Green Builders Come Together at Buffalo Forum

The Heart of the City Neighborhoods, Inc. hosted the Green Building Forum: A Blueprint for Change at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum Wednesday. The forum brought together nearly one hundred local building professionals interested in learning how to create green and affordable housing in Buffalo.

Sam Magavern, an instructor who teaches who teaches Affordable Housing and the Environment at University at Buffalo Law School said, “If we are working in the building field already, we need to see how can we take it to the next level and build green.”

The Keynote Speakers, Ann Petersen, Home Ownership Coordinator for the City of Schenectady, New York and David Sadowsky, architect, discussed their Schenectady project which created a prototype environmentally friendly home which was designed for low income buyers.

The home was awarded the Best in American Living Award by the National Association of Homebuilders. It was the first home in New York state to be certified by the United States Green Building Council to meet national Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards.

The home which was built for forty dollars less per square foot than typical Schenectady construction costs and was designed to fit the historical character of the community, Sadowsky explained. Operating costs are also kept in mind. The twelve month average combined utility cost was less than half that of a typical Schenectady home of that size.

The home was created using the principals of Universal Design, Sadowsky said, “Universal Design enables people to age in place by building in flexibility. Wider doors, a first floor bedroom, first floor laundry, accessible or adaptable bathroom, on-grade access” are among the features that allow for adaptability for an aging or disabled resident without ” looking like an institutional space.”

“HUD Subsidies are essential to building these homes,” added Ann Petersen, “because we don’t have private developers coming into these neighborhoods and building homes that cost $200,000 to build when they can only be sold for $100,000 due to neighborhood market conditions.” Using real costs from prototype, the partners applied for grant funding to develop more homes.

Kevin Connors of eco_logic STUDIO, a design studio which focuses on ecological architecture and design, worked with University at Buffalo architecture students to build a straw bale project in Depew. Green Building, according to Connors includes, “Super insulation, utilizing natural daylight and ventilation, locally renewable and recyclable products and systems which conserve water and green space.”

Nathan Rizzo, Vice President of Solar Liberty Energy Systems seeks to make solar energy a ” rewarding and viable alternative.” Several Buffalo buildings including St Gregory the Great, Erie County SPCA and the Chautauqua Institution are able to generate sixty to one hundred percent of their energy through passive solar technology.

Sam Magavern states that all housing is pollution, the key is how much we can eliminate the impact on the environment. Concerned that there would be a “value conflict between affordable housing and environmental protection,” he has found green buildings cheaper to operate, healthier and more likely to prevent global warming. Magavern says the best strategy for Buffalo is rehabbing existing housing stock and taking a block by block approach to turn Buffalo’s supply of vacant lots into “assets instead of eyesores”.

The next step, according to Stephanie Simeon, Executive Director, Heart of the City Neighborhoods, is to “get the word out to the public so that people who are looking to build or renovate will have a resource.”

Originally appeared in


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