Big Little Sister had her braces taken off yesterday. Yes, we are very much like every other regular suburban family, complete with kids who have braces. Now, you know.
While she was having the metal taken out of her mouth, I was in the waiting area, and I picked up a copy of Time magazine and started flipping through. I read I couple of articles that I don't remember, and then came to one with the title Greening the Skyline: The world's tallest buildings look modern by have old-school energy bills. Enter the new age of eco-upgrades for skyscrapers by Anita Hamilton (Time. April 18, 2011. p. Business 4). I asked the receptionist if she could make a photocopy of the article for me, because there were some things in the article that I wanted to remember.
The first is how exciting it is for me to hear that people are even thinking about making skyscrapers more "energy efficient." Built in a time when heating with oil or coal was dirt cheap, no one cared to consider how much energy and money might be needed to just keep the buildings warm, but those times are gone. Yes, despite what the naysayers want us to believe, those times of cheap energy and easy money do, indeed, seem to be gone, and if nothing else in this world will make us see that truth in that, an article discussing "greening skyscrapers" should do it.
According to the article, the owner of the Empire State Building is investing $13 million in eco-retrofitting for his building, which he says will pay for itself in three years. Among the changes that have been done is having the over 6000 windows "insulated" rather than replaced at a cost savings of $1800. Imagine. Instead of trashing 6000 windows, which would have, undoubtedly, ended up in the waste stream, Tony Malkin had a company (Serious Materials) come in and clean and insulate the windows.
Of course, Mr. Malkin has come under fire for some of his other eco-changes as well, which are described in the article as being "downright ordinary." Things like caulking, using spray foam insulation, and installing a system to better regulate the temperature of the heating/cooling system - all of this to save a few bucks on energy costs.
When asked why they didn't, instead, invest in an alternative energy system to produce their own eletricity and reap the cost savings that way, the manager who oversaw the Empire State Building retrofits stated, "it doesn't make business sense. It makes much more sense to lower energy use."
What a novel idea.
And in three years, they estimate a cost savings of over $13 million dollars - just from cleaning and insulating windows, filling in air holes, and making their heating system more efficient.
If the average suburbanite could take a lesson from the skyscraper retrofit, we might not save $13 million, but we would save a lot more over time than we invested - just like the owners of the Empire State Building.
Another very interesting observation from the article states that many feel greening older structures is more difficult, but according to those who were quoted in the article, this isn't wholly true. Older buildings are made from more insulative materials - like stone - as opposed to the more contemporary glass and steel buildings that are out there. Perhaps our (fore) fathers did know best??
It was such a positive article, and so exciting to see some of the more simple and efficient (and sustainable) ideas that have been passing through the green movement being put into practice - not because they're "green" (in fact, one building owner is quoted as saying the changes to his building weren't motivated by a desire to be eco-friendly, but rather by pure economics), but because they make sense.
And it does make very good sense, from an eco-friendly standpoint AND from an economic standpoint, to use less.
John Michael Greer, who seems to have an above-average amount of common sense, has been writing about the Green Wizard movement on his blog for almost a year. What I love most about his blog is that he doesn't just tell us what's wrong with the world and leave it to us to figure out how to fix it. He gives good, common sense advice about the kinds of actions we can take now, as the world contracts, and we get poorer. He's a true child of the sixties, and lived through the last great "greening" movement. His solutions are simple and time-tested.
I wonder if Mr. Greer saw the Time magazine article, and what he thinks about their very "Green Wizard" approach to Greening the Skyline?