Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Solar Panels: Pros and Cons


There is much talk about having solar panels on roof's of homes. In fact, a friend of mine is doing quite well with his solar panel business. Particularly with commercial properties that are cashing in on tax rebates which will pay for the full installation costs of the the project.

Here is an interesting video that discusses some of the basic issues of solar energy. It exposes some facts that you need to be aware of before you decide to install solar panels on the roof of your house.

http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,33575328001_1916895,00.html

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Recession Relief

What can we do to fill all of these vacancies in commercial properties that we see popping up everywhere? This video will steer you in the right direction.

video

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Trust Me, I'm an (Unlicensed) Architect


If you don’t have an architectural license, it’s illegal to call yourself an architect or perform architectural services—but people still do. Who are they, who’s policing them, and can they be stopped?

(this article is by:Amanda Kolson Hurley,additional research by John ScappiniRelated ArticlesSave / Share and found at http://www.architectmagazine.com/legal-issues/trust-me-im-an-unlicensed-architect.aspx#related_articles)

Michael Angelo Gideo owns a small business in Plano, Texas, that specializes in custom-designed backyards. His company installs swimming pools, builds outdoor fireplaces and patios, puts up decks, and tackles landscaping projects. The company, Backyard Architect, has a website at backyardarchitect.com.
A fitting name, right? The Texas Board of Architectural Examiners doesn’t think so: Gideo is not, and has never been, a registered architect in the state of Texas; nor is his company affiliated with a registered architect. By Texas law, one of these conditions must be met if the term “architect” or “architectural services” is used in a business name.

Early this year, after Backyard Architect came to their attention, board staff sent Gideo warning letters, notifying him that he was violating both the state Architects’ Practice Act and the Landscape Architects’ Practice Act. He didn’t respond. In March, board staff met informally with Gideo to tell him that his continued use of the term “architect” in his business name was illegal. “He gave us no legal reason why he was [still using the term],” recounts Michael Shirk, the board’s managing litigator. Gideo’s website stayed live, the name unchanged.

James Madison Jackson
Jackson served two years in a Texas prison for theft and is currently awaiting trial for writing worthless checks in North Carolina. But his “gateway crime” was the unlicensed practice of architecture. Once employed as an architect by Dallas firm Gromatzky Dupree & Associates (he was dismissed when they discovered that he wasn’t licensed, despite his claims to the contrary), Jackson has received felony indictments for illegal practice in both Texas and South Carolina. More recently, operating various construction businesses, he racked up liens totaling more than $1 million—not to mention criminal charges and a trail of angry victims.

Credit: PJ Loughran
So in July, an administrative law judge advised the board to impose a penalty against Gideo of $200,000. That’s $5,000 a day—the highest penalty the board is authorized to assess—for each of the 40 days (or longer) that Gideo had violated the law.



Rule-Breakers and Fakers

If Texas Board of Architectural Examiners v. Mike Gideo stands out, it’s for the jaw-dropping penalty recommendation, not for the fact that someone without a license to practice architecture touted himself as an architect or offered architectural services. That part is all too common. Unlicensed practice is nothing new, and neither are attempts to curtail it. Many states have had laws on the books for decades stipulating that architects stamp drawings of all structures above a certain square footage. The intent is to safeguard the health and welfare of the public: An office building or day care center with major design flaws poses an obvious risk to the people inside, as does an unsound or barely habitable home.

In any given year, hundreds of complaints about unlicensed practitioners are filed with state boards by members of the public; by bona fide licensed architects; and by building officials (alerted, perhaps, by a set of unstamped drawings). Who are the offenders?

They include an architecture school professor who used the phrase, “as an architect, I … ” in a newspaper article she wrote (Iowa, 1997, cease-and-desist order, no penalty), and a licensed architect who was found to have published his business website—with multiple variations on the verboten title “architect”—before he had obtained his license (California, 2006, $500 civil penalty). There are respected architects, already licensed in one or more states, who obtain a license in another—but only after starting work on a project there. At the other end of the ethical spectrum are the people who steal dead architects’ seals and fraudulently stamp drawings with them.

In between the shoulda-known-betters and the downright crooks are a lot of overreaching drafters and builders like Gideo. Almost always, a state board’s first step after investigating a complaint is to send a letter explaining the protected nature of the terms “architect” and “architectural.”



Do the violators really not know that what they’re doing is illegal? “A decent number” of cases are due to ignorance, confirms Douglas McCauley, executive officer of the California board: “Folks are genuinely not knowledgeable” about the law. However, he adds, “You also get a fair number who know the law, and … are operating on the edge.” Joseph Vincent, administrator of Washington state’s board, estimates “right off the top of [his] head” that about 75 percent of these violators don’t understand the legal protection of the title or how they’ve infringed on it. The other 25 percent “are more deliberate—and then we pursue appropriate actions.”

Under the laws of numerous states, single-family homes or structures of less than a certain square footage are exempt from the requirement that an architect be involved in the design. So the line between houses and townhouses, or between 4,000 and 4,500 square feet, can start to look blurry. “When you [i.e., a contractor] … do a residential design for a doctor’s house, and the doctor comes back and says he wants you to do his office—that’s where [unlicensed people] cross the line,” says David Minacci, a lawyer whose firm investigates and prosecutes cases of unlicensed practice in Florida on behalf of the state board there.

Cease and Desist

The letter of warning, or a sterner cease-and-desist order, is usually enough to prompt voluntary compliance, the common goal of all state boards. The board officials interviewed for this article emphasize public outreach as an essential tool, and a few can point to full-fledged education campaigns. California’s board “subscribes to a philosophy of … preventative rather than remedial,” says McCauley. He rents a booth at the statewide conference of buildings officials and cultivates a relationship with the American Institute of Building Design (AIBD). New York director Robert Lopez has visited Pratt Institute, City College, and other schools to talk about the importance of licensure.

But all the outreach in the world can’t stop someone who’s intent on misrepresenting him- or herself or committing fraud, and in such cases, boards get tough. How tough depends on the state. Texas’s $5,000-per-day maximum penalty is not typical, and some boards are essentially toothless—West Virginia’s, for instance, has authority only over licensed architects, so it doesn’t even track cases of unlicensed practice, let alone prosecute them, says the board’s executive director, Lexa Lewis. Among the states with the most enforcement muscle are Texas, Illinois, Florida, Nevada, and California; those with the least include Wyoming, New Hampshire, and Idaho, as well as the District of Columbia.

Sullivan, Stevens, Henry, Oggero & Associates
As a firm composed of non-architects, Houston’s Sullivan, Stevens is well within its rights to design single-family homes in Texas, thanks to a legal exemption. However, that exemption doesn’t apply to multifamily dwellings or commercial structures above a certain size or height. Texas’ board learned that not only had Sullivan, Stevens drafted plans for two townhouse communities and a sales office (all nonexempt), but the City of Houston had permitted them—satisfied by an American Institute of Building Design stamp where an architect’s should have been. The board ordered Sullivan, Stevens to cease and desist from the practice of architecture and recommended a fine of $25,000; the case was settled before a hearing was held.

Credit: PJ Loughran
Law-abiding architects should be encouraged by one trend: A number of state legislatures have recently conferred more power on boards of architecture. Washington’s board did not have the authority to send cease-and-desist orders until 2002; before then, it had to try to convince reluctant district attorneys that illegal architectural practice deserved their attention. Likewise, in 2003 New York’s State Education Department, which oversees 48 professions including architecture, received the authority to investigate and prosecute illegal practice. Before that, the board had to turn complaints over to the attorney general—never an easy sell. (If a case is serious enough to warrant criminal prosecution, even relatively powerful boards still have to go begging to the district attorney or attorney general. “The unfortunate reality is,” says McCauley of California, “when DAs are looking at rapes and murders—architectural issues—you can imagine where we fall in that continuum.”)

Florida voted for a different kind of change seven years ago, passing a law that allowed the board to contract with a private vendor for disciplinary services. The law firm that David Minacci works for—Smith, Thompson, Shaw & Manausa of Tallahassee—got the contract. Minacci says that going after unlicensed practice has been his top priority—and the numbers attest to that. “When you look at the numbers compared to when the DBPR [Deptartment of Business and Professional Regulation] were [handling enforcement], there’s no comparison whatsoever,” Minacci claims.

Sure enough, during the three-year period from Nov. 1, 1999, through Oct. 31, 2002—i.e., before privatization—the Florida board issued 20 cease-and-desist orders per year, on average (that number includes orders issued against unlicensed practitioners of interior design as well as architecture). By comparison, the three-year period from Nov. 1, 2004, through Oct. 31, 2007, yielded an average of 184 cease-and-desist orders per year, an increase of more than 800 percent.

Florida’s high-double-digit numbers of cases for each of the last few years dwarf any other state’s, and effectively produce what looks like an upward trend of enforcement nationwide. Even so, anecdotal evidence from other states suggests that the trend may be widespread. Joe Vincent of Washington has noticed “a fair uptick” in complaints, which he attributes to the board’s newfound ability to take substantive action against offenders. Similarly, Melinda Pearson, the board director in Nebraska, says her board seems to be getting more complaints after it hired a compliance officer, who is responsible for follow-up. If Vincent and Pearson are correct, a proactive board can inspire a state’s architects to help regulate their own profession by lodging more complaints.

Cutting Corners—and Budgets

Besides hypervigilant architects, what could be driving the numbers of cases higher? The economy is an obvious answer, but there are different theories as to how it affects illegal practice. Minacci, in Florida, actually perceives a slight drop in complaints over the last 12 months, which he attributes to residential designers going out of business. But Texas’ Shirk sees the pendulum swinging the other way because of recessional cost-cutting. “I do think that with the economy being in the slump it’s in, there has been an increase in building design occurring without the use of architects when [they] should have been involved.” A particular problem in his state is the design of nonexempt structures by either unlicensed building designers or by engineers, who may claim to be qualified to perform “comprehensive building design.”

And as all 50 states—although some more than others—are tightening their belts due to the ongoing economic crisis, enforcement may suffer. In California, whose budgetary woes are legion, McCauley’s staff of 23 is now subject to a three-day-per-month furlough. “Suffice it to say, our resources are being restricted. And it certainly is going to affect the timeliness of our actions and ability to do some of the positive things we do, like outreach.” The Florida board’s contract with Minacci’s law firm was cut by 20 percent last fiscal year, although Minacci believes that the fines he helps the state collect should protect against further cuts.

Although Lopez’s office received new powers back in 2003, it had to wait a few more years for commissioner’s regulations on precisely how to implement the law, Lopez says. So is New York’s surprisingly low tally of disciplinary actions going to shoot up anytime soon? “I would expect those numbers to climb as we put this process in place,” Lopez says, adding that New York’s procedure for handling misconduct by licensed architects has been formulated ahead of that for unlicensed practice.

Will Lopez’s office start sending compliance agreement letters again, as it did back in the early part of this decade? “As staffing numbers permit, we’ll be able to [pursue] some of these cases,” is his circumspect answer.

James Arriaga
As an unlicensed employee of New York City’s Department of Education, working in its construction unit, James Arriaga unlawfully practiced architecture with a little help from the bogus stamp and seal of an actual licensed architect. He was found in 2005 to have defrauded more than 150 people over a four-year period. Arriaga pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to four months of weekends in jail and five years’ probation, and was ordered to make reparations to the city in the amount of $10,000. Needless to say, he was required to resign from his government job.

Credit: PJ Loughran
What’s in a Name

Reached by phone in late July, Michael Angelo Gideo was happy to talk about his dealings with the Texas board, though his reaction see-sawed between defiance and bewilderment. Backyard Architect, he says, is “just a play on words,” which he compares to “Lawn Doctor”—“and I don’t see anybody getting harassed on account of Lawn Doctor.”

When asked if he would change his company’s name, Gideo responded that he wouldn’t. A few minutes later, he backtracked, saying he might change it to Michael Angelo II. Gideo acknowledges that he could see why the state wanted to regulate use of the title “architect”—“I can see their side, too; they’re trying to protect the people”—and claims that he’d like to find an architect to affiliate with, and thereby satisfy the law, but it will take time.

Will he pay the $200,000 penalty? “How would I pay that? How would you do that? It’s ridiculous.” He says he has stopped opening mail related to the case and hasn’t retained an attorney.

Just before this issue went to press, the governor-appointed board members (they do not include Shirk, a staffer) voted to adopt the judge’s proposal. “Respondent’s ongoing and purposeful disregard of the laws within the Board’s jurisdiction indicates that a significant sum of money must be imposed to deter future ... illegal behavior,” reads a passage in the final order.

If Gideo fails to pay the penalty in full or to appeal within 50 days of the order’s issuance, the board will seek an injunction against him in district court. After that happens, he could end up with the attorney general’s office seizing his assets.

No doubt Gideo’s behavior was “extremely serious,” as the board found, but $200,000—that’s a lot of money. In response to this observation, Shirk e-mailed, “Big State–Big Penalty.” The e-mail had a photo of the Texas state flag, with a legend in large-point, red type:

“Don’t Mess With Texas Architects.”


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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WHAT YOU CAN DO TO STOP ILLEGAL PRACTICE

Keep your eyes and ears open
If a friend or family member has hired a supposed architect who seems less than competent, check him or her out. Scan the ads in your local paper; do a Google search for “architect” + “[your town or city]” to see what names and websites turn up.

Report, report, report
If you suspect that someone is practicing architecture without a license, take your concerns straight to your state board. Many board websites now allow you to verify a person’s licensure by means of a quick name search. Be sure to follow through on your sleuthing and, if warranted, lodge a complaint: After all, it’s stipulated in the AIA’s code of ethics and professional conduct.

Contact your local AIA component
If you think illegal practice is a problem in your state, let your AIA chapter know. It may have enough lobbying power to make your state government sit up and take notice.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fun to Assemble Bookshelf

video

Check out how easy it is to assmeble a Legare bookshelf. This guy is only 12 years old and he can casually put a whole bookshelf together in about one minute. As you can see, this would be perfect for college students, urban living, kid's study areas, and home offices.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Lane Launches into the Media


Thanks to my friend, David Mathison, I now have more ways to share my passion of architecture with others. David is like the wizard behind the curtain. He really spilled the beans when it came to exposing the new and innovative ways to communicate to others.

David recently launched his new book, "Be The Media." In this book, he gives away more stuff than you could imagine. He even shows how authors, writers, columnist, cartoonists, syndicators, and licensors can self-publish their own information and get it to more people than Amazon.com would ever begin to reach.

Other media methods that are discussed are blogs, moblogs, newspapers, videoblogs (this one really interests me), websites, wikis (got to go to his book to learn what this is...), and zines.

This is perfect for producers of music, films, podcasts, radio, and television shows. It is also perfect for architects, like me, who want to find the best way to get the word out about any cutting edge architectural idea.

So, keep a look out for this book. You can buy it at www.BeTheMedia.com.

Also, be on the look out for more cool things that are discovered in this book from the desk of Larry Lane.

I better start putting my radio show together. It airs in only 2 hours (at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/LaneArchitecture) from the posting of this blog article. (David has a radio show too, it is at www.blogtalkradio.com/Be-The-Media. He talks about how to create your own internet radio show on page 147).

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

"Smackdown" with Frank Gehry



“Smackdown” with Frank Gehry

Posted by Jay Walljasper in Town Square
The popular real estate and urbanism blog Curbed created this image to describe the ongoing debate (Photo credit: Curbed LA)
This year’ Aspen Ideas Festival lived up to its name with a lively exchange about Placemaking vs. the iconic architecture of Frank Gehry and other “starchitects”. But not in the way anyone expected.

When PPS president Fred Kent, a speaker at the Festival two years ago, posed a question to Gehry in the Q-and-A following Gehry’s presentation, the world-famous architect refused to answer.

When Kent repeated the question about why iconic architecture so often fails to create good public places, Gehry called him “pompous” and waved his hand in a gesture that eminent political journalist James Fallows described as “a dismissive gesture, much as Louis XIV might have used to wave away some offending underling.” Fallows described the scene in his influential blog for The Atlantic.

And Fallows’ blog became the place where ideas about what constitutes great architecture were debated. This was because Gehry refused to engage in discussion about his work, even at an event billed as a Festival of Ideas.


Frank Gehry brushing aside Fred Kent and his question, as moderator Tom Pritzker (responsible for the Pritzker Prize) looks on.

Gehry responded first in the blog, explaining that he didn’t really want to be at the Festival and that at age 80, he gets “freaked out by petty annoyances.” He also charged that Kent (who remained unnamed in Fallows’ first two blogs and Gehry’s response) was “intent on getting himself a pulpit” and “marketing himself at everyone’s expenses.”

Kent responded in Fallows blog on Friday, writing, “That Gehry was dismissive of the subject itself and so self important in his response shows just how far removed he and other proponents of ‘iconic-for-iconic-sake’ architecture are from the reality of urban life today.

“Around the world citizens are defining their future by focusing on their city’s civic assets, authentic qualities and compelling destinations,” Kent continued, “not on blindly following the latest international fads conjured by starchitects.”

But what’s most interesting here is not the heated exchange of opinions following a controversial appearance by the most famous architect of our time. It is the wide scope of debate that has been stirred.

David Sucher took up the issue in several postings on his City Comforts blog.

Frank Gehry has been quoted saying "I do not do context", amounting to barren public spaces and a limited scope of responsibility for the architecture profession.
And Fallows himself—probably as famous in news journalism circles as Gehry is in architectural ones—seems fascinated by all the energy sparked by this question about how to create great public places.

On Friday he began his blog with a sense of amazement, “I used to think that a topic like — oh, let’s see, US-China friction — was controversial, or climate change, or Google-v-Microsoft, or McNamara-v-Rumsfeld. That was before I innocently stepped into the crossfire concerning the effect of “star-chitects” like Frank Gehry on the urban landscape.”

Whatever else comes out of this lively discussion, I think it shows that discussions about how we create congenial public places where people can come together is a major issue of our times.

Public space is not just an aesthetic detail, or minor sideshow for the design community. It’s central to the fabric of lives and future of our society. Which is why it’s no surprise that opinions on the subject are so strong.

The public space on the waterfront of Bilbao in front of Gehry's building is a site of frequent muggings as a result of the limited reasons for people to be there.
Related:

PPS Commentary–Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

Curbed LA–Frank Gehry Smackdown: Iconic Architecture vs. Public Space

Apsen Ideas Festival–Full Video of Gehry Talk (Kent/Gehry conversation at approx. 54 minute mark)

Article from blog post at http://blog.pps.org/smackdown-with-frank-gehry/

Frank replied to the reaction to his actions on another blog (http://jamesfallows.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/07/an_email_from_frank_gehry.php) and said,

Dear Mr. Fallows -

Fair enough - your impression. I have a few lame excuses. One is that I'm eighty and I get freaked out with petty annoyances more than I ever did when I was younger. Two, I didn't really want to be there - I got caught in it by friends. And three - I do get questions like that and this guy seemed intent on getting himself a pulpit. I think I gave him an opportunity to be specific about his critique. Turns out that he followed Tommy Pritzker [the moderator of Gehry's session] around the next day and badgered him about the same issues. His arguments, according to Tommy, didn't hold much water. I think what annoyed me most was that he was marketing himself at everyone's expense. I apologize for offending you. Thanks for telling me.

Best Regards,

Frank Gehry

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Broker Blood Feud


From the "New York Observer." View Story On One Page Print This Story Share This Story By Dana Rubinstein
July 31, 2009 | 8:05 a.m.


It’s the end of July, and for the brokerage community, that means one thing: Crain’s publishes its biannual list of Manhattan's top office leasing deals, using data from CoStar. Though, frankly, publishing the list this annus horribilis—and then writing about the publishing of the list—seems to border on the sadistic.

But hey! It’s our job!

Let's get the obvious out of the way. CB Richard Ellis, the city’s (and country’s) largest commercial brokerage firm, retained its position atop the heap, representing the tenant or landlord in 22 of the 50 biggest leasing transactions of 2009. As we said, that’s not surprising. Nor should we be surprised that the sum total of all 22 of those leasing transactions was pitifully small—but we were, because apparently we still retain some capacity for shock. Those 22 transactions totaled a mere 1.75 million square feet. This time last year, when CBRE also topped the list, its transactions totaled 4.9 million square feet.

In a market where everybody’s suffering, you find solace where you can.

“We feel great about the results,” said CB Richard Ellis executive managing director Matt Van Buren. “We think in a down market, more so than ever, market share matters.”

If that’s the case, then both Studley and Newmark Knight Frank, both firms specializing in tenant representation, should feel proud.

Studley had three transactions in the top 10 (including the top two), and seven in the top 50, totaling 808,686 square feet. This time last year, it appeared only three times in the list. Studley chairman and CEO Mitch Steir attributed his firm’s impressive showing to its focus on tenant representation (a not-so-subtle jab at some of his competitors, like Cushman & Wakefield and CBRE, which represent both tenants and landlords—sometimes at the same time!).

“We believe that it’s quite difficult to advocate for a tenant zealously when one also has a fiduciary responsibility to a landlord,” Mr. Steir pointed out.

CBRE is the Yankees. C&W is the Boston Red Sox. They’ve been beating each other up for years and years. Along come the Tampa Bay Rays. New team. Getting their legs. You know who went to the World Series last year, don’t you? - Newmark Knight Frank's Jimmy Kuhn

Newmark Knight Frank tied archrival Cushman & Wakefield in the number of deals it had on the list, appearing on at least one side of the negotiating table in 13 big leases in the top 50, totaling 868,265 square feet. This time last year, Newmark appeared only 11 times in the list. Cushman & Wakefield, also on at least one side of the table with 13 big leases, inched out a slight lead over Newmark in total area leased, with 892,284 square feet.

And while Cushman, like everyone else, saw a marked decline in transactional activity, its drop-off in big leases was not as severe as CBRE’s. Last year this time, Cushman had 1.9 million square feet of leases in the top 50, a decline of 53 percent to CBRE's 64 percent drop (note: not in total leasing, but in the number of square feet of leases that appeared in the top 50 this time in 2008).

Cushman & Wakefield did not respond to a request for an interview. But Newmark Knight Frank president Jimmy Kuhn described the brokerage hierarchy thusly:

"Let me give you an analogy. You probably won’t use it. Do you follow baseball?"

Not really.

"Everybody will tell you today that the three best teams in baseball all are in the American League East and nothing matters other than that: the Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays. In the real estate world you can talk about the entire country all you want, but the only thing that really matters is New York City. CBRE is the Yankees. C&W is the Boston Red Sox. They’ve been beating each other up for years and years. Along come the Tampa Bay Rays. New team. Getting their legs. You know who went to the World Series last year, don’t you?"

No.

"The Tampa Bay Rays."

The above article can be found at http://www.observer.com/2009/real-estate/broker-blood-feud-mmix
Editor's note: Mr. Kuhn said "Tampa Bay Buccaneers," referring to the NFL franchise, and the original version of this story reported that. We believe, however, he was referring to the Tampa Bay Rays of Major League Baseball.

drubinstein@observer.com


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Monday, September 14, 2009

Soaring with the NJ Nets



This is Brook Lopez of the NJ Nets next to me. He is at least a foot taller than I. Brook was the first round draft pick in 2008 and is the Center for the team. He soars at 7'-0" in height.

I asked Brook an experience architecture related question. He related to his own perceptions and past experiences. This is exactly what I discuss in my book, "The Designed Office." Check out the today's radio show (9-14-09) to hear his answer.

Also, during today's radio show, I will be sharing 10 fast money saving tips that you can implement right away to keep the green stuff in your pockets.

Oh, by the way, get dozen free stuff at www.MyDesignedOffice.com.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Ten Energy Saving Tips for New York City Residents


1. Live in NYC. Dense, urban living is the most sustainable, resource and energy efficient, and environmentally responsible way to organize modern society. Hard to believe? Consider this: ever drive to work? live in a space with more than 1000 ft2 per person? It’s true that NYC buildings can be horribly energy inefficient (and there are a lot of low cost, easy things to do about it), but density by far makes up for it, so that on a per-capita basis, NYC is the most energy and resource efficient places in the country.

2. Understand your energy usage. Dig out those old utility bills and familiarize yourself with how much energy you use each month. Develop an understanding of which appliances use the most energy, which can easily be replaced with Energy Star-labeled models (www.energystar.gov), and which you can turn off when you’re not at home or not using it. (Our energy guinea pig spent a month unplugging his “Ghost Loads” — all the stuff that’s plugged in and use energy when turned “off” like your VCR, TV, stereo, etc. — and cut his monthly energy bill by 30%! His comment was: How many flashing clocks do I really need anyway?”)

3. Use non-toxic materials and products. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: If it’s poisonous, carcinogenic, triggers asthma, or wreaks havoc on your nervous system, you probably don’t want it in your building. And yet most of the products we use to build and maintain our buildings - including paints, cleaners, insulation, cabinetry, and carpets - are portable Superfund sites, making their way Trojan Horse-like, into our common and living spaces. Fortunately, keeping the toxins out is a relatively easy thing to do.

4. Use high quality, energy efficiency compact fluorescent lighting and Energy Star appliances. Just because it saves energy doesn’t mean fluoresecent lighting looks good. Know what to look for when shopping for fluorescent lighting. Check out chapter 9 of The Designed Office for more information about this. The same points brought up in this book applies to your home too.

5. Use materials and products with post-consumer recycled content. Search for products that state the percentage of post-consumer recycled content. Paper is a biggie. So are plastic and paper packaging (essentially, anything you can recycle should be made from recycled materials to keep the cycle going). And if you’re buying wood, tiles, countertops, carpet, or insulation there are options recycled and resource minimizing options for these as well.

6. Increase your comfort and reduce your energy consumption by controlling the the indoor temperature. If you have a radiator, and control the heat in your apartment by getting up and adjusting the valves all winter long, or even worse, opening the windows, then having just the right temperature is probably a rare event. The same goes for cooling with AC — turning it off and on is a pretty crude way to control temperature. Erratic temperature is not only uncomfortable, but it wastes lots of energy, especially if the radiator’s kicking out heat or the AC’s keeping things nice and cool when nobody’s home. You can control the temperature in your living space by installing low cost, easy to use, thermostats and automatic radiator controls, simultaneously saving energy and increasing comfort.

7. Switch to Green Power. Two utility companies now offer “green power,” — electricity made from in-state wind and small, low impact hydro (no dams) — for utility customers in New York City. That means that city residents now have a low-cost, no-hassle renewable energy option. It costs a few bucks more a month, but that money helps grow the local renewable energy industry. The two companies are 1st Rochdale Cooperative (http://www.1strochdalenyc.net/cleanerElectricity.html), and Consolodated Edison Solutions (a subsidiary of the namesake parent: http://www.conedsolutions.com/Residential/GreenPowerMain.htm.

Or, see the testimonial of a recent Green Power at http://greenhomenyc.org/post/102.

8. Reuse and Recycle. The City has restored full recycling and your building is required to provide the appropriate bins. If you don’t have bins, ask your super or call your building management company. And check every now and again that the separated recyclables aren’t being tossed in with the trash when it’s all taken out to the curb.

9. Support Community Gardens. New York needs more greenspace and vegetation. It filters the air and the noise, reduces the summer heat, and cleans the water.

10. Get your copy of the book, The Designed Office. Read chapters 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 to learn some energy saving tips (many of them are LEED friendly) that you are probably overlooking. Click on the book icon to the right of this article to preview the contents.

All tips except number 10 is directly from an article that you can find at http://greenhomenyc.org/tips.

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