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Green Building Imperatives: Retrofitting, Awareness, Performance

A number of real estate industry representatives participated in Real Estate Media’s The Greening of New York City Commercial Real Estate: Making a Profit While Making a Difference panel at the Harvard Club in Midtown on Wednesday morning. Fiona Cousins, Chair of USGBC’s New York chapter, delivered the event’s opening address, noting that “[i]n New York City, a major challenge is to learn now to implement green into existing buildings while they are occupied.” Given Gotham’s seemingly endless- and aging- stock of existing buildings, this observation rings particularly salient.

After Ms. Cousins’ opening remarks, Robert Friedman, President of GVA Williams, moderated a panel that included, among others, Steve Piguet, the director of sustainability at Tishman Speyer, Stephen Rizzo of CodeGreen, Steven Winter, and Laurie Kerr of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. While gbNYC was unable to attend the event, Globe St. reports the panel’s consensus that “[t]he benefits of developing and owning a green building are undeniable, and the need for environmental change in US production practices is no longer disputable.”

Other important observations included Ms. Kerr’s excellent point that while energy and lighting efficiency are important goals, unless owners are implementing measures to first benchmark and then subsequently meter and monitor their purportedly green building’s performance, the payback periods for such green measures might end up being longer than necessary. “Unless you know your energy intensity, you can’t gauge your success or payback,” Kerr noted. Such emphasis on building performance is particularly noteworthy when it’s coming directly from the Mayor’s Office.

Also, Mr. Friedman stated his belief that, despite the press green building has received thus far here in 2007, “what the green movement really means is heightened consciousness and more awareness, which should be an industry standard.” While much work remains to be done across a large number of disparate disciplines before that’s the case, it’s clear that green building continues to head in the right direction as we get ready to move into 2008.

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