Monday, October 29, 2007

Application of Beatly Ch. 10, Apollo, and Sustainable Communities to Buffalo, NY

It is probably impossible to write all of the ways that the city of Buffalo, NY could be helped/changed based on the tools and examples presented in Apollo Alliance’s “Create High-Performance Buildings,” Toward Sustainable Communities’ “Housing and Community Development,” and Beatley’s “Building Ecologically: Designing Buildings and Neighborhoods with Nature in Mind.” The themes of affordable housing and having a new skilled labor force resonate especially for Buffalo.

Firstly, after the steel industry failed/ended/left Buffalo, the labor market was essentially destroyed. By updating building codes, providing training programs and supporting/endorsing the newer green technologies that require specific skills, the local government could improve the employment situation immensely. As the city is in a constant state of renovation and development, thousands would be employed in the fields of “green-standards” construction and design, and development and maintenance of such features as solar panels and green roofs.

Secondly, although housing costs in western New York are already incredibly affordable, low employment rates still create a struggle for many residents. Many vacant buildings in the downtown area could be converted to co-housing sites. Also, providing grants for small business owners to help them convert to renewable energy and conduct green-feature renovations would make the daunting and expensive task a little more appealing. Funding for such projects could come from fines from the pollution of Lake Erie, for example. I was especially intrigued by the seemingly-insignificant but successful Green Numbers Program (“Die GrĂ¼ne Hausnummer”) mentioned in Beatley’s chapter. In Buffalo and the surrounding suburbs (as probably in most cities and their suburbs), it is not uncommon to see stickers in business’ front windows saying “Chamber of Commerce Member, 2007” or “’Walk the Village’ Site” or “Downtown Small Business Partnership Member.” These are often used for “bragging rights” or just to attract the attention of passers-by. The Green Numbers Program seems like it would be successful in Buffalo, with businesses implementing green features to amass points that would earn them a plaque to display. This would complement nicely the new form of competition that is emerging with public awareness campaigns for buying green/local.

Lastly, regional green energy projects would be far more effective if they benefited regional residents directly. Anecdote: as a part of my job this summer, I conducted wetland mapping with an environmental consulting firm that was hired by Noble Environmental Power, a power company constructing hundreds of wind turbines across a nearby rural farming county. When asked by friends and family members about the development, the first question was always “who does the power go to?” After explaining that the power is generated, collected, and sent to the national grid which “distributes it all over,” I received grimaces. People were angry that their pristine land and the land of their friends and family was being used up for the construction of windmills (let alone the years of being contacted again and again by the energy company and allowing people from another firm walk all over their land looking for wetlands), yet they didn’t “see” any of the power that was generated. I gained the sense that these people would be FAR more interested in buying renewable green power from this company if they knew that their local sacrifices showed more of a local result. I feel that this might even be more important that financial incentives and tax breaks.

1 comment:

giovinettoa said...

The description about where the power from Noble's windparks will go is partially correct -- it will go on the New York State grid. The power will first go to serve local demand, and then any *excess* power not used by local sources will be distributed elsewhere in the state. To learn more about this, please visit our website and read the Noble Factsheet titled "Where Will Noble's Power Go?" (http://www.noblepower.com/issues-and-answers/noble-fact-sheets.html).

Rural communities already "export" milk, maple syrup, and other products. Wind energy is a clean, renewable natural resource that many rural communities have in abundance, and building a windpark harnesses this resource and exports the excess energy to other areas of New York State, providing significant benefits to the local economy in return.


Anna Giovinetto
VP, Public Affairs
Noble Environmental Power