Upstate New York Green Real Estate Report: 2007 Year End Roundup

We take a look at the top green stories that came out of Upstate New York during 2007 and also review other important news from across the Empire State.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Stephen and gbNYC over the past year and reporting on all things green across Upstate New York. I’d like to end the year by noting some of the biggest and best green news that came out of Upstate New York in 2007, as well as link you back to each of my monthly columns at the very bottom of this post. Happy New Year and best regards for 2008 to all of our readers!

U.S. Congressman John Hall of Dover Plains in Dutchess County Pushes Green Legislation in Congress

Hall, a first-term member of Congress, was a sponsor of the Rural Wind Energy Development Act, a bill currently in the House of Representatives that would provide a tax credit for the installation of wind energy equipment

“This would make it easier for families, small business and farms to use wind power,” Hall said. “The problem for most people is the up front cost, not to mention installation. There is currently no federal support for residential wind energy.”

Hall is also pushing the Buildings for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 539), which would expand federal tax deductions for energy efficient commercial buildings through 2013. The legislation proposes a deduction of $2.25 per square foot for buildings with energy efficiency improvements that slash energy use by at least 50 percent when compared to industry standards. The bill would also offer a $.75 per square foot deduction for improvements to lighting, heating and cooling systems.

Solar News From Across Upstate

The Kingston-based Solar Energy Consortium (“TSEC”) launched with up to $10 million in funding expected from federal and state sources. The consortium will link universities across the state with engineers, installers, and solar specialists to develop market friendly solar technology that will be manufactured in New York State.

The New York Solar Energy Society (“NYSES”) was formed and has pending official recognition to be part of the American Solar Energy Society (“ASES”), which is the affiliate of the International Solar Energy Society. New York is one of 30 states affiliated with ASES. NYSES was co-founded by a small group that included several upstate residents such as Bob Freeston of Orange Environment in Orange County. A national solar conference is planned in Buffalo for May 2009.

The Syracuse Carousel Center Mall Goes Green

Syracuse’s Carousel Center will switch to renewable energy sources and become the first super-regional shopping center in the nation to meet its electrical needs with green energy.

Developer Robert Congel said the mall will buy its electricity from Constellation Energy, a power wholesaler that sells renewable energy supplied by electricity retailers who meet stringent environmental auditing and reporting requirements. The power will be produced around the country and could include wind, solar, hydro and biomass.

Congel has pledged to power his entire Destiny USA, a 1.3 million-square-foot addition to the Carousel Center, with non-fossil fuels. Destiny is planned as a huge retail, hotel and entertainment complex.

USGBC Purchases Green Bonds for Destiny USA Project in Syracuse

USGBC announced plans to purchase some of the first federally sanctioned Green Bonds, part of $2 billion allocated by the United States Treasury to four development projects around the country. This first bond issue of $238 million was made by the Syracuse Industrial Development Authority for Destiny USA.

CH Energy to Build Bio-Electric Plant in Upstate New York

A subsidiary of CH Energy Group, Inc. agreed to supply the City of Auburn in Cayuga County with part of its energy needs by building and operating a 3-megawatt plant in Auburn that will use the city’s landfill and wastewater treatment facility as sources for biofuel. Up to $9.75 million will be invested in the project, which will include an anaerobic digester to convert wastewater sludge for electric generation and the sale of low-cost electricity to the city. The plant is slated for construction sometime in the spring of 2008.

Land Conservation Ranks High on Local Agendas

On the local front, many municipalities across New York State are considering passing real estate transfer taxes for open space preservation funds.

In Albany, Governor Eliot Spitzer’s 2007-2008 Executive Budget doubled the amount previously available for the New York State Conservation Partnership Program. The program provides funds to be used in partnership with qualified private conservation groups to save land that is important for local communities. The program budget was increased from $500,000 to $1,000,000. The program is administered by the Land Trust Alliance in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The Nature Conservancy acquired 590 acres of property in the town of Shandaken, Ulster County to preserve Balsam High Peak, one of the thirty-five high peaks in the Catskills over 3,500 feet. The land was bought in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, to one of whom the property will eventually be transferred.

The Nature Conservancy also bought for $110 million the last big piece of privately owned timberland in the Adirondacks- 161,000 acres of hardwood forests, 80 mountain peaks, 70 crystal-clear lakes and ponds, undammed rivers, white water gorges and secluded bogs.

NYSERDA Announces $16 million in New Construction Green Funding.

The New Construction Program (NCP) can provide assistance to incorporate energy-efficiency measures into the design, construction, and operation of new and substantially renovated buildings. These measures are designed to save energy through reduced electric demand, and therefore reduce building operating costs.

The New Construction Program’s objective is to effect a permanent transformation in the way buildings are designed and constructed. The NCP meets this objective by providing technical assistance and financial incentives to design teams and building owners. NCP offers direct Technical Assistance (TA) design incentives and capital cost incentives based on improved building energy efficiency performance. Incentives are also available for building commissioning services, green buildings, peak-load reduction, energy benchmarking, and advanced solar and day lighting systems.

The current round of the NCP (PON 1155) is available on a first-come, first-served basis through March 31, 2008, or until funding in the program is exhausted- whichever comes first.

Biodegradable Plastic Development in Ithaca

Novomer, a Cornell University spin-off, in Ithaca, has come up with a method for making biodegradable plastics from carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. Novomer’s use of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide as inexpensive feedstocks, instead of the corn-based feedstocks used by other biodegradable plastics, means that the company’s plastic won’t compete with food production. The technology centers on metallic catalysts that converts carbon dioxide into a polymer that could be used to make everyday items such as packaging, cups, and forks.

The plastic, which was originally created by a Cornell chemist is safe and strong enough to be used in medical implants and devices. The biodegradable plastic, which can decompose completely in as little as 6 months, is being made in pilot production now with plans to construct a manufacturing facility near a business that generates a lot of carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide, such as a cement plant.

about gbNYC

gbNYC is a multi-disciplinary consulting and real estate services firm. In addition to representing office tenants and commercial buyers in leasing and acquisitions, we also provide innovative consulting solutions from a unique, green building perspective. We advise on green building financial incentives, comment on proposed green building marketing strategies, author white papers, treatises, and market analyses, organize seminars on the LEED process and professional accreditation, and provide advice and analysis on green building risk management and the overall state of green real estate, leasing, and construction, in New York City and beyond.

Our blog, the gbNYC+ journal of real estate, law, + sustainability, delivers consistent, original content - from a New York City perspective - on how technology, data, and sustainability are changing how we interact with our built environment. Subscribe below and receive new articles as they're published or connect with our social media presence to join our ongoing conversation about real estate and sustainability, in the Big Apple and beyond. Contact us at (201) 835-8530 or info@gbNYC.com for more information about our services and to discuss how we can assist you.

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2 Responses to Upstate New York Green Real Estate Report: 2007 Year End Roundup

  1. Mark D. Tyrol Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 8:50 pm #

    How To Reduce Your Heating Bills This Winter / Energy Conservation Begins at Home

    Imagine leaving a window open all winter long — the heat loss, cold drafts and wasted energy! If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan or AC Return, a fireplace or a clothes dryer, that may be just what is occurring in your home every day.

    These often overlooked sources of heat loss and air leakage can cause heat to pour out and the cold outside air to rush in — costing you higher heating bills.

    Air leaks are the largest source of heating and cooling loss in the home. Air leaks occur through the small cracks around doors, windows, pipes, etc. Most homeowners are well aware of the benefits caulk and weatherstripping provide to minimize heat loss and cold drafts.

    But what can you do about the four largest “holes” in your home — the folding attic stair, the whole house fan or AC return, the fireplace, and the clothes dryer? Here are some tips and techniques that can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

    Attic Stairs

    When attic stairs are installed, a large hole (approximately 10 square feet) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only a thin, unsealed, sheet of plywood.

    Your attic space is ventilated directly to the outdoors. In the winter, the attic space can be very cold, and in the summer it can be very hot. And what is separating your conditioned house from your unconditioned attic? That thin sheet of plywood.

    Often a gap can be observed around the perimeter of the door. Try this yourself: at night, turn on the attic light and shut the attic stairway door — do you see any light coming through? These are gaps add up to a large opening where your heated/cooled air leaks out 24 hours a day. This is like leaving a window open all year round.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add an attic stair cover. An attic stair cover provides an air seal, reducing the air leaks. Add the desired amount of insulation over the cover to restore the insulation removed from the ceiling.

    Whole House Fans and AC Returns

    Much like attic stairs above, when whole house fans are installed, a large hole (up to 16 square feet or larger) is created in your ceiling. The ceiling and insulation that were there have to be removed, leaving only leaky ceiling shutter between the house and the outdoors.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a whole house fan cover. Installed from the attic side, the whole house fan cover is invisible. Cover the fan to reduce heating and air-conditioning loss, remove it when use of the fan is desired.

    If attic access is inconvenient, or for AC returns, a ceiling shutter cover is another option for reducing heat loss through the ceiling shutter and AC return. Made from R-8, textured, thin, white flexible insulation, and installed from the house side over the ceiling shutter with Velcro, a whole house fan shutter cover is easily installed and removed.

    Fireplaces

    Sixty-five percent, or approximately 100 million homes, in North America are constructed with wood or gas burning fireplaces. Unfortunately there are negative side effects that the fireplace brings to a home especially during the winter home-heating season. Fireplaces are energy losers.

    Researchers have studied this to determine the amount of heat loss through a fireplace, and the results are amazing. One research study showed that an open damper on an unused fireplace in a well-insulated house can raise overall heating-energy consumption by 30 percent.

    A recent study showed that for many consumers, their heating bills may be more than $500 higher per winter due to the air leakage and wasted energy caused by fireplaces.

    Why does a home with a fireplace have higher heating bills? Hot air rises. Your heated air leaks out any exit it can find, and when warm heated air is drawn out of your home, cold outside air is drawn in to make up for it. The fireplace is like a giant straw sucking the heated air from your house.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a fireplace draftstopper. Available from Battic Door, a company known for their energy conservation products, a fireplace draftstopper is an inflatable pillow that seals the damper, eliminating any air leaks. The pillow is removed whenever the fireplace is used, then reinserted after.

    Clothes Dryer Exhaust Ducts

    In many homes, the room with the clothes dryer is the coldest room in the house. Your clothes dryer is connected to an exhaust duct that is open to the outdoors. In the winter, cold air leaks in through the duct, through your dryer and into your house.

    Dryer vents use a sheet-metal flapper to try to reduce this air leakage. This is very primitive technology that does not provide a positive seal to stop the air leakage. Compounding the problem is that over time, lint clogs the flapper valve causing it to stay open.

    An easy, low-cost solution to this problem is to add a dryer vent seal. This will reduce unwanted air infiltration, and keep out pests, bees and rodents as well. The vent will remain closed unless the dryer is in use. When the dryer is in use, a floating shuttle rises to allow warm air, lint and moisture to escape.

    If your home has a folding attic stair, a whole house fan, an AC return, a fireplace, and/or a clothes dryer, you can easily, quickly and inexpensively seal and insulate these holes.

    Mark D. Tyrol is a Professional Engineer specializing in cause and origin of construction defects. He developed several residential energy conservation products including an attic stair cover, an attic access door, and is the U.S. distributor of the fireplace draftstopper. To learn more visit http://www.batticdoor.com

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