How Green are New York’s Buildings? Metered New York Offers the Tools to Find Out

NEW YORK CITY – New Yorkers are a discerning ilk. We seek out grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, schools, cafes, boutiques, banks, gurus, and landlords that share our interests all because we can. These days, more and more of our interests tend to be aligned with sustainable goals as a greater number of consumers seek out organic, local, and free-range foods, or green dry-cleaners, or apartments that compost. For these reasons, many New Yorkers will be pleased to learn which property owners are walking the walk and not just talking the talk when it comes to how they consume energy and water.

New York Local Law 84, part of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, mandates that New York City’s large properties, which account for half of the city’s square footage, submit quarterly reports of their energy and water use and greenhouse gas emission. This “benchmarking” process allows energy use to become measurable and manageable for building owners and tenants through the EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager. Since Local Law 84 went into effect in 2009, office buildings and multifamily homes have shown continual decreases in median energy use.

Great! But, how can the public find this information? Until recently, benchmarking reports have been archived deep within the city government website as raw data. Non-profit Urban Green Council analyzed this data and assembled Metered New York, a user-friendly website that provides report cards for registered buildings that include their current energy performance ranked among similar types of buildings, as well as progress over time and general building information.

Let’s say I want to see if the Whole Foods Metered NY screenshotbuilding on Houston is as green as its kale? I enter its address “95 Houston Street” into the search bar and results suggest the registered building address. It tells me that the entire building (primarily a multifamily property) is in the 75th percentile for its property type, lists and defines energy use, water use, GHG emissions and projected energy savings. I can see how its energy use has progressed from 2012 to 2013. Then I can compare this building’s energy use to that of my own building.

The Metered New York website is neatly littered with helpful explanations, info-graphics, and featured properties. Urban Green Council’s Director of Policy Laurie Kerr presented the new website to several of the organization’s new members (consisting mostly of professionals in the Engineering, Architecture and Construction Industry) at a breakfast hosted by Dagher Engineering, PLLC last week. Dagher Engineering, a MEP engineering firm that specializes in sustainable design and LEED consulting, noted the potential impact that energy benchmarking transparency may have for new building and retrofitting alike.

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Laurie Kerr, Director of Policy at Urban Green Council, discusses the drive for creating Metered New York before walking members through the website’s features at a breakfast in the Dagher Engineering office.

Another economical result of energy benchmarking information being made available to the public is that concerned patrons and renters are free to favor higher performing buildings. Much in the same way the transparency of restaurant letter grading has motivated restaurants to meet higher standards of cleanliness, the underlying ideology of the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan is to let consumers create a demand in the market for more efficient buildings, thus motivating building owners to compete for greater efficiency. With the help of Urban Green Council’s Metered New York this is becoming a greater reality.


Women in Engineering Discuss “What It Takes To Lead” at ASHRAE NY Roundtable

ASHRAE NEW YORK Chapter – Women In Engineering


Moderator: Lorey Flick Roberts P.E., Partner at ADS Engineers, ASHRAE NY President Panelists: Victoria Cerami, CEO, Cerami & Associates; Sukanya Paciorek, Senior VP of Corporate Sustainability, Vornado Realty Trust; Josephine Zurica P.E., Principal, Dagher Engineering; Dennis Campbell, Marketing Director, AKF

ASHRAE WiE What It Takes To Lead_Pic edited

From left: Lorey Flick Roberts, Victoria Cerami, Josephine Zurica, Sukanya Paciorek, and Dennis Campbell

NEW YORK CITY – On Wednesday, June 17 ASHRAE Women in Engineering hosted a roundtable discussion “What It Takes To Lead” featuring leaders in the construction, engineering, and sustainability industry. Moderator and ASHRAE NY President, Lorey Flick Roberts, asked the panel questions about topics ranging from work-life balance to confidence in the workplace.

The event was attended by professional women and men representing various ages and career stages. The diverse audience proved that advice from successful leaders is just that; regardless of gender. Dagher Engineering’s Sustainability Consultant, Erika Duran, attended as a guest and offers the following account of experiences shared by leaders in the industry:

Victoria Cerami, CEO of Cerami & Associates and a vocal and vibrant leader, was adamant about dressing for success. In spite of the fact that it may feel uncomfortable to “wear a costume,” she emphasized how a professional appearance affects how well we project success to others, admitting this lesson was learned the hard way early in her career.

Cerami also talked about overcoming expectations of working mothers. After her first child was born, she sensed others were dubious that she would continue on in her professional role. It was Cerami’s return to the workplace following the birth of her second child that proved to others her commitment to the success of her career.

Josephine Zurica of Dagher Engineering, PLLC, worked her way to her current position of Principal after proving her technical and project management aptitude. She made a point of addressing work-life balance, mainly that having a workplace and personal life that support each other are things she values as a leader and an employee. She specifically sought out Dagher Engineering because it has her interests in both sustainability and a balanced lifestyle at the forefront of our business model. Zurica advised young professionals seeking good work-life balance to reach out to businesses that value their professional and personal needs.

Sukanya Paciorek’s story of how her professional path took shape was unique and interesting. Taking the skillset she acquired while working at the United Nations, Paciorek sought the advice and guidance of mentors to help her craft a career in a completely different industry. She is now Senior Vice President of Sustainability at Vornado Realty Trust. Her comments focused on the openness of the sustainability industry to embrace women in leadership.

Dennis Campbell, Marketing Director of AKF, echoed many other panelists’ opinions. He demonstrated the value of work-life balance in sharing that AKF approved that he take a three month leave after his daughter was born. His perspective on collaboration regardless of gender was also heard as he shared his experiences of working on teams comprised of women and men.

The candid conversation that took place doesn’t occur organically in the workplace because the focus is either on current projects, deadlines, or other work-related concerns. Erika Duran, Sustainability Consultant, comments, “It also gave me insight as to the type of leadership Josephine provides and how it complements the leadership styles of the other two principals at the firm. Listening to all of the panelists speak was refreshing. It was something that I was thirsting for and hadn’t realized. I believe many others in the audience benefited from listening as well and I would recommend this event to all professionals.”

Governors Island Alliance Shows Gratitude at Picnic in the Clouds Benefit

On Thursday, July 18, Governors Island Alliance hosted the Picnic in the Clouds Benefit on the 64th floor of One World Trade Center, courtesy of the Durst Organization.

In attendance were Dagher Engineering, PLLC’s Principals, Richard Pearson and Josephine Zurica, with Project Managers, Joseph Munafo and Vivek Patel.

From left: Vivek Patel, Josephine Zurica, Richard Pearson and Joseph Munafo of Dagher Engineering, PLLC

From left: Vivek Patel, Josephine Zurica, Richard Pearson and Joseph Munafo of Dagher Engineering, PLLC

The event was hosted on the unfinished half of the 64th floor of the recently opened Freedom Tower (One World Trade Center) in lower Manhattan. Tall panoramic windows lent South-facing views of Governors Island and everything in between The Hudson and East Rivers.

Visitors also got a peak of the completed Sky Lobby and its North-facing views up the Hudson River toward Central Park and Midtown.

Since opening 30 new acres of park to the public in 2014, Governors Island has been satisfying the interests of tourists and local park-goers alike by offering arts, concerts, historic buildings and tourism, all beyond the vista of the lower Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

Benefit proceeds from the annual fundraiser help support numerous free public programs provided by GIA, like the Harbor School student internships, Family Festival, as well as volunteer programs including “ambassadors” and gardeners who uphold cultural experiences for visitors. The National Park Service and the Trust for Governors Island also rely on the generosity of benefactors. 

Black Water Treatment Plant Brings Clarity to a Gray Area

June 15, 2015

In a May 8, 2015 article published by the New York Times, John Schwartz touches on the sticky issue of rebranding recycled wastewater, or “black water”, into drinking water. He explains how wastewater from a treatment plant in Orange County, CA is converted to purer H20 than bottled water and is completely safe to drink. While the idea has been embraced by conservationists, about 13% of Americans remain staunchly opposed to the concept of black water treatment across the board. However, the technology that offers the potential to recycle more than half of the water used in the United States is not quite so black and white an issue.

The Helena, The Durst Organization's 597-unit upscale residential building in Midtown Manhattan, saves about 50,000 gallons per day of potable water thanks to its innovative black water treatment plant.

The Helena, The Durst Organization’s 597-unit upscale residential building in Midtown Manhattan, saves about 50,000 gallons per day of potable water thanks to its innovative black water treatment plant.

The treatment of black water has been gaining attention in recent years, but the technology is hardly new. In 2005, The Durst Organization called for a way to cut down water consumption and increase efficiency by constructing the largest known black water treatment plant within a residential building. In response, Dagher Engineering, PLLC developed a state-of-the-art design for The Helena that does just that. For ten years now, The Helena, a 597-unit upscale residential building located in Midtown Manhattan, has been reusing the wastewater it produces allowing it to conserve about 50,000 gallons of water a day.

The plant, which the American Council of Engineering Companies awarded the Diamond Award, is designed to convert black water into potable quality water through a purification process so that it can be safely reused for cooling towers, toilets, and irrigation for the roof garden. This adds up to about 35% to 40% of potable water consumption which The Helena reclaims without sending to the city’s sewage system.

The Helena does not reuse treated water for drinking or bathing purposes, which is about 65% of water use in residential buildings. Therefore, it continues to champion water conservation in the face of growing urbanization while avoiding the current controversy over drinking treated black water.

Just how do Helena residents feel about sharing an apartment wall with the black water treatment plant? Dagher Engineering achieved an innovative design that concealed the system entirely from residents, eliminating noise and odor through modularizing the treatment process and enclosing the tiered membrane bioreactors. This design, created to fit into a compact space, proves that black water treatment plants can be effectively and economically incorporated into urban development.

Dagher Engineering designed this state-of-the-art tiered membrane bioreactor which allows the treatment of black water to be odorless and noiseless to The Helena's residents while fitting compactly into the building.

Dagher Engineering designed this state-of-the-art tiered membrane bioreactor which allows the treatment of black water to be odorless and noiseless to The Helena’s residents while fitting compactly into the building.

The benefits of black water treatment only begin there. California’s imminent and serious drought is now gaining widespread attention. While residents in urban and suburban areas are asked to drastically cut back their water usage, farmers in the state continue to use potable water to irrigate water-rich crops like almonds and alfalfa. In “Our Water-Guzzling Food Factory,” New York Times reporter, Nick Kristof, illuminates us on the nation’s myriad plant and livestock commodities that are consuming the lion’s share of potable water; the 10 gallons of water required to produce one handful of almonds pales in comparison to the 450 gallons required to produce a ¼ lb. beef hamburger.

Agriculture is too valuable an industry for California, or other dry states, to consider abolishing, relocating, or limiting production. As reservoir and aquifer levels plummet consistently each year, politicians in the state are looking at desalination or piping in (costly to both energy and monetary resources) as solutions to water supply shortages. Desalination continues the process of withdrawing water, treating it, using it, then treating it again before returning it to natural water system. Similarly, piping in water from Alaska offers a palliative solution to an endemic problem.

Meanwhile, black water treatment eliminates the need for extraction and redundant treatment of waste water, and for extravagant out-sourcing of fresh water from distant locations, offering monumental opportunities for dry states like California to continue supplying up to 80% of total water use for agriculture and livestock needs.

By incorporating black water treatment plants into urban and suburban buildings, treated black water can be reused for non-drinking purposes, conserving the potable water supply. Black water can even be pulled from municipal sewage systems, treated and supplied to farmers, retaining waste water potential that would otherwise be treated before being dumped back into the Pacific Ocean only to be extracted again by a desalination plant. Black water treatment offers an affordable, effective, and long-lived answer to water conservation without yet asking to be swallowed in the literal sense.

In New York City alone, it is estimated that about half of all water used is consumed toward non-potable means, mainly by cooling towers. Integrating a non-potable water utility, consisting of treated black water – the same treated water that is currently discharged to the Hudson and East Rivers – would be an effective way to radically reduce our water consumption.

Dagher Engineering, PLLC continues to look at opportunities for leadership in sustainability, owing that the future of our cities and civilization depends on effective and immediate action in the face of climate change. The Helena is a milestone in the company’s movement toward a sustainable future.