Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Brooklyn Chamber and National Grid Celebrate Earth Day

Panel Discusses Energy Programs, Incentives

Appropriately on Earth Day, businessmen and women converged on National Grid’s Brooklyn headquarters for a panel entitled “Building Sustainable Businesses... Green Ways to Save.”

Presented as the inaugural event of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s Real Estate and Development (RED) Committee, National Grid sponsored the panel that was a discussion about making green changes to save money.

“It’s really inspiring to see businesses like National Grid lead the way to make sure that we are green and we are efficient and that at the end of the day we are preserving the planet for our children, our grandchildren and our great-great-great-grandchildren,” said Carl Hum, president of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce. “Whether you’re a small business, a retailer, a homeowner or a developer, there is something here for everybody.”

Moderated by Amanda Daly — the former director of education at the now-closed Center for the Urban Environment and a current adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College — the panel consisted of three presentations by energy experts in New York City.

Clararose Voigt, assistant project manager of energy programs at NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), spoke about energy-efficiency project incentives given out by the corporation.

“The general program structure of NYSERDA follows through the initial identification stage, where we go into your facility to evaluate and identify what energy-efficiency measure we can undertake there, what needs to be improved,” Voigt explained. NYSERDA “then follows through onto the installation phase, where we provide work incentives to actually implement those measures that we identify.”

Building Incentives
For commercial and industrial programs, the incentives can be given to both existing buildings and construction projects. The process is split for existing buildings, which get incentives for energy studies through the FlexTech/Technical Assistance Program (for medium/large customers) or the Audit Program (for small customers), then get incentives for installation through the Existing Facilities Program. For construction projects, the New Construction Program provides incentives from program identification through installation.

Voigt said the Existing Facilities Program is then split into two categories: pre-qualified incentives for spot retrofits and small projects, and performance-based incentives for large-scale projects. Projects can receive up to $30,000 with pre-qualified incentives, and for performance-based incentives, the amount is based on the energy savings or demand response. For information, visit

Julie Hughes, assistant vice president of energy efficiency at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), focused her presentation on steps the city government is taking to reduce the city’s energy consumption. This is part of a 10-year plan initiated by Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC program.

PlaNYC’s goal is to reduce emissions in New York City by 30 percent by the year 2030. This will be done by investing in clean power, establishing more efficient transportation, and, most importantly, making the city’s existing buildings more energy efficient.

“What we really need to address is the building stock that’s already here,” said Hughes. By 2030, she said, an estimated 85 percent of emissions will be generated from buildings we already have as opposed to new construction.

Hughes went on to explain that the capital needed to complete this plan is higher than the city’s available funds, so part of the strategy is to invest in projects that will save the most energy and have the quickest payback period.

Reaching Out to Broadway
The mayor has also reached out to universities, hospitals and Broadway — because of its use of so much electricity — to follow the City’s lead. Fifteen universities have already signed on, the EDC is currently in talks with hospitals, and Broadway has “taken the program and run with it,” Hughes said.

James Madsen, manager of energy efficiency at National Grid, spoke about the company’s gas and electric efficiency programs and incentives.

“In 2008 we had 53,000 participants in our gas programs that resulted in 12.2 million therms saved, equivalent to 71,000 tons of CO2 avoided. Our electric programs have even more participants: 372,000, with 420,000 megawatt hours of electricity saved, and 236,000 tons of CO2 avoided,” Madsen said. “Taken together, that’s about the equivalent of keeping 50,000 cars off the road for a year.”

Madsen urged everyone present to research high-efficiency products in case their older equipment needs to be replaced immediately. Most of the time, he said, repairpersons will offer replacements that only have standard efficiency.

Incentives from National Grid can be applied to many different products or improvements, ranging from standard heating equipment to kitchen equipment to solar water heaters. The energy company will also evaluate non-standard products for incentives. For more information, visit or

An example Madsen gave of a Brooklyn facility to take advantage of incentives was the Aviator Sports Complex in Floyd Bennett Field. For installing radiant heating, high-efficiency water heating and a high-efficiency boiler, among other things, the complex received $100,000 in incentives.

Joe Rende, National Grid vice president of energy services solutions, said, “By working together, with that power of action, we can make a big impact in tackling climate change, starting right here today on Earth Day.”

“Its no secret that I think Brooklyn is the center of the world. So when we celebrate Earth Day, I can’t help but think we’re celebrating ‘Brooklyn Day’ as well,” said Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Brooklyn is a green jewel for the rest of the country to emulate.”

Photo at top is, from left to right: Panel Moderator Amanda Daly, the former director of education at the now-closed Center for the Urban Environment and a current adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College; Presenter Julie Hughes, assistant vice president of energy efficiency at EDC; Presenter Clararose Voigt, assistant project manager of energy programs at NYSERDA; Joe Rende, National Grid vice president of energy services solutions; Rick Russo, VP of member services at the Chamber; Lori Raphael, director of real estate and development at the Chamber; and Presenter James Madsen, manager of energy efficiency at National Grid.

Back to homepage

New Building for Poly Prep's Lower School 'Blends Old and New'

Addition Earns LEED Silver Certification, Awarded by Landmarks
Poly Prep Country Day School just became something for not only Brooklyn to brag about, but also New York State.

Poly — which has its middle and upper schools on its campus in Bay Ridge — recently built an addition to its lower school in Park Slope, earning the school a LEED silver certification and making it the first LEED-certified school in New York City and the first LEED-certified primary school in New York State. The expansion was also given a Lucy G. Moses Preservation award by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

The lower school occupies the Hulbert Mansion at 50 Prospect Park West, which was built in 1882 as a double townhouse. Since the ’20s, the building was occupied by the Ethical Culture School, then the Woodward Park School. Poly Prep took over in 1995.

The new addition, completed in 2008, was undertaken to provide Poly’s Lower School with more classroom space and exercise rooms. It was designed by architects Platt Byard Dovell White.

Since Poly already had instilled green values in their students and a green curriculum throughout their schools, they decided to take on the addition to make it as eco-friendly as possible.

Green features of the expansion — built on a lot next to the original Hulbert Mansion — include a 31 percent reduction in water use, 308.4 tons of construction waste that were diverted from a landfill, and sealants, paints and carpet systems that are 100 percent low-VOC (volatile organic compound).

Each green feature gave Poly’s Lower School a certain number of LEED points. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a building rating system overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council, which gave the addition 34 LEED points, earning it a silver status.

It was also important for Poly to preserve the building’s historic features. “Historic preservation really is ecologically responsible,” said spokesperson Malcolm Farley.

The Landmarks Conservancy gave Poly Prep Lower school the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award because of this commitment to preserving the historic character of the original building, as well as the neighborhood surrounding it.

While the addition is contemporary, the materials and colors used in it complement the Hulbert Mansion and the Park Slope Historic District.

Poly Prep Headmaster David Harman accepted the award at a ceremony that took place Monday night in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

“We’re thrilled to be the only school, the only educational facility that’s being honored tonight,” Harman told the Eagle.

He emphasized Poly’s commitment and leadership in the area of environmental responsibility. Indeed, children in the school as young as 4 learn about and study the environment.

Launa Schweizer, head of the lower school, said the students love learning about the environment. Her own children attend the lower school, and she said, “They’re always telling me about turning the lights off and not wasting water.”

About the new building, Schweizer said, “We’re very proud of it — the ability of the architects to blend the old and the new is really wonderful.”

The Lower School’s receipt of this award continues a Poly tradition. Two alumni are previous winners, and a Poly parent was the architect of another project to receive an award on Monday.

Photo courtesy of Poly Prep Country Day School

Back to homepage

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day began in 1970. It was an idea proposed by then-senator in Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson, so people would think about the environment, what they were doing to harm it and what they should do to help it. It's celebrated every year on April 22.

So take a moment to appreciate the earth and do something green today!