Monday, April 27, 2009

Local Developer and "Green Building"

Sustainable Development is ultimately defined by those who practice its ways in our local communities. This is a guest post from Peter Berman, a principal of Ruby Construction Services in Goshen, NY:

Green Building and Sustainable Development are certainly hot topics in the local construction and development industry. From our experience, we know that light commercial and residential customers are interested in these features. In response to this interest, many developers and builders have grabbed on to the words “Green” and “Sustainable”. Many go so far as to make definitive and measurable statements. It is not uncommon to hear “this will cut your energy bills in half” or “your health will be greatly improved”. These comments can be quite hard to quantify and in fact many experts would agree that they are often baseless. We must resist this urge to Go Green just for names-sake or to make promises that cannot be verified. Rather the focus of Green Building and Sustainable Development should start with an evaluation of processes. How is a project planned? How are materials ordered? How is waste handled? What quality control is employed to ensure that the building basics are being done properly so we don’t create a poor indoor air quality?

At The Ruby Group our road to “Green” has led us to some basic costs savings; by improving our processes and eliminating waste, we are saving money by focusing on “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. While many of these techniques don’t have the same panache as Zero-Energy structures, they are in fact legitimately “Green”. Of course we are also prepared to and do install advanced “Green” systems, ranging from spray insulations to Heat Recovery Ventilators to Photovoltaic Systems.

The Construction and Development Industry should be encouraged to optimize their systems both for improved profits and increased sustainability. After those first steps, Green Building should occur as consumers show a willingness to pay for it. As an Industry we should be responsible for making it available by effectively communicating the advantages. Then it will be the customers’ responsibility to make the investment.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Orange County Citizens Foundation hosts Green Building Conference

The Orange County Citizens Foundation held its "Prospering in a Green Economy" Conference on April 6, 2009. The speakers included Patrice Courtney Strong, on behalf of NYSERDA, who discussed the various funding and credit options available from NYS for green building construction; David Church, from the Orange County Planning Department, who discussed the state of local zoning laws and the need to incorporate "green building" regulations at the State, County and local levels; Peter Berman of Ruby Construction Services who touched on the difficulties associated with local municipal zoning and planning processes; and Jim Taylor of Taylor Global Recycling Group (bio-mass technology), Vincent Cozzolino of the Solar Energy Consortium (photovoltaic), and Paul Auerbach of Total Green (geothermal), who spoke about the opportunities and barriers they face as entrepreneurs in marketing and selling their sustainable building products.

Here are my personal impressions of the Conference:

* There is an incredible amount of passion in those creating, developing, selling, and installing "green technology".

* The speakers demonstrated a high level of of entrepreneurial spirit, innovation, and commitment to develop the best products for the betterment of our environmental, social and economic systems.

* Sustainable development will grow from the "ground up". Although the speakers universally lauded the Obama Administration for its commitment to sustainable development and renewable energy through funding in the stimulus package, this "top down" support will only be successful if we are able to educate the populace on the need to reduce carbon emissions through green building practices, to train the workforce in the manufacturing and installation of green technologies, and to make sustainable development the norm.

I would like to invite any business owner, builder, installer and professional involved in the "green building" business to guest-post to this blog. Send me your articles, business profiles, and other writings and I will share them with the community. Hopefully, we can develop a dialogue addressing the issues relating to sustainable development.


Being a land use attorney brings a unique perspective to the many interests at play in the making of land use decisions. In the course of any application, you encounter public policy and private property issues that require both advocacy and compromise in hopefully attaining the goals of your client while serving the common good.

Recently, I have been immersed in issues involving "green building" and sustainable development. I have researched the "legislating" of "green building", familiarized myself with "LEED" and other "green building" certification models, and studied the science of environmental impacts on commercial, industrial and residential development to gain an overview of what might be accomplished by bringing concepts of sustainable development to the forefront in our planning processes.

My goal with this blog is to create a dialogue between towns, villages, cities, their planning boards and ZBA's, counties, developers, engineers, designers, surveyors, attorneys, IDA's, empire zones, building associations, and the like, in order to set a course in which "green building" and sustainable development become primary in the decisionmaking on all land use matters. This is a "from the ground up" endeavor. Let's make things happen!

Jay R. Myrow