Green is Gorgeous Environmentally-Friendly Buildings Make Economic Sense

Kermit the Frog once sang, "It's not easy being green." In truth, New York-area co-ops and condominiums are discovering that "going green" is easier and more cost-effective than ever before. No, you won't be seeing a rash of high rises with elaborate landscaping or emerald paint jobs. In common language, to be "green" is to be ecologically and environmentally conscious. Green buildings conserve resources, minimize pollution, and in many cases save their residents money. Thanks to both private and government programs, residential buildings can develop strategies for greening their property, and then get the funds to pay for program implementation.

What Green Means

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Web site, "Green buildings are more Earth-friendly by virtue of greater energy efficiency, cleaner air, utilization of recycled materials, and incorporation of renewable and energy efficient power generation systems. They minimize environmental impact and maximize the preservation of open space."

The Green Building Council also has a rating system called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which sets the standard for what makes a building "green." The areas of focus include: whole building cleaning and maintenance issues including chemical use; ongoing indoor air quality, energy and water efficiency, recycling programs and facilities, exterior maintenance programs, and lighting performance.

Lewis Kwit is president of Energy Investment Systems, a Manhattan-based consulting company that implements energy efficiency and conservation systems and technology. Says Kwit, "Making a building more productive, more valuable, and more economic is also making it green." For example, during periods of excessive electric use, the city's oldest and least-efficient power plants must be put to use. By taking energy conserving measures, buildings can reduce the total amount of juice needed by the city, and thus help prevent the pollution using these old plants generates.

Go Green

In May 2000, New York became the first state to offer an incentive package to developers who build environmentally-conscious commercial and apartment buildings. The so-called "Green Building Tax Credit" allows builders who meet energy goals and use environmentally preferable materials to claim up to $3.75 per square foot for interior work and $7.50 per square foot for exterior work against their state tax bill. To qualify for the credit, a building must meet certain requirements for energy use, materials selection, waste disposal and water use, and have the work certified by a licensed engineer or architect.

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