Dear Governor Cuomo,
To: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NY State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224
Date: March 18, 2017
From: Jodi Smits Anderson, concerned Architect and Albany resident
RE: High Performance Building Goals
One of the things I have taken note of in my work over the last ten years with a NYS Authority is that it is very easy to focus on goals, such as MWBE utilization goals, that have clear tracking and reporting requirements, coupled with education as to how to achieve those goals, and chance of periodic audits. We spend significant time on these goals, goals that do not directly benefit the building project or the client, but that do benefit the economic diversity and strength of NY while they seek equitable access and potential for MWB and SDV businesses.
It is also true that if a goal is not clearly spelled out in an executive order (EO) or a law, or at least as a publicly stated goal with specific attention to metrics proving success, people deem it as unimportant. At worst it is summarily dismissed as a one-off moment for media consumption: not a real goal. No one spends time on these efforts, even if they would have direct benefit to the owner, the project itself and the long-term economic development and resource management of NYS.
This second description fits the current high performance (green) building market in New York State. The irony is that green building goals can be a vehicle for MWB enterprise differentiation, for durability planning, to enhance budget management, to support improved learning environments for students in higher education and in k-12 schools, to speed healing in our hospitals, to implement resiliency measures in all buildings…and the list goes on.
There are many EOs that are clearly supported by high performance buildings and you have set many extraordinary goals for energy use reductions and to promote local business as well as attention to waste management and toxins reductions. These are greatly appreciated. In some cases, there are EOs and laws that have not directly enough affected the building industry, despite the fact that our buildings in the USA consume nearly half of the energy we use, and are responsible for eating up 75% of the electricity produced. We have a law for achievement of green government-funded buildings, the Green Building Construction Act, as defined by LEED systems and equal, but this law never had rules promulgated, and no one follows it. Most don’t know of it. EO #88 has some clear reporting goals aggregated over portfolios of buildings, and the focus is on energy only, which does not support the exceptional synergies achievable in green building approaches. The REV is clear about goals and funding for energy and renewable energy, yet there is no calling for any specific goals for our buildings. Because of this, we are failing to excel.
I respectfully request that the Governor’s office heightens attention to the impact our buildings have on our energy usage. By this I mean our buildings writ large, including water system effects, transportation infrastructure, and renewable and district energy access. Most importantly a focus on the health of our building occupants and energy effectiveness in the building, as these are the two sides we must balance in order to achieve supportive energy use parameters. We must protect the building users while optimizing energy use profiles. If high performing buildings were the direct subject of an EO, the opportunities for achievement would grow significantly.
In my experience, the LEED rating system is an exceptional and well understood tool for high performing building design and construction. However, I recommend an agnostic approach that defines clear goals for achievement in performance and allows use of any tool, paired with the proof and submissions needed to ensure not only performance at first occupancy, but ongoing performance in energy use, water use, air quality for human health and performance, transportation access and use and waste profiles. The Energy Star Portfolio Manager is one good nationwide tool for tracking and reporting on energy use, water use and waste production, fostering broad-market comparative understanding and providing transparency. I’m sure there are others.
I have recently, with a colleague, reached out to your office with suggestions about code compliance including education and enforcement. We continue to work on education sessions for the AIA to deliver, and to discuss other aspects of enforcement and education with NYSERDA and DOS. That work, and ongoing work on a NYS Stretch Code, are valuable and will continue. This suggestion for a focus on green building achievement is addressing the front end of this discussion, intended to change mindset of government entities involved with building projects, and to increase the evident market traction for green buildings across all building types through state leadership and by example. Especially in a time of receding support at the federal level, focus on building excellence at the state level is imperative, not only for intelligent application of budgets but for our materials management, resource management, and the health and productivity of our building users short and long-term.
I welcome any opportunity to speak with your office further about this work, and to assist in any way I can be of use.
Jodi Smits Anderson, AIA, LEED AP BD+C