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Peter Caradonna – Green Architect -at LaQuinta

July 18, 2008 @ 12:00 am EDT


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Our speaker this morning was Peter Caradonna. Peter has been an advocate and practicing architect in designing “green buildings” for many years. It appears from the general buzz that someone is listening. While Peter has something of a pioneer, today there is a proliferation of people who are providers of green technology.


The new building materials that are needed are more available, and people who are designing have sources of supply that either did not exist, or were expensive and in short supply. Good news for sure, as we realize our old methods are simply unsustainable.


Peter pointed out the many benefits beyond the usual metrics of building costs, and return on investment. The cost of employees is about 91% of most businesses operating expense. The cost of a building to house them is only 6% and the ongoing expense of the building is 2%. Better health and productivity of employees can be gained by putting slightly more into the building, the small additional investment has a great return. We now have a body of case study to substantiate that claim.


In the classrooms the net effect on student achievement is measurable and dramatic. Controlled testing have shown that properly designed classrooms can increase achievement scores by 20%


The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) has set standards for building technology. This is a group that was formed to cross-pollinate the ideas of many innovators as well as to set performance standards. The USGBC has grown its’ membership considerably in recent years and is a nationwide network. The Leadership in Energy Design (LEED) program is their standard. All of the levels exceed local code, which Peter describes as “just above the level where you may be arrested for doing something illegal”. The lowest LEED designation is no more costly than standard construction. The higher LEED designations are more costly to build, but there are often tax breaks, and utility grants, that mitigate costs. With or without subsidies, there is still a reasonable rate of return. With the ever-increasing cost of energy, the case for better, more efficient design is even more compelling.


Mr. Caraddona went into the peripheral considerations of energy site planning. The “heat island” effects of a paved parking lot, the planting of trees, the natural treatment of waste water, Using recycled products, avoiding exotic imports, planting naturally indigenous plants and trees all contribute to the stated goal of sustainability.


Educational institutions have taken on the responsibility of training the new energy practitioners. In particular is NYIT is forming a national building advisory council. Last year they built an energy efficient home that was deconstructed and reconstructed at an exposition held at the national mall in Washington DC. SUNY at Farmingdale has been training solar installers and adding related course to the curriculum, and of course, The Advanced Energy Research and Technology Center at SUNY Stony Brook is presently being built. Much of this is happening through cooperation with the congressional office of Steve Israel.


Peter Caradonna’s understanding of the energy efficiency field and the related field of sustainability is very comprehensive, and goes far beyond his stated discipline of architecture, but that makes him more valuable because he sees the nuances that may be missed by another equally talented practitioner. We wish we could have had more time.