Green is the stuff you DO in buildings

First Steps to Energy Efficiency in Flatbush at the Neighborhood Energy Forum on March 20

“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 last month, riffing on the perennial joke.

Brooklyn Apartment Building (photo by Keka Marzagão)

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

Well, maybe not forever, but the long-time advocate of 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.

Neighborhood Energy Forum (photos by Keka Marzagão)

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: “Green is the stuff you DO in buildings, not what you put on them”. 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.

For more details, download a report on the Multi-Family Session by Lois Sturm (Neighborhood Energy Network).

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.

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