Thinking Green: Internal Restructuring

The New Year is upon us and it is time to make New Year resolutions.  I am here to give some advice on how to make it easier for a company to become more Eco-design friendly for it's staff and management team.  Speaking to people n the industry I get a lot of negative comments about how it is hard to sell Eco / Sustainable design.  I get that "Sustainable design has been around for ever and it is not a new concept but our clients don't want to pay for it or we can't sell it to them" or more comments that follow the same chain of thought.  One of the main concepts I say is and like to follow is that "Eco design should be second nature to our design concept and intent."   How as a company can you bring down the costs of Sustainable design for your clients, so you are able to sell it, make it easier for your staff to design and stream line production?  I have always said that it has to start from internal restructuring; you can try to sell Sustainable / Eco design but if you don't have the right tools and educated staff internally it will be very difficult and expensive on your companies part to do so.  Having the right company philosophy, standards, materials library, etc. would simplify the process for your staff and stream line it.  If the design process and production is done in less time, it can be sold at a lower price to make the company more competitive.  The market is also being saturated with green products and materials.  Having a proper materials library with these product manufacturers and building a relationship with them will make yours able to work with these companies for better pricing on bid situations.

To also help companies become and prove their Sustainability practices and design quality as of 2010 there is a 3rd party certification process.  The Green Firm Certification will help companies that are starting out to established ones with a roadmap of how to become truly Sustainable on all parts of the internal structure of the firm.  This certification is recognized and is supported by many large companies such as ABC,
AGC, AIA, USGBC and many more. It has also received generous support from the Kresge Foundation to develop the on line certification process.  For more information check out the following link:

or just watch the following Video:

Happy New Year Everyone and try to Think Green and find new ways to improve the process.

Eco Design: Musée du Quai Branly

There has been a lot of talk about green roofs and what benefits they have on the building energy savings, heat island effect, reducing the carbon footprint, improving the eco system and actual garden usage.

What about the building facade. Is it possible to cover the building with plants to do the same things that green roofs can accomplish.   Well the Musée du Quai Branly designed by architect Jean Nouvel has done exactly that.

The facade is the work of Patrick Blanc, a 54-year-old botanist whose vertical gardens can also be found at the French Embassy in India and in the inner courtyard of Pershing Hall, a chic hotel in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.

Each of his gardens have three components: the metal frame attached to the building, a PVC sheet which keeps the water in and a sheet of rot-proof felt, soaked in water and nutrients, upon which the garden grows.

This building shows what can happen when collaboration between a larger group of designers on a project.  Its time to start expanding our network and work with others on design projects from the start to see how far we can push the envelope and our imagination.  If you are ever in Paris make sure to visit this museum and experiences the beauty of this work.

Eco Thinking: Retrofiting Existing Buildings

One of the seminars at the Urban Green Expo this year was "Recognizing the Benefits of Energy Efficient in Multi-residential Real Estate."  The subject was about a study being done with the coordination of Steven Winters Associates, Living Cities Foundation that is funded by Deutshe Bank and EBC (Environmental Business Council).  In the study they were looking at what would be the optimum retro fitting options for existing building and that would bring the most return on investment.  In the study they looked at all options from water savings, window upgrades, boiler upgrades, energy star appliances and what the ultimate savings would be.  The study is still in progress but the report will be posted on the Living Cities website upon completion at

From the discussion the most cost effective evaluations to date would be as follows:
  1. Change windows to save on energy from heating and cooling the interior environment
  2. Upgrade boiler system of the building would have a fast payback in savings
  3. Change to energy saving light bulbs in all building units and common areas
  4. Upgrade to Energy Star appliances in all units when possible
  5. Educate building occupants on water and energy saving measures they can do everyday
  6. Educate Super and building staff on sustainable practices
Keep moving forward and finding ways to change our built environment for the benefit of all.

Thinking Green: The Hannover Principles

On the first day of the Urban Green Expo the key note speaker was no other then William McDonough.  He is one of the founders of the concept of Cradle to Cradle.  If you ever had the pleasure of hearing him speak, you would find it both educational and inspirational.

You should pick up the book "The Hannover Principles" by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.  They are 9 principles or guidelines that one should live by, design by and work towards. The Cradle to Cradle philosophy was developed from the 6th principle.  The book has a lot of information and insight about Eco design.  It is pocket size and only about 100 pages so an easy read and guide book.  The book states 9 principles the design community should consider plus much more info.  The 9 principles are as follows:

1. Insist on the right of humanity and nature to co-exist
2. Recognize interdependence: understanding that nature and design development are intermingled and that we need to understand those implications as we design.
3. Respect relationships between spirit and matter.
4. Accept responsibility for the consequences of design: We all need to recognize that no matter how small a project is it has an impact on our environment and as designers / builders / etc. we need to understand that we are responsible for that impact.
5. Create safe objects of long-term value.
6. Eliminate the concept of wast:  From this theory the concept of "Cradle to Cradle" was developed.
7. Rely on natural energy flows.
8. Understand the limitations of design: understanding that nothing lasts forever and use nature as a model and guide for design inspiration.
9. Seek constant improvement by the sharing of knowledge.

Pick up the book, its an easy read and very informative.

Food for Thought: Roof Top Vegetable Gardens

As a sustainability designer I always try to see what ways we can transform our built environment for the betterment of all. Living in NY, I am always trying to see what things we can transform and roofs always come to mind. They are usually unused space that only add to the heat island effect of cities.

Green roofs are a great way to change those effects. These can be created by adding native plants to the roof that do not need much care. Others are trying out other things such as creating roof top vegetable gardens.  These types of gardens can do many things, such as: Reduce heat island effect, purify the air and grow food for the local building or community.

There are many out there who are trying and succeeding in creating these roof top farms / vegetable gardens. One example is Brooklyn Grange who is a commercial farm, meaning they grow food and sell it.  They recently planted a roof top farm in Long Island city Queens.
Check out the report from NY1  .  And their website at  These farms are great to reduce heat island effect, conserve energy for the building, feed the community and so much more.  Lets hope more will pop up all over the city, especially in lower income neighborhoods where fresh organic and affordable foods is not easily accesable.  Growing food right in the neighborhood would reduce the cost of organic vegetables as there will be no cost for shipping the products and that savings would go to the families in the area.

There are also publications that will help you find more information in you area.  Check out Edible Communities websites for your borough or location publication.  Here is the link for the Queens publication that has a story on the roof farm
These types of roof top farms are developing all over the country, check out Sky High Harvest who is the first commercial scale roof top farm in the midwest ( ).

Other methods have been developed to create a roof top garden without the use of heavy soil that might not work on some roofs of existing building.  New uses on existing technology like aeroponic / hydroponic systems.  Hydroponic is a technique of growing plants (without soil) in water containing dissolved nutrients. Aeroponic is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium.  A restaurant here in NY is growing vegetables this way for all the food it will serve.  Here is a picture of the roof top with these units.  This roof top not only has these units to grow the vegetables but also was painted white to reflect the suns heat and reduce the heat island effect.

Check out the story reported by the Huffington Post and a video report on CNN.

It is time we took back the unused spaces in our urban environments.  Be a leader, be creative and think outside the box.

Green Design: Recycled Content and Innovation

There is so much talk about recycled content, pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled content in the industry.  Post consumer content is any discarded item after people used it.  It is a great time to start thinking out of the box and start seeing other great uses for our discarded items.  I recently created a small sculpture installation for PS151 of recycled car parts and discarded cinder blocks for their 9/11 memorial garden.  There are a lot of other people that are also thinking out of the box, here are some examples of what has been done:

WNYC covered an artist that collects broken umbrellas and recycles them into innovative reusable items such as clothing, handbags and much more. Check out the article and images of some of her designs at the following link.

In the UK a company has developed a product from recycled materials and also has an educational base to it.  They produce school supplies, such a pencil cases with saying such as "I used to be a car tire".  They are coming up with more innovative products for the outdoors, clothing and bags.  Check them out at

Other artists are taking on these challenges and creating art from our discarded garbage.  One local artist is Janet Nolan.  She creates artwork from post-consumer items such as discarded umbrellas, wire coat hangers, plastic bottle caps and much more.  Check out her art work at

Here in the US we need to start making headway with products made from post-consumer materials. Creating them to be innovative in design, massed produced or having items recycled into artwork.  These are but a few examples of what can be done.  We need to start looking outside the box in ways to reuse items and keeping them out of our landfills.  As we look into what we can do with these unwanted materials, we also need to realize that they need to be produced locally.  Take the next step and start using your creativity and imagination to help our environment.

Thinking Green: The Apartment Composting Experiment

Composting is a great way to recycle our garbage and to keep debris out of landfill.  As of October 2010, I have helped the formation of a composting program at PS151 in Queens.  Starting it at the school has also inspired me to start composting at home.  We as New Yorkers live in small apartments and have the a negative image of composting.  Most believe that it is smelly and that you need a backyard to do it.  I am here to prove otherwise.  I am also going to show that it can be done in larger families.  I have 3 kids, all under the age of 7.  I am going to start worm composting at home to show that it is an easy thing that can be done and that it can be done with kids around.

Here is how I started it.  First, I did my research on line about composting and got a few books on the subject.  The book that I preferred and that I am using for a guide is "Worms Eat My Garbage" by Mary Appelhof.  As part of my research I found ways to make your own compost bins on a budget.  Red Worm Composting website has a great video on how to set one up and I have used their advice to set mine up.  Check out the video at! .  Also if there are kids around you have to get them excited about the project as well.  With my boys, I got them excited by talking about worms, books on the subject and by saying that they will be pets in the home.  Now for the worms, I ordered mine from the Lower East Side Ecology Center.  With them you order the amount of worms you need and then pick them  up from the Union Square green market. Here is the link to their products -
There are many other venues that sell worms, check what is available near you.  Also,as you try to see where you can get them, see if you can support a worthy organization at the same time.

I have set up the worm bin and will be picking up the worms on Wednesday.  More posts on the progress to come.

Thinking Green: Urban Green Expo

It's time again and the Urban Green Expo is here.  It is run by the Urban Green Council and is located at the Metropolitan Pavilion & The Altman Building, 125 West 18th Street.  The Expo will run on Sept 29th and 30th, the exhibit hall hours are - Day 1: 10 am to 7 pm and Day 2: 10 am to 5 pm.  The Key note speaker will be William McDonough one of the co-authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.

The Theme of the Expo this year is "Pushing the Envelope", On their website Urban Green wrote that "At Urban Green Expo 2010 we will explore how green buildings can “push the envelope” both literally, by focusing on the importance of high performance building enclosures, and metaphorically, by addressing topical subjects like verifying building performance and by highlighting innovative buildings, processes and systems."  The Expo has a multitude of educational seminars and the Expo floor has over a 100 green products &/ services located.  Check out the website for tickets, info on product and educational seminars. 

I will be at the Expo both days and will be blogging about the information I get there. Stay tuned or hope to see you there.

Energy Retrofitting for Existing Homes

Energy is one of the major topics on the green scene these days.  With the government and local utility companies rewarding those who take the step forward to make changes for the better.  Home owners who want to take advantage of some of these incentives need a starting point on how to make these changes on their own properties.  Well, there are many ways to perform an energy retrofit of existing homes.  Here is one example of what needs to be done.

A standardized method can be used in taking on an energy upgrade to an existing house. Here are the steps to follow:

1. Perform an initial assessment on the house. Gather information such as square footage, house volume, window data (area, type, orientation, shielding), insulation levels, appliance types and age, HVAC information, previous energy bills and materials of construction were necessary to understand the performance of the house. Find out houses characteristics, such as:
· Year Built
· Conditioned Space
· Ceiling Height
· House Volume
· Bedrooms
· Bathrooms
· Foundation
· Orientation
· Major Appliance Assessment- Refrigerator, Washer, Dryer, Dishwasher, Freezer
· Materials of Construction
· Insulation
· Windows
· Lighting
· Previous Energy Consumption

2. Perform an Energy Audit. Organizations like NYSERDA will help you with this. Check out the following website for more info .  As part of an energy audit you will have to also test the house and ducts for air tightness using Blower Door and Duct Blaster test equipment.

Some easy Energy saving recommendations would be:
· Radiant Barrier stapled to the underside of the roof trusses
· Solar screens on the south and west windows –the shading coefficient will depend on your location
· Weather stripping on doorjamb
· Programmable thermostat
· Refrigerator and freezer coils should be checked and cleaned periodically
· Ceiling fans should be added in bedrooms or other parts of the home such as family room
· Water heater lines should be insulated

3. Interview the occupants of the house and discuss to get an understanding of the household makeup and energy usage habits.

4. Energy Modeling - Once the initial assessment is completed, energy modeling should be done to simulate the existing house. Energy modeling can be a relatively quick and accurate method used to simulate the effects of changes to the building envelope, lighting and appliances within the home.

5. Install a monitoring system.  Monitoring will help you estimate the benefit of each modification performed and help you know how all systems are performing.  A system can be installed to directly monitor energy consumption and environmental conditions, as well as tell you if something is wrong with one of them.

6. Potential upgrade evaluation would come from suggestions made from the energy audit and energy modeling information.  Once the list of potential upgrades is determined and modeled to estimate their benefit, savings should be compared to the installed cost to calculate a simple payback in years.

These simple steps will help you have a healthier living environment and saves you money in the long run.

Green Awards: Urban Green Council

Honored to be one of the Urban Green Council's 2010 Service Award Winners. Check out the the following link for more information and pictures.

Design Management: Communication

Communication is the key to any successful business and work environment, be it a company, store, restaurant or school, if proper communication systems are not in place there will be a decline in productivity and profitability. Communication channels have to be looked at on how the company / organization is branding itself, to it's costumer service and internal communication channels. A lack of communication in one area will cause a breakdown somewhere else and have a negative reaction on the overall company. This lack of connection in these channels will cause animosity and negative behavior from employees to beyond the walls of the company.

One simple example would be: If a manager had information for a few weeks that a delivery of product was to happen on a set date and time but did not inform the staff members responsible for that task about the event until an hour before it happened. The staff now responsible for this had other meetings scheduled and other work that was planned for that day. They would have to cancel meetings with others, reorganize their work load for that day and be behind. This not only effects them but the other people they had interacted with and promised work for. If this happened frequently, their overall behavior and attitude would become very negative. As well as the people they are effecting by having to cancel or change schedules on. It becomes a domino effect and cause negativity on all levels of the organization.

A proper communication system needs to be developed and an understanding of the importance of such a system to an organization is needed. Analyzing the communication systems on all levels on who is interacting with who and how is the information transferred, then designing a better system for that organization is key to improving productivity and the bottom line.

Communication not only stems to interaction with groups but interaction with managers and others within a department. I find it very hard how people don't see the importance of using words like: "thank you", "good job", "well done". These little word will go a long way in productivity and workers moral. Basic understanding of how we communicate with each other to the overall picture of how the company communicates inside and outside it's walls is of high importance.

Analyzing what is done in your surroundings, then redesign and educating the staff would stream line any environment. It would be best to get a third party to do the analysis as staff would be more open to outside people then a coworker. Good Communication means good business.

Thinking Green: Bringing Building Efficiency to Lighting

There are many ways to continually educate ones self, one great way is Webcasts.  You can view these from any location and they can be at any time.  The latest one I was a part of is "Bringing Building Efficiency to Lighting."  This was hosted by and the speakers were Rob Walson (Executive editor, Steven McGuire (Environmental market manager Philips Lighting) and Joel Makower (Executive editor

The webcast was very informative.  They covered information about:

*How lighting upgrade would be beneficial to facility managers
*How to use integrated principles to light buildings & into LEED
*How to apply integrated principles
*Importance of design
*Good interior & task ambient strategies

Talked about 5 myths in Lighting:
1. More is better - False
2. Saving light energy not as important as HVAC - False
3.Waste energy to turn light off - False
4. Incandescents are better then CFLs because they don't have mercury - False
5.LEDs last 5 times longer than florescent - False twice as long but technology is getting better and better

Also information about the new website from Philips for a website that is a bench marking tool for energy cost savings.  It has news, articles and other business info.  As well as a an energy test for personal and home, with recommendations on how to decease the use.  Check it out at

There are a lot of webcasts out there, some you pay for and some are free through manufacturers or other venues. Keep an eye out for those that might interest you.

Here is the link to the webcast:

Thinking Green: Green Codes Taskforce

Change can come in many forms, we just need to see what would be the best way to make these changes happen.  I am proud of what The Urban Green Council (NYC USGBC chapter) is doing to help bring some of these changes to our industry, from helping Local Law 89 happen to changing the city's building codes.

A little history, Urban Green put together a Green Codes Task Force that reviewed all of the cities building codes.  In Feb. of this year the report was presented to the Mayors office.  In late March the NYC Green Task Force, the offices of Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn met to review each proposal of the report.  From the information 10 bills have been proposed and are currently waiting for review on June 22nd by the Committee on Housing & Building.

Here is the link to report and the bills that are proposed: Read the Green Task Force Report    Green Codes Task Force Legislative Update - Description of Laws and how they have been modified from original report.

It is important to support and be involved in local chapters to help bring along change.  Urban Green is only one of these organizations that is making things happen in NYC.  These organizations can not have these changes happen without the proper support and volunteers, Example, the Green Codes Task Force was made up of professionals who volunteered their time from different sectors of our industry.  I am honored to be one of the volunteers receiving the 2010 Service Award from Urban Green at the end of the month Member Meeting.  I hope to continue giving my time and support to an organization that helps make change happen and educates professionals in our community. - check out the website for all the info on their education seminars and more

Green Education: Composting

Through my research about composting in schools I found this book as a great tool to help start a cafeteria composting program.  I have spoken to a lot of experts in the field and have not found any known schools in the NYC area that compost in the cafeteria as well as the class rooms.  So, I will be attempting to add this part to the composting program at PS 151.

This book goes through the hows, whys and what to do step by step to set up a successful program.  The Author Binet Payne created a successful program in her school where she teaches.  The book also has example lesson plans, books for children , audit forms, posters and more.

I have set up a meeting this month with the head of composting from the queens botanical garden, the principle and head of school maintenance to go over the logistics of what needs to be done in September and talk about phasing of the project.

Some other useful sites and books on the subject are: - from Cornell Cooperative extension - from Biocycle, a composting trade magazine -
Lower East Side Ecology Center - Apartment composting video"Worms Eat My Garbage" - Book for home composting
"Worms Eat Our Garbage: Classroom Activities for a Better Environment" - Book that supports classroom instruction.

Green Education: 9/11 Memorial Garden - Recycled materials - IceStone

I have high ambitions for the project at PS Q151, my overall hope is to create both an environmental education program for the students and the staff and to have the school itself be transformed into a more sustainable site. This will start next fall with the school being part of the Recycling Champions Program through Grow NYC.  This program looks over all the schools recycling activities and sees how it could be optimized as well as educating the students and staff about the subject.  I hope to incorporate a composting program with the recycling program as well.  I have a contact in the Queens botanical garden composting department that will be advising the school, supplying compost bin equipment and workshops for faculty and students.  

Attention to detail in everything also needs to be considered.  This brings us back to the 9/11 memorial butterfly garden.  Here we planted both nectar and host plants and we will be planting milkweed plants for the monarch butterfly to feed on, these have been ordered.  As it is a memorial garden, I created sculptures from recycled car parts and disposed of cinder blocks to be part of the garden.  Again for it is a memorial garden, I wanted to have it be a symbol as well as serve its designated function, so finding the right material to cover the landscaping was important.   

I am happy to say that I will be working with the folks at IceStone to receive recycled glass and / IceStone discarded samples for the ground cover for the butterfly garden. IceStone will be donating all the materials that are needed to the school.  IceStone not only produces all its product from recycled materials, it also has a Cradle to Cradle Gold Certification.  Cradle to Cradle means that everything from the way they manufacture their product to the disposal of their product is done to high environmental standards, they also think of what will happen to the product from creation to the grave.

This product is great if you are going for LEED certification of any type as it can be installed vertically and horizontally.  It has many applications and can achieve many LEED points ( MR 4.1, MR 4.2, MR 5.1, MR 5.2, ID, EQ 4.1).  And I think you could get an innovation credit if the product is used as we will be using it as Landscape mulch cover.  What I also love about this product is that it is produced and manufactured here locally in the Brooklyn navy yard.  For more information and to see their product check out their website

   to Also ho

Thinking Green: The Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES™)

 As the industry moves in the direction of sustainable design and sustainable thinking, we need to see how all aspects of our build environment is being developed.  As concentration on construction and interior environment have been touched upon, now the exterior spaces are being to be looked at closely. 

LEED for Landscaping is being tested to help put rules and guide lines on designing outdoor spaces. With the help of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin and the United States Botanic Garden, about 150 test sites are designed and will be monitored for the next two years starting June 2010.

As there are no true guide lines on creating outdoor spaces so the Sustainable Sites Initiative has been developed to help follow these sites progress, as well as create a data base of how to. The site has examples of Sustainable Practices such as how to:

* Preserve and protect healthy soils
* Manage and clean water on-site
* Protect and use existing vegetation
* Reduce urban heat island effect
* Provide spaces for mental restoration, social interaction, and physical activity

This site is a great tool for any designer looking to create a sustainable out door space or for any LEED project that will be using outdoor spaces of all types, including rooftops. There are also documented case studies with pictures, descriptions, budget, project phase and overview. Check them out  at

Green Education: Q151 Project

Happy to say the first phase of the project is on its way. With the support of the principle and the help of some great school staff we have established the first two gardens at Q151. Here is how we have gotten to this point so far. As I said before you have to get the head of the organization on board. I have spoken to the principle about the plans, as well as the head of building maintenance. With first creating the gardens, it is very important to get the head of building maintenance on board as he will be the main person that will help keep the gardens alive. At the school, I spoke to the principle to go over the plans and got his feedback. After that meeting, I spoke to the head of the maintenance, to go over the plans and see his feedback and concerns. From there I developed the plans for both gardens.

After having the plan of what to do and what I need, now how do you implement it. First step is to see how the community can help with the donations for the project. A donation letter had to be drafted and remember to get the tax id of the organization in the letter with a copy of it should be given with the letter. I went to local companies and others for help with donations some were Home Depot, Hicks Nursery, Queens Botanical Garden, Build it green NYC, LI Auto parts junk yard, Mounira Jaber and David G Roys Jr. After getting donations and some help from the school, I coordinated the install of the gardens.

I designed some sculptures from recycled materials for the 9/11 memorial butterfly garden. This will make it a focal point in the community as wel1 as teach kids that there are other uses for materials then their original intent. I also am hoping to get recycled materials as mulch, I am contacting a company to see if they would donate some.

The vegetable garden is also planted. I still want to design a back drop to the garden so it also becomes a focal point in the school, again recycled materials will be used for that. The children of the school are so excited for both gardens.

It is like a domino effect. The principle, staff, students and parents are starting to get excited about the program. This has made the principle more open to expanding the program and other ideas. One example is after the first recycling workshop this week by Grow NYC, the school was offered to be a part of the Public Schools Recycling Champions Program. The principle is excited and will see how the school can participate in this program starting next school year. I will be contacting some local organizations to get free composting workshops and start the school in a composting program as well.

The school is also having their playground expanded and will have some green space there as well that I will work with them to see what can be done with it as well.

Small steps can go a long way. The saying "plant a seed and watch it grow" is true, this is for everything we do. You just need to know where to plant the right seeds, so observe, analyze and plant, more to come.

Green Education: Q151 Project

Educating our selves and our children is a great way to start changing the bad habits we have developed in our society. As I have written before about how to start an environmental education program, I will now be implementing one as well at Q151 in Queens.

I am starting to implement the program in phases. The first phase will start this year and then begin to take form in the Sept when school starts again. The first phase is to create two gardens for the school. A 9/11 memorial butterfly garden and a vegetable garden.

- The first will be a butterfly garden, where the children can:

* Raise seeds of milkweed plants and study the process
* Plant the milkweed plants and create a new eco system for the butterflies and other living organisms - study the process and understand the importance of the eco system and how we are connected to it.
* Raise the Monarch butterfly from a caterpillar and release them in the garden. Teaching the kids about their migration and again the importance of protecting their homes and how we are all connected.

- The second will be a vegetable garden, where the children can:

*grow vegetables from seeds in the classroom
*Plant and grow a vegetable garden outside the classroom, study the process
*Learn about healthy foods and local fresh foods
*Have a green market with the harvested vegetables to introduce that to the community
*Try to bring in issues like water conservation, composting, etc.

I have also started in this phase to bring in educational workshops, one example is Recycling - this workshop will be the first on May 14th.

I will post more on the progress of this endeavor in future posts.

Thinking Green: LEED workshops

Educating ones self is very important. There are many venues that offer educational workshops. Urban Green council is the USGBC NYC chapter and they have a lot of great educational workshops. Check out their calendar of events at

I recently attended the one of the LEED Workshop: Core Concepts and Strategies. The course subject went over LEED basics and mentioned a few other details:

1. LEED for Health Care and Retail will be launched in Nov. 2010
2. LEED for BO&M you will need to re-certify the building every year. Making sure the operation standards are kept up.
3. New Legislation is in the works that states all public buildings will have to publish their energy and water use.
4. For a project to be certified LEED for Homes states the building can only be 2 stories high but there is an existing pilot in NYC that allows a mid-rise 6 story building to be certified as such.
5. All LEED Certified buildings and projects will need to commit to sharing their water and energy usage data for 5 years with USGBC.
6. Before 2009 when on a project you were able to view other people's CIR request but as of the new LEED this will not be available and any question will need to be submitted.
7. Tip - If taking the Green Associates Exam make sure you know information about LEED for Homes 3rd party practices.

There are so many different workshops, lectures and tours that Urban Green provides, its worth checking them out. Also they offer LEED credits for keeping up with the educational credits you need if you are a LEED AP.

Eco Thinking - Night out in NYC: Biodynamic Wines

Date night or just want to have a drink in the city, why not try out some Biodynamic wines.  Counter is an organic wine & martini bar located at 105 1st Ave between 6th and 7th street.  They have a wide selection of Biodynamic wines. Check them out at
As all kinds of products are going green from organic foods to cleaning products.  The wine industry is seeing changes as well as a lot of Organic and Biodynamic wines are hitting the market place.  If you don’t know what Biodynamic wines are, here is a little info. Biodynamic wines are wines that go a step further then organic wine.  They are not only 100% organic, the grower has gone beyond to try to bring the farming process more closely in tune with nature. For instance, biodynamic wine growers may make their own compost and the fruit is grown without chemical killers of insects and weeds and without chemical fertilizers or fungicides. The wine also is monitored throughout its entire production process.  Cade winery is a vineyard that makes biodynamic wines and is also striving to be the 1st LEED gold certified vineyard.  Check out the website at
If you are not out in Manhattan and want to check out some Biodynamic wines then check out these 6 different vineyards.


Araujo Estate Biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon -

Beckmen Vineyards Biodynamic Syrah -

Resonance Vineyards' Biodynamic Pinot Noir -


Quivera Vineyard Biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc -

Grgich Hills Biodynamic Gume Blanc -

CADE Sauvignon Blanc -

If you like to try new things, try tasting some Biodynamic wines and let me know what you think.  If you are interested in learning more about Biodynamics check out the book "What is Biodynamics? A Way to Heal and Revitalize the Earth..."

Earth Day 2010 - Green House Night Club

As New Yorkers we like to go out and celebrate everything, from Saint Patties Day to Secretaries Day, always a reason to go out, have a drink and get together with friends in the city that never sleeps. Well on this day try celebrating in an Eco-friendly nightclub.

The Green House located on 150 Varick St is a LEED certified night club. The bi-level, 6,000 square foot event space is built entirely from recycled or recyclable materials, including bars made from recycled glass. The building also utilizes a carbon-countering program to offset energy used during construction and operation.

Among the clubs most spectacular attributes is the transparent ceiling fixture, comprised of over 5,000 individually hung crystals, which is designed to emulate a rolling landscape and the bars which are comprised of clear recycled glass panorama designs, and display lush natural scenes.

This SoHo club is New York's first eco-friendly nightlife destination, with a two level lounge area, fabulous drinks and bottle service, live bands on Monday; mixed format music every night and no cover charge.

Check out the website for more information and enjoy Earth Day like a true New Yorker.

Eco Products: Toto

Looking for well designed, sleek, water efficient pluming products that are manufactured with the environment in mind, look no further then Toto USA.

The company has a manufacturing plant in Morrow, GA where all grey water generated during operations is stored and reused. They recycle all pallets, aluminum and paper, and they have successfully implemented a closed-loop process with recycled cardboard. Their forklifts use soybean-based hydraulic oil, and the imperfect and damaged china is crushed and recycled back into roadbed construction.

They are the world’s largest plumbing products manufacturer. Toto offers everything for your project needs from a complete line of commercial and decorative plumbing fixtures and fittings, faucets, accessories, shower and flush valves, as well as lavatories, toilets, Air Baths and urinals. They have many styles from traditional to contemporary design and more.

Toto goes beyond its focus on its product and manufacturing but also helps promote educational seminars by donating its show room space to organizations like Urban Green Council. If your organization needs a space and it is a worthy cause contact them for more information.

Check out more information about the company and contact information at

Thinking Green: Rethinking Materials

Rethinking materials is one of the sections in the Book "The Designers Atlas of Sustainability". This is a great book, written like an atlas with different sections and ideas on this subject. It gives information for the user to take and interrupt. One of the subjects and concepts in the ecology section is "Rethinking Materials".

The idea in this section recommends that we "..adopt the idea of metabolisms for human material flows. The scheme involves classifying all materials as either organic nutrients or technical nutrients." This would be classifying materials / products into categories, ones that can go back into the ecosystem (organic nutrients, example: brick, wood and leather) and ones that need to be in a closed-loop system (technical nutrients,examples metals, plastics and glass) and continuously be recycled.

With these designation we would know what items can go back into the ecosystem without contamination. There are some organic materials that should not be thrown out as they have been corrupted during the manufacturing process and then would have to remain in the closed-loop system. By having both Cradle to Cradle materials and these designations on products we would insure a healthier Eco-system.

Eco Design: Industrial Ecology

What is Industrial Ecology, Wikipedia defines it as "the shifting of industrial process from linear (open loop) systems, in which resource and capital investments move through the system to become waste, to a closed loop system where wastes become inputs for new processes...The name comes from the idea that we should use the analogy of natural systems as an aid in understanding how to design sustainable industrial system."

Basically, it is trying to design our industry to act like ecological systems.  Kalundborg,Denmark is a great example of this.  Here industries of varied products relay on each others product and waste to run their facility's.  Some of them are power plants, pharmaceuticals plant, oil refinery, and plasterboard manufacturer. They have made  use of the waste streams and energy resources, and turned the by-products into products.  For example,the reuse of fly ash for asphalt and gypsum, also the surplus heat from the power plant is used for the local fish farm.  These are but few examples to what can be done by starting to think and design this way.

Now taking this concept and adding it to the other ones I discussed already; Cradle to Cradle philosophy  - product design, Living buildings and Eco cities - redesigning our built environment and industrial ecology - how the manufacturing and other plants need to function more like nature.  As designers, architects and others we need to take these concepts, understand them and start using them as tools and guidelines in our creations.  When we start thinking this way, we will be able to create environments that can coexist with nature.

Source:,, The Designers Atlas

Thinking Green: Creating Educational Programs

Educational programs are critical in all environments of any organization.  Educating others on the topic you are passionate about is the first step to change their perception, previous actions and behavior on that subject.
How do you create one?

The first step is to analyze the need for an environmental educational program or any other kind of educational program you want to create.  My blog is geared to environmental issues but these simple steps can be used for all educational programs.  It is good to have a champion at the top of the organization and somebody in the trenches to help pass the message to the masses.  So you will need to get the head of the organization on board with the concept of creating this program.  When that is done, start researching organizations that offer these services.  A lot of them also offer free educational programs in your area or offer workshops to help educate your people. There are also organizations that offer free educational lunch presentations on environmental issues and also will educate your staff on their products. In NYC some of these organizations are:

1. NYERDA - New York State Energy Research and Power Authority -
2. Solar One - Green Energy, Arts and Education Center -
3. Lower East Side Ecology Center -
4. GrowNYC -
5. New York City Soil and Water Conservation District
6. NYC Department of Environmental Protection -
7. Green Schools Alliance -
8. Urban Green Council -(USGBC chapter NYC)
9. Mohawk Group -

These are but a few that are available and can help start to establish the program you desire. Research your neighborhoods to see local organizations. From here start organizing in-house workshops or lunch presentations.

Educating people is the first step to any change...

Thinking Green: EcoCities and Nature

Ecodesign is the next step of our design thinking. LEED helps us establish and understand the preliminary processes of green design. Creating living buildings is pushing past LEED and developing our thinking to the next level. Ultimately ecodesign should be second nature to our design process. Wikipedia defines Ecodesign as "an approach to design of a product with special consideration for the environmental impacts of the product during its whole life cycle. In a life cycle assessment the life cycle of a product is usually divided into procurement, manufacture, use and disposal." What this means to the built environment is that we need to not only use products that have cradle to cradle philosophy but also consider the Eco system as we build. For example, start incorporating natural or man made rivers into the urban environment. This will develop eco systems from plants, insects and wildlife.

The book by Richard Register "Eco Cities: Rebuilding Cities in Balance with Nature" talks about this subject and how we as designers can help bring about this change. I met the author last week and talked about his contributions to this effort; His work is concentrated in San Francisco, California. He has dedicated his life to educating and fighting for more eco elements to the urban environment. It has not been an easy road but it never is to bring on change to our way of thinking.

Now is the time for all of us to strive for these changes, for our future and the future of our children. Mr. Register believes it will take a hundred years for these changes to happen. I want to prove him wrong!! In my 35 years, I have seen the evolution of computers, the internet, cellphones to 3D television and more. The technology is here, the ability to live side by side with our natural environment is at our fingertips, all we need is the will to find a way.

As designers, architects, engineers, contractors, real estate brokers, property owners and more, we have the power to create these environments. Make the choice to educate others and yourselves on how to achieve these goals, so we can make these changes in our life time.

Thinking Green: International Living building Institute (ILBI)

As we move forward in our industry to reshape the way we design and build we look for stepping stones to help us find our way. LEED Certified buildings are the first step. LEED is helping us understand the areas we need to concentrate on and helps with the hows. But as I stated in previous postings we need to be able to move past LEED requirements and create more sustainable building environments to reshape our surroundings.

The Living Building Challenge is a program initially launched and continues to be operated by the Cascadia Region Green Building Council (a chapter of both the US Green Building Council and Canada Green Building Council) and has quickly become the most advanced green building rating system in the world.
Started by the Cascadia Building Counsel in 2006, it is comprised of 16 prerequisites and six areas of concentration. It takes LEED and pushes it to the next level. There are no points to be achieved just prerequisites. Check out my previous blog about all the details of this challenge.

The International Living Building Institute is where you can find educational forums and support on the hows of this movement. Check out their website

Thinking Green: Green Building Policies and Programs

You don't have to have a PHD in policy to understand the importance of regulations in Green Buildings. You only need to know that there is need to develop Green Building initiatives; there is need to make changes and innovations in markets and organizations; there is need to create green building program services and more. How can change be made? Where do I start? Can I make a difference? These are some questions we ask ourselves. The answer is yes. We all can make a difference, we just have to have the dedication and passion to make these changes and understanding the need for action.

Having the drive to be a leader in initiating these changes is one thing but also having some guidance of those who came before us is another. The book by Lucia Athens is one of the first books published on this subject that I have found. I met the Author last month and her actions in the community and strive in this field have given her a large knowledge base that she has shared with us in this book.

I recommend this book to all that have a passion of sustainable living.

Eco Products: Greener Product LLC

Looking for a great green search engine for green products, that are also LEED approved from the start.

Look no further than Greener Product LLC.

This company is a web-based platform that supports the manufacturer by cataloging their qualified green products and providing the ability to quickly search for building products, evaluate each product against the United States Green Building Council’s LEED standards (LEED) and then save or print the evaluation report, which can be easily inserted into your project file.

This free service platform allows the building specifiers to quickly search for green building products and then once identified evaluate those product against the LEED standards they are to be applied to. A simple 4 step search engine helps you narrow down your search. Here is how it works:

1st step – you choose the product type you are looking for and what LEED credit attribute you are looking for. Example, within 500 miles, certified woods, rapidly renewable, etc.

2nd step – you are given a list of products with a check on the attributes they carry. Here you can choose one or more of the products you want and add it to your project list. You also have manufacture information and contact number, if you need more information, samples, etc.

3rd step – you will be asked to what LEED rating system you are looking to achieve. Example, LEED New Construction 2009, LEED for Schools or even for projects registered under LEED v2.0

4th step – is the documentation summary, where all the information on the product is listed as well as how many LEED points can be achieved by choosing it.

This website cuts down on the time needed to research the products for a LEED project. Getting the right documentation is very time consuming, with this site you can concentrate on the more important parts of the project.

For more information check out the website @