INHABITAT:It may seem like common sense, but in most cases, are the sustainability benefits of retrofitting an existing building greater than just building a new building?Stephen: A tremendous amount of GHGs are produced constructing a building. From making concrete, to transporting supplies. Without a doubt there are times when a new building is the best solution for a site. Look at the AOL Time Warner Building versus the old convention center previously at that site. Clearly, the project developer created tremendous value here. However, we also have such a bounty of relevant existing buildings in NYC. We need to make sure that we’re not tearing down some of these gems. Look at all the conversions and how prices of warehouse buildings skyrocket as they are converted to residential, or commercial. NYC’s meatpacking district is a great example of this. We simply can’t rebuild some of the things built seventy-five years ago.
CodeGreen’s own LEED Platinum office space in NYC
INHABITAT: Can you tell us a little bit about CodeGreen and what it does?
Stephen: CodeGreen finds solutions for bringing sustainability and efficiency to existing buildings. We essentially review a building’s goals and figure out the best way to implement them. For some owners its lighting upgrades, others its photovoltaic, i.e. solar panels. Whatever the goal is, CodeGreen’s experience is in allowing an existing building to achieve that goal. There is a misconception that only new designed buildings can be efficient.
INHABITAT:CodeGreen is often considered a pioneer in the LEED Existing Buildings game in NYC. What prompted you to focus on that area when so many others were still fixated on new buildings?
Stephen: New buildings get the headlines. But, the numbers speak for themselves. Buildings dominate NYC’s carbon footprint. Approximately 75% of NYC’s carbon emissions stem from energy used in buildings and today’s existing buildings will make up 85% of all real estate in 2030. You’re talking of tens of thousands of buildings that have never had basic energy audits or “tune ups”. The payback on improving these buildings is typically 2 to 3 years. Besides that, I think everyone at CodeGreen is a bit contrarian! You tell us there’s no solution to something or it’s too tough to modify an existing building, and we’ll work and work to prove the naysayers wrong.