Salon Summary: Westchester Goes Green

Westchester County showed off its green chops on Thursday at the inaugural event planned by the newly formed Westchester and Rockland Programs Committee. New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson welcomed the packed house.  He encouraged the architects, engineers, developers, and others in the room to keep working to improve the sustainability of buildings because they play a significant role in the health of our cities. He noted GreeNR, New Rochelle’s Sustainability Plan as one way the city is trying to improve infrastructure and reduce carbon emissions.

  • Deborah Newborn (Sustainability Coordinator, Office of the Mayor, City of New Rochelle) spoke next to share the planning process and strategies used in GreeNR. Deborah noted the key steps in creating a sustainability plan:
  • Know your current status – determine your carbon emissions so you can set goals. 
  • Identify common goals – you must set clear goals.
  • Engage local citizens – talk to residents and businesses.
  • Be specific – determine methods and metrics to measure progress.
  • Stay flexible – make sure your plan can adapt and adjust as needed.

These steps were followed in the Hastings on Hudson plan described by Christina Griffin (Principal, Christina Griffin Architect P.C.) as well but Christina went on to talk about specific buildings capitalizing on this new plan. Her firm has been working on several “net-zero” home additions. By following the new energy code and providing much needed insulation to historic buildings, they’ve been able to add significant square footage to homes without increasing the overall energy consumption (which also saves money!).  She also showed a LEED Platinum home and other high performance projects.

These projects are in good company as we heard from Steve Abbattista (Principal, OLA Consulting Engineers) who provided an overview of more than ten LEED certified projects in the area. These projects ranged from an aviation center to commercial office space and residences.  Steve noted that most clients are asking for ways to limit upfront costs while saving on long-term operations. Energy and water efficiency along with simple thoughtful approaches, like massive ceiling fans in the airplane hanger and simple air sealing of windows and doors, goes a long way to providing short paybacks.

From what we saw on Thursday, it’s clear there are a lot of green policy shifts and projects happening north of New York City. Residents are taking an active role in the greening of Westchester and Rockland Counties and it’s great to see that enthusiasm emanate throughout the room at our kickoff event.  I can’t wait to see what the Westchester and Rockland Programs Committee plans next.