Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Striving for green answers
Group that helps unemployed focuses on energy efficiency for businesses, buildings
First published: Saturday, October 24, 2009
COLONIE -- There were eight of them, holding instruments not much larger than an iPod and pointing them at light fixtures throughout the Albany Marriott Hotel on Wolf Road.
On Friday, three of them returned to reveal what they had learned: By replacing its incandescent lights with light emitting diodes, the hotel could save $9,000 on its monthly electric bill.
The group has been trained by Strive, an organization in East Harlem that equips the unemployed to get and keep meaningful jobs.
They work for Eco Answers US, which provides energy audits, among other "green" services.
On Friday representatives of Strive and Eco Answers were at the Marriott, addressing the annual Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise conference of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
Theirs was part of a larger presentation on the effort to construct buildings that are energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
Strive was founded nearly a quarter-century ago and has trained more than 40,000 workers, said Eric Treworgy, its CEO. Last year, it saw the need for green skills training, which includes everything from brownfield remedia, tion to energy audting and installing photovoltaic systems.
Bill Thomas of Eco Answers told of his company's initiatives, including energy audits of New York City subway stations and a facility in Fall River, Mass., that has begun producing LED-powered tubes to replace fluorescent lights.
"One of the techniques that is the low-hanging fruit is lighting," Thomas told the audience.
The Dormitory Authority, which finances construction not only of dormitories but also laboratories, health centers, libraries and other government and nonprofit buildings, is striving to make new construction as green as possible.
"We have a policy that every project we do will be at least LEED silver," said Jodi Smits Anderson, director of sustainability programs for the Dormitory Authority, referring to the certification program of the U.S. Green Building Council.
Nancy Goshow, managing partner of New York City-based Goshow Architects, described how her office used computer-controlled lighting fixtures, paints and furnishings free of volatile organic compounds, and nanotechnology-based coatings that are antimicrobial on such things as keyboards, phones and door handles.
"We're living in a healthy, clean environment, and that makes me want to go to work every day," she said.
While LEDs and other energy-efficient products typically have higher upfront costs, Thomas said the return on investment can be measured in months.
With the state pushing for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2050, Thomas and others are counting on a growing market that will also be a generator of new jobs.
It's "the birth of a new industry," Thomas said.

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