your energy bills and make back your investment in a few years.

Ellen’s presentation gives all the details, with numbers from sample projects, but your investment and payback may be different. Download the presentation here.

“Sustainability Starts with Us”

Those were words that Lucas Falk left us with on March 20, and it’s a mandate we take to heart.  It’s our goal at Sustainable Flatbush to increase the energy efficiency of our neighborhood.  Stay tuned for your in-depth guide to all the resources we gathered at the Neighborhood Energy Forum to assist you on your path to energy efficiency and affordability.

Thanks to Lois Sturm for her contribution to this post.


On the Path to Energy Efficiency and Affordability

March 1, 2010

Join us for the Neighborhood Energy Forum on March 20

Neighborhood Energy Forum logo

About a year ago, Sustainable Flatbush’s Executive Director Anne Pope and I sat at Sycamore Bar and Flower Shop on Cortelyou Road.

I had just become the Director of Energy Solutions at SF, and we were strategizing about the best ways to meet the urgent need for energy efficiency upgrades in our neighborhood, to bring down soaring energy costs and reduce our carbon emissions.  With new incentive programs from government and utilities, Anne and I realized the time was right to leverage funds that would bring major energy efficiency and renewable energy projects to Flatbush.

So we conceived the Neighborhood Energy Forum.  For the past year, SF’s Energy Solutions Initiative has been working diligently to bring the Neighborhood Energy Forum to fruition.  We’ve been fortunate to join forces with a fantastic group of sponsors and partners, the Flatbush Development Corporation, the Energy Smart Communities program of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), ConEd,  and National Grid.

Join us on March 20 at the Brooklyn College Student Center, from 9:30 to 2:00.
Admission is free!  Here’s what it’s about:

Multi-Family and 1-4 Family Tracks

We understand that large buildings face different challenges than smaller homes, so depending on the size of your residence, we have information tailored to your needs.  Representatives from NYSERDA, National Grid, and ConEd will highlight low- and middle-income incentive programs to help building owners, co-op boards, tenant groups and other stakeholders understand what needs to be done and how to take the first steps.
Energy  Contractors

Meet Contractors Who Can Do the Work at Our Energy Fair

Energy auditors, building engineers, renewable energy installers—basically anyone you need to talk to—will be on hand offering their services.  You will gain important knowledge about how to move forward by talking to the experts, and may even find someone to work with on your project.

A Perfect Storm for Renewables in NYC

With federal, state, and local tax credits and abatements, plus a solar-electric (photovoltaic, or PV) incentive rebate program, 2010 is the year for solar–not just PV but solar heat and hot water too.  So if you’re one of those people who have asked us, “How can I get solar for my home,” come to the Neighborhood Energy Forum and catch up with renewable energy vendors at the Energy Fair.

Check-in with Your Elected Officials

Members of the New York State Assembly and Senate as well as New York City Council will be on hand to let you know what they’re doing to support energy efficiency and renewables in our city.  See the Neighborhood Energy Forum page to get the story on who will be there.

To find out more, visit our Energy Forum page, or jump right to our registration form.  Send me an email if you have any questions.  See you there!

Relevant Links: