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December 8, 2011
by Carl Yost

Event: Benchmarking in Action: Retrofitting New York
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.30.11
Speaker: Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP — Founding Principal, FXFOWLE; Andrew Kimball — CEO, The Brooklyn Navy Yard; Paul Rode — Project Executive, Solutions, Johnson Controls, Inc.
Moderator: Russell Unger, LEED AP — Executive Director, Urban Green Council, U.S. Green Building Council of New York
Organizers: AIANY; Center for Architecture Foundation
Sponsors: Underwriters: ARUP; ConEdison; Perkins+Will; Lead Sponsors: Buro Happold; STUDIOS Architecture; 3M; EPD Energy Products Distribution; APG Design Studio; Sponsors: FLIR; MechoShade Systems Inc.; Robert Silman Associates; Trespa; Supporters: Acheson Doyle Partners Architects PC; DeLaCour Family Foundation; Ibex Construction; KPF; Syska Hennessy Group, Inc.; Friends: 1100 Architect; Bleecker Area Merchants & Residents Association (BAMRA); Brenda Levin; Capsys Corp.; Community Environmental Center Inc.; Helpern Architects; Hugo S. Subotovsky AIA Architects LLC; Levien & Company; New York Building Congress Inc.; Oppenheimer Brady Vogelstein; P.W. Grosser Consulting Inc.; Swanke Hayden Connell Architects; Viridian Energy & Environmental LLC

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(L-R): Empire State Building; Brooklyn Navy Yard development map; Javits Center rendering.

(L-R): BigMac; courtesy Brooklyn Navy Yard; courtesy Javits Center.

By now, most architects know our built environment is massively energy-inefficient. As Russell Unger, LEED AP, executive director of the Urban Green Council, put it, “If we can’t solve energy in existing buildings, we absolutely can’t deal with climate change in this country.” So it’s encouraging to hear from architects and engineers who are beginning to tackle the problem.

Paul Rode, an engineer with Johnson Controls retrofitting the Empire State Building, began by noting a transition away from emphasizing total energy consumption. “It’s no longer about absolute reductions in energy usage,” he said, “it’s about reduction of waste.” Accordingly, the Empire State Building is designed to be more efficient in how energy is used. He noted that more than half of energy savings occur in tenant spaces — not in the building envelope or mechanical systems, though these are also important — so many solutions are aimed at users, from software that allows tenants to monitor their own consumption, to design guidelines that encourage more efficient fit-outs.

Andrew Kimball, CEO of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, discussed retrofitting at the scale of an entire campus. Now housing 275 businesses and 580 employees, the site is one of the country’s few center-city industrial zones to preserve light manufacturing use (rather than converting to residential or entertainment). In recent years, all Navy Yard development has centered on sustainability including managing stormwater runoff and installing off-the-grid streetlamps; adaptive reuse of industrial buildings; and encouraging tenants to adopt green practices. It also centers on the simple fact that manufacturing within city limits saves transportation energy costs while preserving well-paying, middle-class jobs.

Finally, Bruce Fowle, FAIA, LEED AP, discussed FXFOWLE’s Javits Center renovation. Built in the 1980s, the convention center was never properly funded, and decades of deferred maintenance caused it to deteriorate rapidly. On a shoestring budget, the firm will bring the building to LEED Silver, replacing the curtain wall and rooftop mechanical units, upgrading the interior lighting, and installing a new green roof. The Javits Center currently falls 10% below the performance required by current energy codes; after the retrofit, it should exceed it by 26%. It’s a start.

Carl Yost is the marketing and publicity coordinator for Gabellini Sheppard Associates. He has written for Forbes, Architectural Record, and The Architect’s Newspaper, among other publications.

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