First there was Trenton. Then Hartford. Then Staten Island, which isn’t quite not New York City but is pretty close (and not for want of trying). Today, your correspondent for gbNYC/gbTheWholeFreakingWorld invites you to join him in exotic Buffalo, New York, where a retrofit has earned Western New York its first LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance certification. Let’s go to Buffalo! Actually, you know what? Let’s just read about it. Buffalo’s like seven hours away from gbNYC HQ, and your correspondent doesn’t even like wings (it’s the bones, they make me sad) and it’s already kind of late in the day. But yes: Buffalo, a city more commonly associated in New Yorkers’ imaginations with the color of rust, has quietly managed an impressive green achievement.
The building at 45 Earhart Drive in Buffalo isn’t an aesthetic marvel by any stretch — its look owes much to the Bomb Shelter Movement in architectural design — and it sits on a street of similarly undistinguished structures. All of which makes it all the more impressive that Uniland Development Company, which owns 45 Earhart, saw fit to put the structure through a $130,000 green retrofit that earned EnergyStar recognition and recently made 45 Earhart just the fourth building in New York state to receive LEED-EB: O&M. Thanks to that top-to-bottom overhaul — which was accomplished with an assist from $33,000 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority — Uniland is claiming a 30 percent reduction in annual energy costs at 45 Earhart and projecting that it will recoup the cost of the retrofit in a little over six years.
45 Earhart Drive is home to Gerster Trane, a Buffalo-based energy and environmental services company with 18 LEED-accredited employees, which made it a logical fit for a retrofit, but the arrival of LEED-EB:OM anywhere in Buffalo — which is already home to the LEED-EB Platinum Ecology and Environment Inc. headquarters and the LEED Silver Burchfield Penney Art Center — is a very good sign. Like Trenton, Hartford, and a host of other shrunken, de-industrialized cities, Buffalo is home to a large number of appealing-looking but inefficient old buildings — some occupied, many vacant — practically begging for green overhauls and second lives as efficient commercial or residential spaces. Whether there’s a demand for those types of developments is a question best deferred to someone who knows Buffalo better than I have — Terrell Owens, Jim Kelly, practically anyone who has been there more than twice — but it’s hard not to get the sense from Matt Glynn’s admirably comprehensive Buffalo News piece on 45 Earhart that this development could be something of a game-changer in Western New York. While few of 45 Earhart’s green measures are groundbreaking — these include energy efficient lighting and window glazes, sensor-controlled building management systems, and other things gbNYC readers know well — their mere presence in an ordinary-looking, 23-year-old building in Buffalo is hugely encouraging. If sustainable practices like those on display at 45 Earhart can make it there, it really does seem like it could make it anywhere.
We’ll have more on Buffalo’s stealth greening soon. And any Buffalo partisans who spot mistakes and/or NYC elitism in this post are encouraged, please, to correct me in the comments.