Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The greening of apartment buildings

The other night I went to a panel discussion on the Upper East Side of Manhattan sponsored by CIVITAS, a neighborhood organization representing the Upper East Side and East Harlem. The topic was "The Greening of Apartment Buildings," and the panelists were Jamie Gibbs, interior designer and landscape architect, of Jamie Gibbs and Associates; Laurie Kerr, senior policy advisor for the NYC Mayor's Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability; Ryan Merkin, senior project manager with Steven Winter Associates (green architecture); Elizabeth Stein, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund, and Joshua Wiener, founder of SilverLining Interiors, which does high-end residential renovations.

While some of the context was a little daunting (like the comments about routine kitchen renovations at $300,000), the discussion and questions from the (packed) audience were quite realistic and down-to-earth. Authentic concerns about issues relating to demolition, recycling of demolition and construction refuse, health and safety issues for demolition and construction crews, sustainability choices even among the highest-end projects (materials, varnishes, etc.).

It was a great example of the kind of discussion that urban neighborhood associations should have -- and, I presume, a great encouragement to the more sustainability-oriented designers, contractors, and engineers.