New York State’s Albany region is an inspiring hotbed of green real estate initiatives. At the center of all of it is the AIA’s Eastern New York Committee on the Environment (“COTE”). COTE’s mission statement reads like a manifesto, stating that the organization “intend[s] to invigorate the community in the Capital Region into learning about and being more sustainable in all that we do. Our goal as a committee is to educate and inspire the community.”
Well, I can tell you first hand that COTE is not just talk and that they are invigorating and inspiring! Indeed, my first foray into the Capitol Region’s green scene was to attend a COTE-organized Green Material Expo that took place in Troy this past fall. This informative exhibit, which provided info about environmentally-sensitive building products for the general public, was organized by Jodi Smits Anderson and Mark Coudert, both of whom are architects and members of COTE.
I attended the Green Material Expo with my friend Kristin Rodecker from New York House Magazine, which had a booth there. We met people that sold everything from solar heating systems and soy-based blown insulation to green roofs and water-saving low flush toilets. The Expo was a great mix. In one day you could find out not just how to build and renovate green but also who could do it for you or where to buy materials and do it yourself. The Albany-based New York State Energy Research Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) had a presence and helped support the event.
While at the Green Material Expo I met a great green gal named Dragana Vlatkovic who is an engineer and designer based in Niskayuna who specializes in designing homes made with pre-fabricated insulating concrete forms (“ICFs”) and structural insulated panels (“SIPs”). These homes can be built on site extremely quickly and are not only beautiful but also practical and affordable. Designed with an eye for incorporating geothermal and solar power systems, Dragana’s structures are super energy efficient and sustainable. “It is still surprising to me how little the public knows what is available as an alternative to a traditional stick built system,” Vlatkovic said. “I am an advocate of advanced building methods because they are not just better in quality, but they are green in approach and produce cost saving results.” You can check out her work here (and also note the image at the top of this post of a home near Albany designed by Vlatkovic. This particular photo was taken on day four of construction).
In January I was lucky enough to be invited to speak on a panel at a great conference and exhibit called “Healthy Environments, Healthy Economy.” The conference was also spearheaded by Jodi Smits Anderson and COTE. It took place in the State Legislative Building and brought together people representing New York State businesses, labor, consumers, government, academia, and not-for-profits to discuss how to make the New York Economy more green and prosperous. I spoke about how real estate brokers and agents should play an active role in educating real estate buyers and sellers on how to build green and make existing homes more green and energy efficient. You can access more info about the Healthy Environment, Healthy Economy exhibit and conference here.The Albany COTE also organized a green home tour called Green in Motion, which took place last weekend. The tour offered a full day of green home exhibitions and offered participants the opportunity to check out first hand what folks in the Capital Region are doing to be green when they build or renovate. Albany COTE is always looking for input. Please send along ideas or comments via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or to COTE in the care of email@example.com.
To end this month’s column, I have to say I am not surprised that the American Institute of Architects has picked Albany as one of five communities in the country that will participate in a program that helps local leaders and residents plan for a sustainable future by fostering things like affordable housing and green buildings. The program will put together a team of architects, planners, economic developers, and other professionals and will meet with a committee of local professionals to brainstorm ideas with residents. COTE will of course be part of the local committee and it will be exciting to see how this project develops.
*The Upstate New York Green Real Estate Report is a monthly column here at gbNYC.com, written by Paul McGinniss, a partner at the New York Real Estate Group and an advocate of green and sustainable real estate development. Paul teaches a class at SUNY Ulster called “Green Home Building and Renovation,” and he and his business partner, Joseph Walker, teach a monthly class at the Learning Annex in New York City called “How to Invest in Upstate Real Estate.” Paul is also a partner in the media and public relations company Serendipity Associates, which is helping to organize New York House magazine’s Best in Green Building Competition.