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October 12, 2011
by Kathy Kia LEED AP

Event: When Green is not an Option but the Law
Location: Center for Architecture, 10.03.11
Speakers: Dr. Daniel Kurz — Head of the Division for Information and Documentation, Building Department of the City of Zurich & Curator and Educator, “Smarter Living — The 2000-Watt Society”; Laurie Kerr, AIA — Senior Policy Advisor, NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability; Mathias Heinz, SIA/BSA — Architect & Partner, pool Architekten (Zurich); Richard Dattner, FAIA — Principal, Dattner Architects (NYC)
Moderator: Stephan Tanner, AIA — Principal, Intep (Minneapolis)
Organizers: Think Swiss; Umberto Dindo, AIA; AIANY
Sponsors: Consulate General of Switzerland in New York; Cleantech Switzerland; Stadt Zurich; Center for Architecture

Forum Chriesbach, EAWAG, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Architect: Bob Gysin + Partner BGP, Zurich (left). GSA Peter W. Rodino Building High Performance Modernization. Architect: Dattner Architects with Richard McElhiney Architects.

Photo by Roger Frei, Zurich, courtesy AIANY (left); Dattner Architects (right)

Both NYC and Switzerland have been committed to sustainability for quite some time. In 1994 groundwork was laid for Minergie, the Swiss equivalent of USGBC’s LEED system. Soon after, the 2000-Watt Society, initiated by the Swiss Institute of Technology with the goal of reducing individual energy use by one-third — or 2,000 watts — was officially integrated into the Swiss constitution.

In NYC, parallel efforts are underway. About four years ago, according to Laurie Kerr, AIA, senior policy advisor in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, NYC put into place three progressive strategies to achieve greenhouse gas reduction in the building sector by 2030. These initiatives have snowballed into a number of green codes and regulations. The Green Codes Tasks Force is aimed at the private sector to reduce energy consumption, toxicity, water consumption, and waste. The goal for the Green Greater Buildings Plan is to reduce citywide CO2 usage by 5% by retrofitting all buildings more than 50,000 square feet — which amounts to half of the existing building square footage in NYC. Now in effect, small renovations are required to meet current NYC energy codes. Local Law 87 requires an audit and retro commissioning plan for large buildings every 10 years. In addition, current benchmarking of large existing buildings is required to disclose energy usage to the public. To set an example, the city is enforcing city-owned buildings, hospitals, and universities to reduce energy consumption by 30% in 10 years, which includes approximately 4,000 buildings. Kerr believes that NYC” will become the nucleus of a radical exchange of information about our buildings.”

In conjunction with the opening of “Smarter Living — The 2000-Watt Society,” on view at the Center for Architecture through 10.31.11, curator Dr. Daniel Kurz, head of the Division for Information and Documentation at Zurich’s Building Department, presented a few public projects in Zurich that strive for CO2 reduction. The Friesenberg Cooperative Building Society, for example, is a district heating and storage scheme for a mixed-use public housing project. Via a seven-mile deep underground storage facility, warm air from solar collectors is stored and then distributed in winter months by way of heat pumps.

Richard Dattner, FAIA, founder of NYC-based Dattner Architects, has been practicing sustainable design since the 1970s with clients such as the Estée Lauder Group. They now have a number of sustainable buildings both completed and in the works. For example, with the help of President Obama’s fiscal stimulus dollars, the GSA’s 1960-era Peter W. Rodino Building in Newark, NJ, is currently undergoing a high-performance modernization. Designed by Dattner with Richard McElhiney Architects, the renovation includes wrapping the aging façade with a new, mechanically-ventilated suspended glass curtain wall, which will insulate and protect the federal building. It is clear that both the U.S. and Switzerland are committed to a carbon free future. As Dattner put it: “The Swiss and the Americans have much to learn from each other. We run parallels in thought, yet have very different ways of approaching sustainability.”

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