From: L. Norton, ENN
Published October 21, 2008 11:50 AM

Black is the new Green: NY chapter of US Green Building Council Annual Gala promotes green building and gives awards

Last week, ENN was invited to join roughly 360 members, celebrities, dignitaries and special guests dressed in black tie gathered at the American Museum of Natural History among the dinosaur bones and under the globe of the planetarium, to honor NY Mayor Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the President of Related Companies and the President and CEO of NBC for their efforts to make NYC green. The funds raised are to be used for the creation of a physical Green Building Resource Center in NYC and an on-line Green Building Resource Center for the region.

The USGBC New York has grown in the last year and one half when it had one employee, no telephone and no office to a current staff of 9 supported by hundreds of volunteers. Behind this growth is the need for both the trades and contractors and the general public to be educated about green building and LEED certification both within NY City, as part of the Green Codes Task Force, and around NY State.



“Even though there was some resistance at first from some trades to being green, now pretty much everyone understands its importance”, said Henry Kita, Senior Vice President of BTEA, New York’s Alliance of Union Contractors. “One reason for that is that costs of going green have come down considerably”, said Steve Ohnemus, VP of Zubatkin Owner Representation, LLC. “Even during demolition, the most basic level of construction, it is now understood that there is a benefit of separating the materials into various types for recycling. It has become automatic”.

John McMullen, of Cape Advisors, Inc. builders of quality green hotels and multi-family buildings in New York and the surrounding areas said, “ the costs of being green are no longer any different that regular construction, so now everything we build is green.”

Education seems to be the key which is why the proceeds of the event are being used to build Green Building Resource Center. A major challenge is sorting out who is offering what type of education and what are the differences in quality and cost. “The designation of AP after one’s name, the sign that someone is certified as a LEED expert, will become increasingly more important,” said Robert Williams, also of Zubatkin. “Most offices in the trade now have 15-20 percent of their staff with LEED training, which is essential if they are to successfully compete.”

Clearly NYC, with its aging infrastructure, and massive environmental challenges is an important test case of how big cities are going to cut energy costs and lower environmental impact. This must be done in both large and small ways, from building new green buildings to reducing the greenhouse gases and the carbon footprint of every existing offices and apartments.

Like the experience of those that successfully reduced the culture of littering in the US in the sixties and seventies, it is generally agreed that the only thing that works is to raise consciousness on a local level, one person at a time. In this case, USGBC New York is on the right track. By hosting a gala awards event in one of NYC’s most visible landmarks they are making those attempting green initiatives more visible. And by attention to the details, right down to the black tie, the red carpet and the attendance of Miss Universe, awareness will be increased one builder, one developer, one tenant, one socialite and one Mayor at a time.

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