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Planning on a Greenroof or Solar in NYC? Read this Now!

March 4, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I’m on the NYC Tax Abatement e-mail list, and this is what Carter H. Strickland, Jr., Senior Policy Advisor for Air and Water in the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, just sent out  to advise  everyone planning on applying for a tax abatement for either a greenroof or solar system:


Dear green roof stakeholder:

Given the tight time frame we are facing with processing the new green roof tax abatements for this year, the Department of Buildings is trying to streamline the process for processing those applications.   Any solar installers or buildings owners who have a project that they think qualifies for an abatement this year (therefore needing to start the process by March 16, 2009 per the law) should immediately contact Bonnie Gerard (212-442-1239 or bgerard@buildings.nyc.gov) as soon as possible.   DOB is finalizing the checklist and application forms for the abatement and we will distribute them to you as soon as we receive the finalized version (Bonnie will also be able to give them to you once they are finalized).

Please forward this email to anyone else you think could have green roof projects that are eligible for an abatement this year. Thank you.”

This follows the DOB hearing held yesterday, March 3, 2009,  regarding implementing  the draft  regulations relating to the installation of green roofs for a tax abatement (which was open to public comment), approved by the state of New York in June of 2008.  

Since the statute requires that applications have to be filed by March 15 every year (a Sunday in 2009, so it extends to the following day, March 16),  NYC is trying to get a sense of the number of applications that  they can expect.     Obviously,  New York City’s Department of Buildings needs to know immediately on prospective applications, so if you’re building a greenroof this year, take note!

~ Linda V.

Of related interest (found in Greenroofs 101 > Industry Support > U.S. ):

August 8, 2008:   GOVERNOR PATERSON SIGNS LAWS TO HELP SPUR INVESTMENT IN RENEWABLE ENERGY – The A.11226 Diaz R/S.7553 Lanza bill was signed by New York State Governor Paterson and deals with the tax abatement for renewable energy, providing a tax abatement for construction of green roofs in New York City.   Read the Press Release  from New York State.

June 24, 2008:   Building owners in New York City who install green rooftops will now receive a significant tax credit under a bill (A.11226) sponsored by Assemblyman Ruben Diaz Jr. that passed the state legislature on June 24, 2008.

Under this law, building owners in New York City who install green roofs on at least 50 percent of available rooftop space can apply for a one-year property tax credit of up to $100,000. The credit would be equal to $4.50 per square-foot of roof area that is planted with vegetation, or approximately 25 percent of the typical costs associated with the materials, labor, installation and design of the green roof. Read the Press Release from Sustainable South Bronx.

Sustainability is for the Masses, by Design & Example

February 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I love Inhabitat  and think that their postings are always fresh and pertinent, examing what’s new and on the cutting edge of design.   But I just have to comment on the post from yesterday, February 19, 2009 –A Green Roofed Dog House for Obama’s New Puppy!   A gift for the Obama family from Sustainable Pet Design  (makers of Greenrrroof Animal Homes), the Obama Dog Home – Summa Canum (Latin for “Top Dog”) – was “created not only to provide an appropriately sustainable and stylish home for the new leader of the free canine world, but to introduce eco-friendly practices and materials to the American people.  ” A fantastic concept, and we’d all like to see the White House itself eventually greenroofed, right?   So why not start with a green dog house as a demonstration for all?   But as such, shouldn’t it be an example of a feasible option  available to the average American, too?

My comments aren’t  about Inhabitat, but geared to the company highlighted, the allusion of its name  and specifically to  their pricing structure.  Actually, my commentary is a long time coming, something I have to get off my chest…just give me a minute to rant and then let’s discuss the learning opportunities!   I remember first reading about  this new landscape designer about a year and a half ago in NovoMetro.   We  highly regard  all things eco-chic and always celebrate ecological design whether boutique or on a grand scale and  enjoyed reading about  her spunk and youth, and  appreciated the modern designs with vegetated roofs for dog and bird houses – see the article in NewsLinks.   But the concept of ultra-expensive boutique green architecture being referred to as sustainable irked me then, and even more when I saw so many news sources picking up on this “sustainable” dog house phenomenon…

I’m no one to diss marketing schemes and press coverage – in fact, that’s good old capitalism at its best.   And I certainly applaud entrepreneurship, especially  when it goes hand-in-hand with ecological design, but doesn’t the term “sustainability” also imply some level of long term economic responsibility?   In all consciousness, although the materials may be green, how can these prices be considered sustainable:

Greenrrrooff Animal Homes,  Dog Houses:
Extra Small: $1000
Small: $1250
Medium: $1500
Large: $2000
Extra Large: $3000
Couture Homes, Extra Large: $6000

These are obviously specialty items only for the rich – maybe for Paris Hilton, but not for the rest of us.   I’m not saying that this company shouldn’t offer these  artistic, custom  designs  to a niche market for the affluent; I am saying we’re not doing ourselves any favors by touting these structures as completely sustainable and  the media should be cognizant of this.   Regarding the Obama dog house, Sustainable Pet Design says, “Our intent is to create an ongoing testing ground for sustainable practices to which all Americans can contribute.   Summa Canum can be retrofitted with solar panels, radiant floor heating, a graywater recycling system…”   All awesome and noble ideas for promoting sustainable practices, but at what price?

OK, I can hear it now – Linda, you’ve missed the point: this dog house is made from completely donated environmentally-friendly materials from various companies, including Emory Knoll Farms, and it’s a gift.     Yes, but we learn by example and our greatest opportunity for example in the United States lies with our President.   The rest of us aren’t going to have vendors and designers donate their materials and expertise to us, and most of us certainly cannot afford even the Extra Small dog house at $1,000!

So what’s my suggestion – not to accept this gift?   No, but how about we present affordable options as well?   Maybe have a competition for the First Dog’s abode or a fundraiser for  animal charities from local Washington, D.C. area school kids to design both dog and bird houses?   They could team up with university architecture and/or landscape architecture students or even area design professionals.   I’m pretty sure we can get vendors to supply or sponsor materials and would end up with quite a wide  variety of conventional built-in-place greenroofs as well as modular ones.   This could be in honor of Earth Day, perhaps.

For example, the Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden  in Malmö, Sweden has held very successful greenroofed bird house competitions where school children  learn about green design and construction; all the bird houses are put on display  for a while for public viewing and the winner gets a place of honor on the roof garden.   Our U.S. version could  hold the judging and/or auction on the lawn of the White House, and have non-winning entries donated to local animal shelters, schools, etc., with some of the greenroofed bird houses  set within the gardens.  What a great way to introduce the greenroof concept to many and encourage future generations to embrace ecological design!

Here are a couple of more affordable, and just as fashion-conscious dog house favorites of mine –  first is Finn and Cooper’s Dog House from Dr. Bradley Rowe, Associate Professor, Michigan State University, Department of Horticulture (see Michigan State Green Roof Research).   Brad estimates the cost at  “probably a couple hundred dollars.   Most of the cost was in the wood to build the doghouse, not the green roof part.   I harvested sedum cuttings off of some of our research plots, bought a few plants, and some were donated by Ed Snodgrass.”   The photo at left shows it newly constructed in 2003, and more fully grown in and still being enjoyed at right  in July, 2006.


Austin-based Chelsea Bandy of  Chelsea+Remy Design  and her boyfriend created the following design for the Fall 2007 Barkitecture competition, where local designers, builders and architects were asked to build dog houses with all of the proceeds going to support various local animal rescue groups.   Chelsea estimates that the total cost (if nothing were donated and everything was purchased outright) would have been about $500.   By the way, that’s Remy on the right!

Aside from the plants, other green materials used included:

-Crushed recycled glass (from local nursery Gardenville) bottles which add some fun sparkle and color to the roof while taking advantage of the “green” factor
-EcoResin 3Form Panels with Capiz shells, donated by 3 Form. (www.3-Form.com) We used these as windows.
-Concrete floor tiles.
-Reclaimed Low VOC faux paint.
-All scrap materials were donated to another building project so that waste was minimal.  

Neither of these dog house costs include designer or transportation fees, something to keep in mind (act locally, remember?).   The biggest drawback we have right now within the green building industry at large is higher up front costs to implement these new, albeit innovative green materials and services, but we know these will continue to come down as both supply and demand increase.   Designing sustainably  shouldn’t be an exclusive option only for a few, but inclusive of many.   There will always be a market for one-of-a-kind art pieces, but sustainable design as a global concept is important, and completely possible with continued ingenuity.   How about some eco-friendly design options for  our wallets, too?

Happy Greening ~ Linda V. next to my own neo-classical style greenroof bird feeder, a gift designed by fellow University of Georgia School of Environmental Design (now College of Environment and Design) graduate (now assistant professor) Shelley Cannady, in 2002 for about $50 using recycled materials and yes, donated succulents from Saul Nurseries  (it’s good to have some connections!).

March 13, 2009 Summa Canum Update:    As of March 12,  the eco-friendly doghouse is en route to the White House.   The Sustainable Pet Design press release says, “Green companies across the country have donated materials and services, including rock legend Neil Young, who is driving it to the White House this month, in his super-efficient hybrid 1959 Lincoln Continental to promote environmentally responsible vehicles; Summa Canum will be riding along in the convoy and delivered to the White House.   The dog home generated enough enthusiasm among members of the green community that almost all of the materials were donated.

“Summa Canum is more than a doghouse””it is an effort to promote and introduce sustainable materials to the American public through an accessible object.   Sustainable Pet Design and the sponsors of Summa Canum hope to create excitement through the idea that green is cool and patriotic.   The interest this generates will provide an opportunity to present greenroofs and eco-friendly materials as concrete ways to decrease climate change and waste, lower health concerns, and provide green jobs.”

Although I have reservations about the pricing of the doghouses for sale on SPD, I do wish you continued success, and offer you kudos for all of your hard work
~ Linda V.

Leaning Green: Sustainability in the New Year

January 27, 2009 at 3:34 pm

Happy New Year  everyone!

Now that we’re settling into a brand new 2009, welcoming a new U.S. leader and fresh perceptions, we can appreciate the hard work ahead for all of us in this global economy, but you can also sense the excitement and hope for a brighter future.   It’s not going to happen overnight, but it will happen.   President Obama’s inaugural message calls us to action:

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility,” President Barack Obama said. “A recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.”

While everyone’s dealing with the credit crunch,  wavering markets, layoffs, and overall tightening of our collective belts, I strongly believe that one area of the economy is not only stagnant or diminishing in value but growing – the green sector.

Big Views and Big Ideas Equal  Green Innovation

It used to be that “green” anything was simply a buzz word to describe individual topics – green living, green architecture, and yes, green roofs.   Sustainability was perceived as a compartmentalized ideal relating to a specific area of practice.   Of course we know that all things are connected, and sustainability itself is simply a way of life, a philosophy, a big world view, and it’s come a long way.   Now, sustainability is much more than a trend in any one field –  driving sustainability mainstream  is a manifesto of our times.

Leading the way is the need to continue investing in alternative fuels and renewable energies, and for the U.S. at least, to become more independent from foreign sources.   We need to create greener infrastructure which will lead to green jobs.   A greener economy will naturally follow, and with the proliferation of green innovations in all shapes and forms, green building will not only flourish but become the expected standard in construction.      Numerous reports and articles are discussing these outlooks for 2009, and I’ve found these particularly interesting – please feel free to share other articles, too:

Green makes good business sense
Richmond Times Dispatch, by Rex Springston, January 25, 2009

Sustainability in ’09 Reflects Robust ’08: Even in a Bad Economy, an Enormous Pipeline of Green Building Projects is Positioned to Flood the Market
CoStar Group, by Andrew C. Burr, January 24, 2009

National Studies Show Green Building as Key Part of America’s Economic Future Green Building Creates Green Jobs that Save Energy and Money
GLASS ON WEB, by USGBC, January 19, 2009 – this one’s particulary useful as it contains quotes from Rick Fedrizzi, President, CEO & Founding Chair, U.S. Green Building Council along with figures from Turner Construction Company’s “Green Building Barometer;” McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2008 SmartMarket Report, “The Green Home Consumer;” “2008 Green Survey: Existing Buildings,” a survey jointly funded by Incisive Media’s Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com, the Building Owners and Managers Association International and the U.S. Green Building Council; a Greener World Media study on green building; and a September 2008 study from The Center for American Progress and the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

2008 Autodesk/AIA Green Index: Architects Report Increased Adoption of Green Building; Survey Shows Growing Use of Green Roofs, Renewable Energy Sources and Design Software to Improve Building Performance, November 2008

Helping the Environment Helps the Bottom Line

Going green is not only responsible, it makes good business sense, too.   And it appears this concept is also  establishing a firm trench hold in  the mainstream consciousness.   In fact, according to the AIA Green Index (see above), architects continue to cite client demand (66%) as the primary influence on their likelihood to design green buildings.   Consumers are buying green products, governments are requiring energy-efficient green buildings, and corporations are discovering the green goodwill and marketing advantages that  green operations can bring.    All this brings me to my feelings for a rosy outlook in our own Greenroof Industry.

We continue to enter case studies in The Greenroof Projects Database on a weekly basis and report on new and planned projects daily in NewsLinks, and in our view  there’s no easing up of living roof projects on the boards.  Green Roofs for Healthy Cities continues polling its corporate membership on built projects, and figures continue to rise yearly.   On a national and international level, our advertising partners as well as associates in university and business continue their research, development, and introduction  of new products and  systems.   And the increase of greenroof organizations, green building conferences and individual workshops on vegetative roofs wordwide is staggering – but all good!   Surely we all have different viewpoints but we do all have the same common interest in promoting green architecture.

I’ve voted Democrat, I’ve voted Republican, but either way in these times I feel we all need to lean a little green to advance a sustainable way of life.     Let’s all work together and create a sustainable greenroof community of collaboration.

We look forward to a momentous and robust 2009, and hope you are doing the same!

Happy Greening,
~ Linda V.

Before You Party, Vote for Green Roofs!

December 31, 2008 at 4:35 pm

 Looking to do one more important thing in 2008 to make it memorable?   I know it’s a little 11th Hour, but… Our colleague Karen Weber, Executive Director, Foundation for a Green Future, Inc. and Coordinator, Boston GreenFest 2009 (August 21-21, 2009), is urging us to vote for greenroofs to be on the Obama Administration’s agenda, but it has to be done by midnight, tonight, December 31, 2008!

There’s a movement of citizens inspired by the presidential campaign who have submitted ideas for how they think the Obama Administration should change America, called “Ideas for Change in America.”   And  Karen’s is called:

Green Roofs (Vegetated Roofs) ASAP

To vote for this idea, click above now and please ask your friends and family to do the same!   The top 10 ideas are going to be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by Change.org, MySpace, and more than a dozen leading nonprofits after the Inauguration.   So each idea has a real chance at becoming policy.

We know that the President-Elect has his sights set on many programs to bring our country into balance, in political, economic and environmental terms.   And if you’re reading this, you don’t have to be convinced of the many advantages of living roofs, and I’m sure you realize that green architecture crosses political and geographical boundaries, benefiting the entire community that is our Earth.

So if you are an American citizen, whether or not you voted for Obama, he’s our next leader and you have to admit it’s an exciting time in the U.S.   Help us continue to promote greenroofs here in the United States of America as one part of a healthy, prosperous and ecologically sound New Year and beyond.
Karen writes, “Let’s make it a truly green new year!”   Speaking of which, after you do Vote for Greenroofs, we also want you to have a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve, and many good wishes for a 2009 full of health, happiness and love, in a world full of green.

~ Happy Greening, everyone!

Linda S. Velazquez