Foreign Policy Blogs

Green Buildings Expo

I went to GreenBuildingsNY 2009 the other day and had a fine time. The show had everything from windows and doors, to toilets and garbage disposals, to solar PV and green roofs – and beyond. Knowledgeable vendors, great stuff. Green building, for my money, has nothing but upside. As I wrote in my article for the FPA on the international green building movement, the building and construction trade has “…111 million people directly employed with 75% employed in developing countries with the industry accounting for 10 percent of global GDP.” There is a growing emphasis on green building from groups like the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, the Clinton Climate Initiative, the World Green Building Council, UNEP’s Sustainable Buildings and Construction Initiative, the Union Internationale des Architectes and the American Institute of Architects, among thousands of other local, regional, national and international NGOs and firms.

GreenBuildingsNY 2009 was largely put together by the very good writers and editors at Some of the interesting folks I spoke with at the expo included Helios Energy Systems who install solar modules, and Long Island Compost who had a hand in the exciting new High Line Park and who also work on green roof projects.

There were, to me, a surprising number of green roof specialists, including Roofscapes, Green City and GreenGrid. That this area of green building is burgeoning so is a wonderful sign. What’s in it for us? Radically reducing heating and cooling costs – and energy use, diminishing the urban heat island effect, dramatically lowering the impact of stormwater runoff in the urban environment, and, surprise, surprise, creating a whole new felicitous architectural aesthetic. Just look at the pictures at the websites of these two companies, or at this recent NGM article. Fun fact: There are over 100 million square feet of planted roofs in Europe today.

Energy companies were there, including the folks from the energy efficiency programs at National Grid and Con Edison. GDF Suez was also at the expo with some interesting takes on energy efficiency and renewables. New York State’s energy agencies were there as well. The NYS Public Service Commission has several relevant programs, including on Green Power and energy efficiency and conservation. The NYS Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) also has key programs including those on saving energy and renewables.

Energy efficiency is a recurring theme at the blog. It’s also one of the most prevalent targets for all the green stimulus packages that have been rolling out around the world. The folks at US Energy Group are focused on maximizing building energy efficiency, as are also the professionals at Sustainability Partners. There is so much bang for the buck in this – something now wholly recognized by everyone from energy policy wonks to contractors.

What other options are there for maximizing the sustainability of your new and old buildings? Lots. Paint, for instance. See this from the folks at Pittsburgh Paints. What about your cleaning products and systems? Those can have a big impact. One local vendor, Edmar, has a range of green cleaning products. Toilets and other fixtures? You bet. Moen and Kohler were there.

Green Seal, not incidentally, certifies a lot of these sorts of products and services throughout the country.

I had a nice chat with one of the folks from InSinkErator. Environmental benefits in garbage disposals? How about reducing the burden of wastes to landfills, for a starter, and then, because the organic waste is going to wastewater treatment plants, enhancing the flow of biosolids that can be put to beneficial use as fertilizer at the end of the process.

Renewable energy is never too far from my mind. Pfister Energy has a diverse portfolio of options, including architectural wind and daylighting. Wesco had a display that combines an Easco boiler with a Capstone microturbine giving 85-95% total system efficiency. You can’t beat that!

So, to make a long story short, while sustainability writers like me, and policy wonks and policymakers, and activists are all out here trying to save the planet, many of the very good folks who were at the green building expo are doing it, day by day, with increasingly greater effectiveness. Good on ya!



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change


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