The Greenest Man in NYC

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Today, Bisnow NY launches a series of stories catching up with the heads of NYC commercial real estate associations. We start with Urban Green Council, the unsung advocacy hero that is the NYC chapter of the US Green Building Council.

UGC exec director Russell Unger wants to drive the conversation about sustainability, so the organization has taken a proactive bent since he took the helm seven years ago. If UGC can figure out sustainability in NYC, which spans suburban homes and high-rise offices, it can be useful elsewhere, he says. The attorney has worked for Mayor Bloomberg and for the city council. We snapped him and Arnold in his 20 Broad St office yesterday. Fun fact about the poster: he tells us it’s something he made with a friend when running the McGill student environmental group in the 1990s and ultimately ended up all over Cal EPA’s HQ when Schwarzenegger was governor.
CohnReznick (Field) MNY

The org’s three-legged stool is advocacy (achieve legislation that lifts the floor for efficiency of all buildings), education (figure out how to make the best buildings to raise the ceiling), and research. The non-profit has a staff of 17 (and we’re talking technical folks like engineers, architects, and planners) like Richard Leigh, Cecil Scheib, and Jamie Kleinberg (above) and 900 members, which UGC uses as experts, a pro bono army (not to be confused with a pro Bono army, which likes green things, if it’s a Joshua Tree). Half the recommendations it made in its Green Codes and Building Resiliency task forces have become law—from Local Law 84 (energy- and water-use benchmarking) to the requirement for multifamily buildings taller than five floors to have a drinking water faucet in a common area within eight years.

Russell’s favorite topic, though, is building envelopes. He gave us a sneak preview of a study to be released this summer showing that if ventilation, plug loads, and lighting continue their efficiency-improvement trajectories, building envelopes will be responsible for 40% of high-rise resi energy use by 2050. That’s up from 25% now. In commercial high-rises, the figure will rise from 15% to 25%. UGC’s photographic survey of 55 high-rise glass residential buildings also shows that two-thirds of the windows are shielded by blinds. So while glass buildings sell and lease super fast, residents aren’t enjoying the view but rather closing themselves off, either to gain some privacy or to get away from the sun.


Post-Sandy Building Codes Protect Property, Raise Reconstruction Costs

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Building code changes in the wake of Hurricane Sandy are raising rebuilding costs for homeowners and other property owners while still attempting to mitigate future damages.

In New York City, one- and two-family low-rise homes constructed before 1961 suffered the most damage from the storm, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The damage was similar to the same types of structures damaged in comparable flood and erosion conditions, FEMA said in its Hurricane Sandy Mitigation Assessment Team Report.

Houses in flood hazard areas of Long Island that are currently being rebuilt are now required to be elevated, and code officials are required to list these as three-story single-family homes, Lewis Dubuque, executive vice president of the New York State Builders Association, said.

Construction workers rebuild a home in Long Beach, N.Y., on Monday, April 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Eltman)

The code requires such homes to be furnished with fire sprinklers as well. These requirements add an additional $10,000 to $20,000 to the cost of a home, Dubuque said.

“Fortunately, New York state is allowing these homeowners to apply for state funds from the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery to offset the additional costs,” he said.

When homeowners rebuild, their home will also be subject to a more stringent code than when it was originally built, drastically impacting the cost of the home, Dubuque said.

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Code changes were approved earlier this year by the New York City Council.

Most of the changes are for new construction or major renovations, so they would be more easily incorporated than retroactive requirements to existing buildings, Jamie McShane, senior vice president of communications of The Real Estate Board of New York, said.

“There is a clear recognition that buildings need to be more resilient to flooding and the impacts of climate change going forward,” McShane said. “For large developments, many requirements may have been incorporated even without new regulations to reassure tenants or because of insurance requirements.”

A bulldozer tears down portions of a building along the New Jersey coastline that was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. (Photo/Dave Defilippis)

Some of the new requirements are actually more lenient regulations like the ability to install flood barriers into sidewalks, which would actually assist the owners of buildings in cost savings, McShane said.

There is one requirement for retroactive installation, which requires a potable water source for every 100 people in a residential building. It could cost anywhere from zero to a few thousand dollars, depending on the building.

The requirement takes effect immediately for new construction however, there is an eight-year grace period for existing buildings.

Projects receiving assistance under the New York Rising Housing Recovery program must also meet certain “green” standards.

“If this is a substantial rebuild, expect substantial additional costs,” Dubuque said.

Earlier in April, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a major overhaul to post-Sandy recovery programs.

Among the overhaul’s goals, one goal is having at least 500 homes under construction and 500 reimbursement checks issued by the end of the summer of 2014.


Middle School Goes Green With ClimateMaster Georthermal System

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Over the past decade, Pennsylvania’s Radnor Township School District (RTSD) took the lead in building schools that are both good for the environment and students. After one of its schools was forced to shut its doors due to mold contamination, the school district – and the Radnor Township community at-large – decided to make a priority of indoor air quality and environmental safety in its schools.

When the time came to build the new Radnor Elementary School in 2001, RTSD pursued including features that would ensure a better environment for its students. In addition to elements, such as solar PV panels and low-toxicity paints, the school district identified geothermal heating and cooling as a means of improving both indoor air quality and energy efficiency. The result was the Radnor Elementary School, which opened in 2001 as one of the first green public elementary schools in the State of Pennsylvania.

Leo Bernabei, director of operations at RTSD, said it was an obvious choice.

“Radnor demands the very best in learning environments for children,” Bernabei said. “That includes many of the attributes now found commonly in green buildings. Our designs were not intended to be green necessarily, but are so because of our interest in paying attention to every built detail.”

Radnor Middle School—a LEED Silver-certified green building, was unveiled in 2007 after approximately one year in development and 21 months of construction. The four-story building earned this designation from the U.S. Green Building Council on the strength of its many green features, including the use of recycled materials, a green roof, waterless toilets, a building orientation that makes use of natural light, motion-activated light sensors and innovative storm water management techniques such as groundwater recharge beds.

The 195,000 square foot building is also exceptionally energy efficient thanks to the incorporation of a geothermal heating and cooling system from ClimateMaster.

“Energy efficiency is a complex combination of things, but the geothermal was at the center of all of that,” said architect Darin Jellison, from Philadelphia-based firm Blackney Hayes Architects.

According to Jellison, geothermal and a highly insulated building were the main components to keeping energy consumption at a minimum.

Jellison said that when his firm started planning the design of the middle school, the school district staff emphasized its desire to build on its positive experience with geothermal heating and cooling at Radnor Elementary. Extrapolating on the original system by incorporating the latest in geothermal technology, Jellison and his firm designed a system, driven by geothermal heat pumps from ClimateMaster, which would provide maximum energy efficiency, comfort and indoor air quality.
John Marchiafava, project engineer from Concord Engineering, was enlisted to specify the equipment for the Radnor Middle School geothermal heating and cooling system that would eventually provide approximately 400 tons of cooling and 3,000 MBH of heating. The firm selected a total of 128 Tranquility® 20 Single-Stage Series (TS) horizontal and vertical packaged water-source heat pumps from ClimateMaster, which, at the time, had just been released on the market.

“At the time, the Tranquility TS from ClimateMaster was the most energy efficient product on the market,” Marchiafava said. “I had good experiences with ClimateMaster products in the past.”

In addition to providing credits for LEED certification, the ClimateMaster geothermal heat pump units incorporated user-friendly direct digital controls, which were attractive to the school’s maintenance staff. Two ClimateMaster Genesis Large Water-to-Water (GLW) units, cutting-edge technology that integrates snow melting, were also included in the design.

The system’s borehole field, consisting of 144 500-foot deep boreholes drilled under the school’s sports field, required unique engineering due to a storm drain that runs across the property. In addition to accommodating the storm drain, civil engineering firm Gilmore & Associates designed a storm water management system to eliminate flooding formerly common to the location.

Tom Hanna, vice president with Gilmore & Associates, worked with the entire project team to ensure the borehole drilling process ran smoothly.

“The process of drilling these holes generates a lot of mud, water and rock fragments, so part of our planning for the erosion and sediment control during construction was to minimize the mud and water running off the site unfiltered and getting into the storm drain system during a rainstorm or during the drilling,” Hanna said. “So we had to design containment areas and control measures to help prevent all of this from running off the site.” According to Hanna, this was a big job, but also an important one, since the middle school is a small site in the middle of town. In addition, much of the construction waste was recycled.

Construction began in January of 2006 after more than a year of finalizing the plans for the building. Work on the borehole field was conducted over the summer and fall of 2006. In early 2007, the engineers did the flushing, testing and balancing of the system. All of the construction was completed by September 2007, just in time for the school’s inaugural school year.

According to Marchiafava, system efficiency and sustainability were priority throughout the project.

“Making sure that the systems that we were designing for Radnor would provide the efficiency that they were expecting and anticipating was key,” Marchiafava said. “It also kept us on our toes to make sure the end product was functional and sustainable.”

According to RTSD’s Bernabei, the geothermal heat pump system from ClimateMaster has delivered on all expectations, and has made a marked difference in how the school functions.

“We have no more large industrial boilers or chillers or fuel tanks. No more messy supply lines or waiting for fuel trucks. No more worrying about reintroducing exhaust from the fuel system back into the building,” Bernabei said. He also denotes the school’s notably reduced energy bills. “The energy savings could be as high as 30 percent,” Bernabei said.

Bernabei also shares that the system has cut down on required maintenance when compared to the previous mechanical system.

“The vertically-mounted ClimateMaster heat pumps are installed in sound-isolated closets outside of the classrooms, so the only terminal gear that we have to deal with, aside from two large variable speed pumps, are the heat pumps,” Bernabei explained. “And when you buy a quality piece of equipment like ClimateMaster’s, even that maintenance is very little.” He further shared that even when they require maintenance, the heat pump units’ installation outside of the classrooms eliminates any disruption in the regular school day.

To optimize the learning environment, Blackney Hayes’ Jellison said that the architecture firm took special care to fully insulate the mechanical closet in which the heat pump units are located, which, in tandem with their already quiet operation, render them virtually silent. “We worked pretty hard on designing the closets that the heat pumps are in to reduce the acoustical impact of the unit on the classroom environment to basically zero,” said Jellison.

Bernabei noted that the success of Radnor Middle School as a green building project has also provided an authentic learning experience for students.

“Part of our educational aims include learning about environmental stewardship and energy efficiency,” Bernabei said. “All the building’s systems, from the vegetative roofing, to the underground storm water recharge system, to the renewable geothermal heating and cooling system, therefore become teaching tools.”

According to Bernabei, the building itself has actually now become a part of the school curriculum, providing authentic examples of concepts including energy capture and use, engineering, pressure and electricity.

Feeling strongly about the benefits of geothermal heating and cooling, Bernabei said that the Radnor Township School District has now integrated geothermal heating and cooling systems into four out of its five school buildings. In addition, in 2012, Radnor Middle School was named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education in recognition of is provision of a sustainable green environment for learning.

Denoting his personal pride in this achievement, Bernabei shared, “It was not only because of the building attributes, but because of the way we utilize the building to help teach children.”

According to local ClimateMaster representative Sass, Moore & Associates president Bill Moore, the Radnor Township School District exemplifies a growing trend in the education construction market.

“We have worked with the design teams and contractors on all of the geothermal school building projects that incorporate heat pumps from ClimateMaster, and have seen a consistent interest in this type of system,” Moore said.


High stakes oil

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Russia is the largest country in the world, and sits on some of the biggest oil and gas reserves left in the world. When the Soviet Union collapsed, their oil exports took a big hit. The door slightly opened up to foreign oil companies who were willing to brave the politics involved to partner with Russia. European and American oil companies have the technology and know-how to offer. However, navigating the oil business in Russia is no easy task.

In 2011, The New York Times reported, “In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian oil output plummeted from an all-time high of 11.4 million barrels a day in 1987 to a low of 6 million barrels a day in 1996. But with the start of the new century, a stunning rebound began. And in the past few years, output has returned to a level close to its Soviet-era peak.”

The jump in production was largely because of privately owned Russian oil companies filling the Soviet void.

What direction is Russian oil headed now? In 1999, an article, titled “Mineral Natural Resources,” was published in the St. Petersburg Mining Institute Journal. The article stated, “Oil and gas resources were key to economic recovery and to the ‘entry of Russia into the world economy’ and for making Russia ‘a great economic power.’”

The author of this article, three years after being unemployed from losing his job as a deputy mayor and having just lost his home to a fire, Vladimir Putin, was on a political fast track ending as Russia’s acting president, according to Daniel Yergin’s book “The Quest. Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World.”

With the election of Mr. Putin as president in 2000, the wind shifted back toward state control of strategic resources. Oil and natural gas were at the top of the list. The oil barons of Russia who saw great success in the rebound since the Soviet Union collapse had a couple options in the Putin led Russia: play by his rules or be ruined.

One of these massively successful, post-Soviet era Russian oil tycoons is a man named Mikhail Khodorkovsky, former CEO of Yukos Oil. Yukos was the largest privately held oil company in Russia and was acquiring its way to becoming the biggest in the world. In some circles, the Yukos leaders were known as kingmakers in the post-Soviet collapse. They had as much or more influence than any politician during that time. The fate of this oil giant changed on a February day in 2003.

Vladimir Putin summoned a handful of the Russian captains of industry to meeting, which was open to the public in early 2003. In 2012, a Vanity Fair article stated, “Khodorkovsky went to the meeting intent on standing up to Putin. He took a PowerPoint presentation highlighting facts that everyone present was certainly aware of but just as certainly tried to pretend they did not know. Slide six was titled “Corruption Costs the Russian Economy over $30 Billion a Year” and cited four different studies that had arrived at more or less the same figure.”

This confrontation with Putin proved to be the catalyst for Khodorkovsky losing roughly $14 billion of his fortune.

Yukos was accused of Russian tax fraud to the tune of $27 billion, months after the meeting with Putin. With 2003 came the arrest and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly one of the 20 wealthiest people in the world, and the richest in Russia. By 2007, Yukos was dissolved and absorbed mostly by Russian state oil companies, according to a 2010 BBC article. Khodorkovsky did not take the path of least resistance with Putin. Today, he has a tiny fraction of his previous personal wealth (Likely around $100 million) and was just released from a 10-year tax evasion term at various Russian prison camps.

What happened to the pieces of Yukos oil? Rosneft, an oil and gas company majority owned by the Russian government, picked up most of the scraps at auctions. Rosneft is now the largest extractor of oil and gas in Russia.

Russian oil business is far from a basic plot of good versus bad. Both Vladimir Putin and former Security Chief of Yukos Alexei Pichugin have been implicated in murder cases. Pichugin is in prison, Putin is obviously not. There are no saints in Russian oil. The most powerful oil man in Russia is essentially the king of the country, and Putin knows this very well.

The Yukos case was not the first of its kind. Forbes reported, “BP’s CEO Robert Dudley, back when he was CEO of Russian JV TNK-BP, was poisoned, burgled, and threatened with arrest amid disputes with the Kremlin. In 2006, Putin forced the venture to sell its controlling stake in the Kovykta gas field to Gazprom (Russian stage controlled gas company). Dudley eventually fled the country in 2008.”

Forbes also reported, “In 2006 an irate Putin cut Royal Dutch Shell’s stake in the Sakhalin-2 project in half and handed control to Gazprom after costs doubled to $22 billion.”

Other foreign oil giants have tested the Russian waters, but they are ensured to not ever have the upper hand in the Putin era.

The potential for Russian production is still so enormous that oil suitors look for a new way in. In 2011, The New York Times reported that ExxonMobil and Rosneft signed an agreement for a few joint ventures. ExxonMobil would help explore oil reserves in the Arctic with Rosneft. The biggest company in the U.S. would shoulder all the exploration costs and would receive 33 percent of the oil produced.

“Where BP had planned to swap stock, Exxon, which is based in Texas, agreed to give Rosneft assets elsewhere in the world, including some that Exxon owns in the deep water zones of the Gulf of Mexico and on land in Texas,” The New York Times article stated.

With the recent Russian aggressions against Ukraine, ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson’s decision to land swap with Putin and Rosneft seems less than ideal. Giving Rosneft the ability to practice already controversial methods of fracking in Texas and operate the same type of drilling rig that caused the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster isn’t something that seems in the best interest of U.S. citizens. However, this isn’t a new strategy for Exxon, as former CEO Lee Raymond wrote in his 2012 book, “I’m not a U.S. company, and I don’t make decisions based on what is good for the U.S.”

I don’t fault ExxonMobil for looking out for their shareholders. But, a little consideration for the country that has given them the opportunity to thrive across the globe would be appreciated.

According to the EIA, oil exports make up 50 percent of Russia’s federal budget revenues. They are currently the third largest oil exporter in the world. Russia and Putin’s relevance are tied directly to their oil and gas exports. If invading Ukraine strikes you as an injustice, the best way to take the dirty wind out of Putin’s sails is to boycott Russian oil.

Max Rohr is a graduate of the University of Utah. He is currently an outside salesperson at Shamrock Sales in Denver. He has worked in the hydronics and solar industry for 10 years in the installation, sales and marketing sectors. Rohr is a LEED Green Associate and BPI Building Analyst, and is RPA’s Education Committee Chairman. He can be reached at


Old houses, old systems

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One of the things I love most about this business is the history of the heating systems in the old homes we work in. I enjoy poking around in the basements of old homes trying to figure out century-old heating systems. I wonder what my counterpart was thinking when he designed and installed the heating systems in these old homes as I attempt to apply modern heating technology to these ancient hot water and steam systems.

There are plenty of old and historic homes and buildings in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where I work. We recently had the privilege of updating two heating systems in historic homes.

Turn of the century Victorian

The first system was a lovely, old Victorian located in Leesburg, Va. It was built in 1899, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I first met the owners of the home back in the early 90s. They were having problems with their heating system. Their existing cast iron oil boiler was cracked and leaking. I noticed another fairly new boiler block sitting in the corner of the basement. Whoever replaced the boiler did not bother to remove the old carcass. What was causing the sections to fail prematurely?

The original Gurney coal-fired boiler was still in place but valved off. The heating contractor riveted a steel plate to the boiler. It read, simply, “Hubbard Heating Co. Washington, D.C.” The owner wanted to leave this boiler in place for historical value. I surveyed the heating system trying to figure out why two boiler blocks would fail in short order. This was an old gravity hot water system with massive cast iron radiators and large 3-inch and 4-inch steel mains. There was an old riveted steel expansion tank in the attic with the overfill pipe stubbed through the roof.

I marveled at the 4-inch mains that someone cut and threaded by hand 100 plus years ago. The pipes were meticulously pitched for gravity flow and carefully secured with steel pipe hangers. When the house was built in 1899, electric lighting was in its infancy. The house had both electric wiring as well as gas lamps. The 3/8-inch gas lamp piping was still visible throughout the house, and several gas lamp fixtures were still mounted on the basement walls.

The new oil boiler was piped direct to the supply and return mains. It was readily apparent what caused the block failures. The original coal boiler gravity system heated slowly through natural convection, as there was no pump on the system. The new cold-start oil burner would fire on a call for heat and kick on the circulator pump. Huge quantities of cold water would flow back to the boiler causing the cast iron to crack from thermal shock. In addition, the sections were severely sooted up due to prolonged firing at low block temperatures.

I replaced the boiler with a Burnham V-7 oil boiler and piped in a thermal bypass to temper the cold return water. I also used a low head, high flow three-piece B&G Series 100 pump to mimic the gravity flow. This system lasted almost 20 years, until the client decided to upgrade the system and convert from oil to gas. It was still fully functional and operational when we took it out of service.

The replacement system consisted of a Triangle Tube Prestige condensing natural gas boiler. We also replaced an electric water heater with a Smart 80 stainless steel indirect fired DHW tank. Because of the low head loss of the system, I piped the supply and return directly into the boiler without a low loss header or primary/secondary piping we would typically use with this type of boiler.

In this case, the goal was to maximize the combustion efficiency of the boiler by returning the lowest temperature return water back to the boiler. Flow is not an issue, due to the low pressure drop of the large mains and radiators. This is a perfect application for condensing boiler technology. These boilers operate most efficiently at low temperatures. This system operates on a reset curve with a maximum temperature of 160°F at design conditions.

This past winter was the second winter the new system has been in service. The owner reported improved comfort with significant fuel savings over the oil boiler system it replaced, in spite of the record cold winter this past season.

Civil War-era home

The second project was in an Italianate farmhouse built in 1860. The house is located in Thurmont, Md., about an hour north of the city, and is still in the same family as the original owner. The house was originally heated with fireplaces and had no central heat.

The current owner’s grandfather was a steamfitter and installed two steam systems in the 1940s. He installed two Kewanee steel oil-fired boilers connected to one-pipe steam systems. The system featured a combination of column-style cast iron radiators and convectors that he fabricated/welded in his shop.

We did this job in two stages. We replaced the first boiler about 10 years ago using a Burnham V-8 cast iron oil boiler. We replaced the second boiler more recently employing a Burnham Mega Steam cast iron oil boiler.

The owner had both chimneys lined with stainless steel liners. We replaced all of the main vents, radiator vents, and a few of the valves that were broken. We ordered an optional header piping kit with the MegaSteam, which streamlined the piping process and minimized the amount of cutting and threading of black steel pipe. We ordered the boiler with an optional tankless coil to feed an aqua-booster tank in the winter. In the summer, the client closes a valve and uses the electric element in the tank for DHW.
It is always a challenge matching current heating technology to these old systems. In this case, both jobs went smoothly. The hardest part was removing the heavy steel Kewanee boilers from the basement.

I cringe when I see these old systems ripped out and replaced with gas forced air or heat pumps. It is like ripping the heart out of these beautiful old structures. While sometimes difficult and challenging, I would much prefer to restore the heating systems to their former glory, the way the original heating engineers intended them to be.

NYC tests post-disaster housing in Downtown Brooklyn

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New York City is testing an experimental post-disaster housing prototype in Downtown Brooklyn.

If the test is successful, the modular housing could be installed in parking lots, on dead end streets, or on other paved land in neighborhoods hit by a disaster. The idea is to keep residents living as close to home as possible while they recover.

On Saturday, a crew stacked five steel units on top of each other, Lego style, in an empty lot on Cadman Plaza East. By mid-afternoon, the four-bedroom, three story “townhouse” was fully assembled.

The NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has been working on the project for six years, along with the city’s Department of Design and Construction (DDC), FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The prototype includes a living area, bedrooms, bathroom, fully-equipped kitchen and storage areas, but the configuration is flexible, said project architect Jim Garrison, a professor at Pratt and principal of Garrison Architects.

The next step, Garrison said, is to connect the prototype to city utilities and then test it out with human guinea pigs.

“The idea is, try it out, solve all the problems, and then you’re ready to build quickly when the time comes,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Modular units were stacked by crane. Photos by Mary FrostModular units were stacked by crane. Photos by Mary Frost

After a disaster, the modules could be trucked in to create four-story clusters with private yards and public spaces, à la Brownstone Brooklyn.

“When these are built and in place, they’re nearly identical to a brownstone neighborhood,” Garrison said. “They’re taken from a model which I consider to be one of the most successful urban models that we’ve ever in our society created, which are these four story Brooklyn walkup communities.”

The 12’ by 40’ units are a far cry from poorly insulated FEMA trailers, and can fit more people onto the available land. They are cool in the summer and warm in the winter, Garrison said. The balconies keep the sun from shining directly into the interior, and the insulation keeps the heat and AC from escaping.

“You can heat one of these with a 1,500 watt hair dryer,” he said. “If we put photovoltaic arrays on the roofs, and if a person living inside is careful, we can basically take care of all their energy needs.”

The units are also superior to shipping containers, popular at the moment as alternative living and working spaces. “Shipping containers are not really appropriate for housing,” he said. “They don’t insulate, they use too much steel, they’re too small.”

Keeping neighborhoods intact

Spearheaded by Cynthia Barton, Housing Recovery Program Manager at OEM, the post-disaster housing project has been in the works since 2008, when Barton brainstormed the “What If New York City…” design competition.

“This project is about keeping people close to home and keeping New York’s neighborhoods intact,” Barton told the Eagle.

OEM Assistant Commissioner Jim McConnell said this type of housing would speed recovery. “By keeping people in their neighborhood, they can be involved in the rebuilding of their neighborhood and they can stay tied into their support networks — their families, their churches.”

Jim McConnell, OEM; Cynthia Barton, OEM; Nick Peluso, DDC; Jim Garrison, Garrison Architects; Franklin Cox, AMSS, and crew. Photo by Mary FrostJim McConnell, OEM; Cynthia Barton, OEM; Nick Peluso, DDC; Jim Garrison, Garrison Architects; Franklin Cox, AMSS, and crew. Photo by Mary Frost

The prototype will be on site for a year or so. “We want to know not only the design and logistics of getting it here, but we want to know what it’s like to live in it,” Barton said. “So we’re partnering with NYU-Poly to do an occupancy study. We’re also looking at what are the best ways to rebuild a neighborhood. We have an urban planning project that we started with City Planning, and we’re continuing it with Pratt’s resiliency program.”

Debra Gans, of Gans Studio, has been working on finding locations to site the units. While the housing will be installed after a disaster has subsided, flooding is still a consideration. “We did a case study about where in Red Hook they might go. Red Hook does have a couple of sites on empty high ground, but we also looked at alternative strategies. For example: IKEA did not flood, because it’s raised up. It’s not just a matter of finding a site that’s at high elevation, it’s also a matter of how you go about building on the sites you have.”

The hardest thing about installing the housing is the foundation, said Nick Peluso, Director of Constructibility at the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC). “There are a variety of sites and soil conditions that have to be studied,” he said.

The units were built by American Manufactured Structures and Systems (AMSS) in Virginia and Mark Line Industries of Pennsylvania, and trucked to Brooklyn.


Green Plumbing

For all of your NYC plumbing needs, contact Franco Belli Plumbing & Heating & Sons – the best Brooklyn plumber there is. Call us at (917) 410-4233 or contact us using the form to the right.

When it comes to going green, few aspects of your home have more potential than your plumbing. Greening your plumbing can reduce home energy costs, improve your home from a health perspective, and it’s easier on the environment. If those improvements sound like something you’d be interested in, then read on to find out what you can do to turn your plumbing a darker shade of green.

Going Green with David Johnston
HomeAdvisor understands that it can be tough for homeowners to wade through all the “green” remodeling information out there, which is why we’ve teamed up with green remodeling expert David Johnston to provide you with the best, most accurate, green remodeling advice in the business. Johnston is the founder of the green consulting firm What’s Working, Inc., the author of multiple books on green remodeling (including the Nautilus Award winner Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time), and he happens to know a thing or two about what you can do to green your plumbing. That said, here’s a guide to greening the plumbing in your home, drawn from the experience, wisdom, and writings of Johnston himself.

The Cost of Going Green with Home Plumbing Systems
We’ll get to specifics in a minute, but for starters let’s address what’s on most homeowners’ minds when the subject of green remodeling comes up: cost. With home plumbing, the truth of the matter is that you’re unlikely to spend much more by going green than if you go a more conventional route. And even if you do run into higher initial costs, when you figure in that going green will help reduce energy costs and water usage, your investment is almost guaranteed to end up paying for itself over time.

The True Value of Going Green with Plumbing
Of course, putting a dent in your monthly utility bills is only the tip of the iceberg. Johnston is quick to point out that the real value of going green is far higher than any calculations involving dollars and cents can reflect. For example, green plumbing provides cleaner water, making for a healthier home, and it conserves valuable water resources. When you look at it from that perspective, it’s safe to say that going green is as much about passing a better world onto your children and grandchildren as it is about you saving a buck or two, and that’s a tough thing to put a price tag on.

Green Plumbing to Reduce Home Energy Use
So, just what can you do to start saving money, and the environment, when it comes to the plumbing in your home? Here’s a list of ideas to get your gears turning, starting with Johnston’s suggestions for how to save some green by going green in the plumbing department.

Insulate Pipes—Uninsulated pipes, especially in exterior walls, are responsible for a significant amount of heat loss as water travels from your hot water heater to the faucet. Insulating your pipes helps to eliminate this problem, and can cut standby energy loss at your hot water heater as well, saving you even more on your utility bills.

Remove Plumbing from Exterior Walls—If you can, avoid running your home’s plumbing through outside walls. By running pipes through conditioned spaces instead, you’ll reduce unnecessary heat loss caused by close proximity to cold outdoor temperatures.

Install an On-Demand Hot Water Circulation Pump—These pumps send hot water to your fixtures in a matter of seconds, saving you money on two fronts. For starters, you won’t lose heat as hot water unnecessarily sits unused in the pipes, and since you won’t have to run water at the faucet while you wait for hot water to arrive, you’ll reduce your water usage, as well.

Install a New Hot Water Heater—Hot water heating can account for as much as 15 percent of your total home energy use. Replacing an older unit with a new, high-efficiency one can have a big impact when it comes to reducing your home heating costs.

Green Plumbing for a Healthier Home
Green remodeling places just as much emphasis on creating healthier homes as it does on improving energy efficiency— and home plumbing is no exception. Here’s a list of suggestions from Johnston of things you can do to make sure the water in your home is as clean and healthy as possible.

Investigate Your Water Supply—For starters, get a copy of your municipal water quality report, or have your water independently tested to identify if there are any problems you need to focus on. Since different water filtration and purification systems target different water quality issues, it’s vital that you know what you’re dealing with before you move forward.

Install Chlorine Filters on Showerheads—Seeing as how chlorine is absorbed six times faster through the skin than through the digestive system, it’s not surprising to hear chlorine sensitivity is a serious problem for many people. Special chlorine filters installed in your showerhead can reduce chlorine levels significantly.

Install a Whole House Water Filtration System—Whole house filtration systems can eliminate the presence of chemicals, particulates, and micro organisms in your water. That makes for healthier water for you and yours, and helps to extend the life of hot water heaters and plumbing fixtures in areas that have high sediment levels in the water supply.

Install Activated Carbon Filters or Reverse Osmosis Systems—If you’re particularly concerned with poor water quality and drinking water, consider introducing one of these water purification strategies into your home. Activated carbon filters are installed on faucets and shower heads to absorb pollutants, while reverse osmosis filtration systems are generally installed at individual sinks to provide purified water for drinking, cooking, or brushing teeth.

Green Plumbing for a Better Environment
Finally, there’s the environment to consider. Good environmental stewardship is at the heart of any green remodeling project, and since green plumbing places an emphasis on water conservation, it certainly qualifies in that regard. Here are some suggestions from Johnston on how to achieve positive environmental impacts by going green with your plumbing.

Install Low-Flow Showers and Faucets—Low-flow showers and faucets can reduce home water usage by as much as 60 percent! And since you’ll be using less hot water in the process, these easy green upgrades are good for the environment and your pocketbook at the same time.

Install Low-Flush Toilets—Flushing your toilet accounts for the single biggest water draw in your home, to the tune of about 28 gallons of water per person, per day. A typical low-flush toilet uses anywhere from two to five times less water per flush, depending on the toilet you presently have installed.

Install a Home Leak Monitoring Device—Leaking pipes, faucets, and toilets can account for literally thousands of gallons of wasted water every month. A home leak monitoring device will alert you when it senses a problem, so you can find and fix the problem as soon as possible.

Install Faucet Flow Reducers—These easy-to-install flow reducers fit on the end of your faucets (where the aerator screws on), and can reduce faucet flow by as much as 40 percent.

Install Energy-Efficient Appliances—Energy-efficient dishwashers and clothes washers can reduce water consumption at these appliances by as much as 50 percent.

Which Shade of Green is Right for You?
While thinking green when it comes to the plumbing in your home is a smart choice for your pocketbook, your home, and the environment, it’s not unusual for homeowners to feel a little overwhelmed when presented with the full scope of green remodeling options. If you’re feeling unsure about how green you’re willing to go with plumbing, there’s no need to worry. Going green is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and any step you take in a green direction is a smart one, whether you opt for easy-to-install flow reducers on your kitchen and bathroom faucets, or go all out with a new hot water heater, whole house water filtration system, and low-flush toilet.

If you do think green is the right choice for your upcoming plumbing project, talk with your contractor about adopting a green remodeling philosophy, find a contractor who specializes in green building and remodeling, or seek out the services of a green consulting firm so you can be sure that your new plumbing is as green as it comes.