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The Plan | November 2011

A Plan for 8 Million

What we can learn from PlaNYC


Low-Cost Material TURNS INTO Green Building Gold





Letter from the Editor

This issue is about the twins: planning and vision. Without a vision, a plan is simply a list of things to do, and without a plan, a vision is just a dream. For a very wide range of businesses, the green economy continues to be stalled behind a lack of vision and a supporting plan. Businesses with the will and the resources to engage in new initiatives are waiting to see what will happen in Washington, what will happen with EU banks and sovereign debt, what’s the next technology breakthrough, are we in a double dip? THE GREEN ECONOMY presents stories about successful initiatives by the businesses that are ignoring uncertainty and sculpting a new future. We applaud these insightful leaders, as they are creating the vision—and the plans—that are changing the world. They are inventing the processes, bringing together technologies, trying new approaches, and developing unique financing structures to mitigate risk over a much longer time span than usual for US businesses. What follows are examples of vision and planning creating impactful change, as well as a reflection on a movement stalled by a lack of leadership.

A. Tana Kantor Editor in Chief and Board Chair


Planning & Vision 04. Interview: Siemens | Ari Kobb on a green economy 08. PlaNYC | Lessons from long term plan for 8 Million 18. Occupy Wall Street | Opinion: A movement in search of a vision

23. Changing Perceptions: Bamboo | Turning a throw away into construction gold.

THE GREEN ECONOMY November | 2011



Director of Green Building Solutions for the Building Technologies Division Siemens Industries

“Green jobs are tied to fast growing segments of the economy, namely green buildings and energy efficiency. Despite the down economy, green buildings have grown while the overall construction market has declined.”


McGraw-Hill Construction report, presented at Greenbuild in Chicago in November 2010, estimates that green buildings already account for 35% of the construction/major renovation market today, and this should increase from 40% to 48% by 2013. This is far greater an impact than anyone expected. This means that in most key construction sectors, green buildings are growing and taking a larger share of the market—notably in higher education, commercial office and healthcare. In addition, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for Existing Buildings is finally taking hold, and this year accounts for 1/3 of total LEED projects.

What has been the most encouraging aspect of the green economy?


fficiency is the quickest and easiest way to reduce consumption, reduce GHG and have a positive impact on the bottom line. When you look at energy efficiency projects—such as implementing new equipment, building envelope

improvements, lighting retrofits, building control upgrades and strategies—we see a tremendous demand for people with those skill sets in engineering and project management. These are green jobs. Nothing against renewable—we have a robust business in alternative and renewable technologies for customers, including solar PV, small wind projects, landfill gas to energy—but efficiency can drive the green economy.

What has been the most disappointing?


am not disappointed. There definitely was a lot of hype, but I believe that those who are

discouraged aren’t looking at the right things. If we look just at what the US Federal Government is doing, I would say that we should be encouraged. They have implemented mandates and targets for energy efficiency, water conservation, GHG reduction, renewable energy use, metering and reporting, agency sustainability plans and green building standards.

Very impressive. Green building legislation has continued to grow: hundreds of municipalities and most states have implemented green building guidelines for new building construction. But what has been most encouraging has been corporate America’s embrace of sustainability, and how rapidly it has grown and become part of the strategic discussion. Looking again at the research study that we did with McGraw-Hill (which was a follow up to a 2006 study), we can see that the C-Suite views sustainability as not only a cost saving and operations efficiency strategy, but as a differentiator in the market, and as a means to attract and retain customers and top talent.

Has dubious green marketing tarnished the glimmer of green?

What will it look like for the green economy to become business as usual?



ou assume that there is dubious green marketing. Because the market is embracing green, we have seen explosive growth of green products, whether in the area of water, energy, renewables or products like paint and flooring. There are industry standards covering these areas that really do keep the “greenwashers” at bay. You are never going to be able to keep the free market from pushing the limits, but I do not believe that we are over hyped.

What do you think about the talk of green jobs, stimulus funds, and so forth?


believe people want more. If you read some of the pundits, like Thomas Friedman, an avid China-watcher, you’ll see that he is tapping into a sentiment that we can do more. He thinks that because we have not made energy policy or GHG [green house gas] reduction a priority, that China has taken a leadership position, especially in the area of renewable energy technology. However, our clean-tech sector is growing, and despite what some perceive as lack of government incentive, there is still significant investment and focus. If we view green holistically—energy, water, environmental quality, renewable, materials/ resources—there is so much more opportunity out there. As the market begins to get better cost and savings data, we will quell the hype and prove the economic argument for going green.

What holds the greatest potential for a turnaround? I wish that there was a silver bullet that would solve our energy and environmental issues, but there isn’t. The green economy (and the efficient economy) is driven by a combination of attitude shifts, demographic shifts, government leadership and corporate America’s embrace of sustainability. I see no turning back.

reen is becoming the norm. We have seen an increase in the use of LEED in the public sector—government in particular. Green building is a desired outcome in most new construction today—at least in the projects in sectors that are most visible (higher education, class A commercial office, data centers, healthcare, federal government facilities). As the industry gets more and more experienced, the data on the benefits of green becomes more available (cost savings, operations savings, improved occupant comfort, productivity and satisfaction). In the future, LEED is likely to continue to make certification more demanding for the “greenest” buildings—the cream of the crop. This is not a bad thing at all. We are seeing LEED adopt more stringent standards on the energy efficiency side, and on the post-occupancy performance metrics as well.

From a Siemens perspective, we are part of the green economy, and our business has been successful because of this: even during a very challenging economic time. New people coming into our company are proud to work for a leader in the energy/green world, and they are demanding that we embrace sustainability within our own business as well.

Interview by Maryruth Priebe, as part of an ongoing questions about the relevance of green for businesses.

Not what you know today. It’s what’s in the

future. Yesterday was to


enough know

a c ce l e ra te d depreciation, EBITDA, earnings per share, capital ratio. Today, leading companies are reporting carbon risk, developing the ROI for efficient energy and resource management, and looking at ESI statistics. With all these new initiatives, how do you measure the opportunities and avoid the risks in new investment strategies?

Finding the right metrics—and having the tools to analyze them—is the job of CRD Analytics. CRD reports on the market strength of companies by analyzing their reporting procedures through a series of metrics including financial, environmental, social, governance and patent information. The Smarttm

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PLANYC 2030:

It’s not just a walk

in the park It’s the answer that will keep New York ahead of not just Los Angles and London - but and São Paulo.



Approximately 0.11% of the world’s population lives in the 5 boroughs of New York City. In 2007, the City, under the guidance of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, did something almost no other city has done: it assessed its future needs and started planning: setting goals, designing solutions, and implementing.

The process started by PlaNYC 2030 continues to provide guidance for New York’s future, despite radical and unexpected changes in the ensuing years. As numbers of people move to cities globally (see chart page 13) and as populations rises—reaching 7 billion on Halloween of 2011—larger and larger numbers of people are living in cities. The New York plan provides a model for long term adaptation in a rapidly changing technological world that must be very smart about resources used to preserve—or expand—prosperity. There are many things that make the plan unique, but most of all it is a plan for a very large population—7 million people— and the enormously complex city of New York. If they can do it, then there are lessons to be learned for organizations large and small.

roads, energy, air quality and climate change. By outlining the state of the City’s infrastructure and resources, including an analyses of the needs of an economically and ethnographically diverse population, the plan lays a solid groundwork for future actions. Decisions can be weighed against a standard, and measured in terms of how well specific agendas meet the overall future needs of New York City. Just as important, by making the document publicly available and widely published, it has created a transparent mechanism to break silos, bringing together city Agencies, nonprofits, utilities, New York State, Federal Agencies, private capital and interest groups in the solving of problems that cross many boundaries.

2011 PlaNYC 2030 PlaNYC PlaNYC 2030 was recently PlaNYC (Generally pronounced PLAN-Y-C), began by collecting data and analyzing the impact of future growth on the City’s assets and liabilities. Like a design for a building, it started by assessing function: what the plan should accomplish and what resources are available. The Plan includes a comprehensive analysis of ten major areas: housing, open space, brownfields, water quality, water network, traffic congestion,

updated with a report card: PlaNYC 2011. What can be seen is that in the four years since the plan was set in motion, the city has done a lot and learned a lot. Since energy is an over arching issue, we have focused on that section of the report, using it as a window into the plan’s evolution, and how well the City is meeting their objectives.

By looking at the 14 points in PlaNYC 2030 and the 17 in PlaNYC 2011, a broad outline emerges. Some early initiatives have fallen by the wayside, others are undergoing more planning and evaluation, and still others have been put in place. One of the first challenges the City confronted has been the limits of a City, within a State, within a Federal system, to control and regulate utilities and dictate their energy future. With a firm grasp of these realities, the City has turned to adapting existing facilities, building coalitions, fulfilling promises, learning from experience and watching the program be voluntarily adopted

by institutions throughout the five boroughs.



As Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley”. One of the reasons that long term planning can be a challenge is that the modern world changes so fast, and what is known today may turn out to be only a part of the solution later. By starting with data and goals, PlaNYC 2030 has shown itself to be flexible enough to adapt to realities as they emerge. The original plan called for new power

The New Jersy Plan

In the same year, 2007, New Jersey’s Governor Jon S. Corzine’s Executive Order #54 mandated the stabilization of greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2020, and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 80% below 2006 levels by 2050. This was much like deciding on a new building of a certain size and location, without the relevant data about how many would use it and what those people might need from the building, now and in the future. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), in concert with several other state agencies, was tasked with figuring that out. The 12-18 month long process of hearings

plants to meet growing demand and as a response to the power failure in Western Queens in 2006. However, the current plan abandons that approach, citing the lack of land suitable and zoned for such development, as well as an unfavorable regulatory landscape. The Tsunami in Japan made the closing of Indian Point Nuclear Power station more likely, and the City found that there are grid vulnerabilities which effect how much energy can be imported from out of state. As a result, the plan has shifted to strategies that get more from existing resources in the short term, while working toward longer term expansion. The main thrusts are repowering

and evaluations, involving community groups, consultants, businesses and other interests, was a costly way to go about collecting data, and created confusion in the business community that needed to know how the plan would impact their future. In some instances, the result was adoption of recommendations—some of which satisfied the needs of one interest group at the expense of another. When Chris Christie was elected in 2010, the landscape changed—along with the people in power—and recommendations were abandoned, modified or enforced, creating further confusion for the business community. There is no plan in place to evaluate those changes against the long term economic needs of New Jersey.



existing plants, empowering and promoting smart grids:

 Repowering

Repowering is replacing old equipment with newer and more efficient equipment. Newer equipment can use cleaner fuels, use current fuels more efficiently, and generate less pollution.

 Smart Grids

A hyper-connected grid can do many things: make utilities more efficient (see “Connecting the Dots” in this Magazine), and give consumers immediate use and price information so that they can change their habits. Utilities are experimenting with two-way technologies that allow the utility to set thermostats a degree or two up or down to balance loads during peak periods. For large commercial buildings, such arrangements include price incentives and negotiating the temperature ranges so that personnel rarely notice the difference. A degree or two can make a significant difference to a utility.

 Distributed Energy

Being an advocate of distributed energy (DE), the City is building new cogeneration plants at Rikers Island and the new Police Academy in Queens. These projects will create 15 MW by reusing waste heat from energy generation and other activities. Having a goal for energy—reliable power for New York as well as data to put that into context— PlaNYC has the flexibility to adopt or integrate new strategies as those options become more viable.



System wide problems need system wide solutions. The transparency provided by PlaNYC 2030 has made coalition

building—always a marathon, never a sprint— achieve successes by working with existing groups as well as building new advisory groups and interagency tasks forces. Since there is a clearly defined agenda supported by the Mayor’s office, recommendations presented by such groups get a hearing at the decision making level. One example is the way the City has approached building codes:

 Building Codes

According to the Plan, nearly 75% of the city’s carbon emissions come from buildings. However, the City (like most public entities) has outmoded building codes that cross many agencies: utilities, zoning, public safety and land use for starters. Regulations have evolved over literally hundreds of years. In some cases, agencies are required by law to enforce standards written in the eighteenth century when coal or heating oil kept New Yorkers warm in winter, let them swelter in summer, and didn’t have to deal with a city of millions connecting to an internet. In addition, buildings engage a range of professional skills—engineers, architects, interior designers, electricians, plumbers, site engineers—each with their own set of licensing requirements, agency overseers and potential for liability. What may be a good solution for an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) contractor may not work well for an environmental remediation engineer, or vice versa. Sorting through such a morass of interests is impossible without creating consensus amongst many different stakeholder groups, and using experts to provide practical insights into evolving practices. As a first small step, PlaNYC has listened to an alliance of 200 professionals, The Urban Green Council, which made 111 recommendations for revising the building codes of which 22 have been adopted. A Building Sustainability Board is developing guidelines for new technologies, and The City established a New York City Energy Planning Board, consisting of city and state

utilities, and an Energy Policy Task Force, which is a mix of private groups. All are learning to work together, and have either submitted, or are in the process of submitting, recommendations.

initiative is now extended to include 16,000 of the City’s largest buildings.

While progress takes time, the reality of a plan along with the transparency it provides, ensures that all stakeholders understand the goals, the makeup of the groups engaged in finding solutions, and have access to reports, recommendations and proposals.

The City promised to set aside 10% of the multimillion dollar City energy budget for energy efficiency programs, and fulfilled that promise, including $700 million which went to schools for energy efficiency.


eeping promises.

Promises that are made and not kept devalue an entire initiative. Any plan, no matter how big and how ambitious, contains elements that are entirely under the purview of the plan designers. In PlaNYC, these included measuring building energy footprint and investing in efficiency:

 Measuring

In PlaNYC 2030, the City promised to walk the walk, which included measuring all 2,700 government buildings and making that information public. The City defined terms, codified procedures and developed comprehensive rules to be followed by city buildings. Based on this experience, the

 Investing

These efforts have kept the integrity of the Plan in place, and energized an otherwise skeptical public.


essons learned

As plans evolve, if the lessons learned are not captured in some form, the plan can either go off track, lose momentum, or fail to realize important gains that can lead to better outcomes. For PlaNYC 2030, a lot of information about energy use and efficiency, as well as what works, has been learned and reported in PlaNYC 2011, particularly in energy efficiency and renewable energy:

 Energy Efficiency

The City found that 17% of energy savings from energy efficiency efforts in city buildings

Actual and Projected Percentage of Population Living in Cities: 1950-2030





1 Establish a New York 1 Increase planning City Energy Planning and coordination Board to promote clean, reliable, and affordable energy

 Established a New York City Energy Planning Board consisting of city state and utilities. Made unified recommendations in 2009.  Established Energy Policy Task Force, from private groups, which submitted recommendations.

2 Reduce energy 10 Provide energy consumption by efficiency leadership City government: in City government Commit 10% of buildings and City’s annual energy operations bill to fund energysaving investments in City operations.

 10% of energy budget allocated  $700 million for schools  Energy Savings Performance Contracting.  $356,000 energy bill reduction by the American Museum of Natural History  17% reduction through turning off lights, setting thermostats correctly.

3 We will strengthen 3 energy and building codes to support our energy efficiency strategies and other environmental goals

Improve our codes and regulations to increase the sustainability of our buildings

In Progress

 Create incentives so that agencies— which do not pay their energy bill— prioritize energy reductions.  Ensure that all interior renovations are energy efficient.  Create board to asses new technologies.  Pilot plan, in city buildings, to develop voluntary lease language that would encourage efficiency upgrades in buildings where lessee pays bills.  Pilot at least one net zero school, passive solar building and deep energy retrofit project.  Urban Green Council created  Adopt the 30% more stringent National NYC Green Codes Task Force with standards for new buildings. 200 experts. The task force has  Innovation Review Board will unite created 111 proposals, of which 22 multiple agencies to review new codes or are in place. technologies.  Building Sustainability Board is  An interagency “Green Team” is developing codes and standards examining broader issues. for new technologies.

4 We will create the New York City Energy Efficiency Authority responsible for reaching the city’s demand reduction targets.

PlaNYC 2030 listed 14 energy objectives; PlaNYC 2011 included 17. They do not track one-toone: that is, not all the numbers on the original plan are met by corresponding numbers in the new plan. Our analysis uses the numbers and original text from the two plans, but attempts to match up proposals from the 2007 plan with summaries of accomplishments and plans cited in the 2011 report.

Not included

came from simply turning off lights and setting thermostats correctly. When they found that agencies that do not pay their own electricity bills were less responsive than those that did pay their bills, they began developing mechanisms so that energy users would be incented to save energy. Along the way, they began a series of initiatives to make energy upgrades more attractive to building owners with tenants who pay energy bills.

 Renewable Energy

A poll showed that 60% of New Yorkers would pay more for energy from renewable sources, which can pave the way for more renewable projects inside or near the City. Since New York has little space for large solar or wind installations, the planners are looking at codes for wind on buildings, integrating wind from offshore, solar


5 Prioritize five key areas for targeted incentives



2 Implement Greener, Greener, Greater Building Plan Greater Buildings Plan  Largest 16,000 buildings in NYC must measure their energy and GHG emissions, and make that information available to the public.  Measure 2,700 city government buildings.  Defined terms, codified procedures, comprehensive rules.  Rules affect ~50k sq feet, about half of floor area of city. 4 Improve compliance  Created tighter reporting rules  Aiming for 90% compliance by 2017. with the energy and inspections.  Create online “Green building report code and track card” which can track progress. green building improvements citywide 5 Improve energy efficiency in smaller buildings 6 Improve energy efficiency in historic buildings

11 Expand the Mayor’s Carbon Challenge to new sectors

 Create an energy disclosure policy at sale (already done in several states and cities)  Launch information campaign for buyers.  Work with historic preservation societies to reconcile codes for energy and historic preservation.  Partner with experts to create a handbook with strategies for historic buildings.  29 Hospitals and Universities have  Extending to housing cooperatives, accepted the Mayor’s expanded condominiums, large commercial challenge. Have created GHG buildings, hotels and religious groups. inventories and action plans, and meet regularly to share inforomation. Includes ~75 campuses with ~ 80m sq feet.  Some have met goals and are setting new ones.

thermal (solar on rooftops for heating water) and other approaches. Learning how to adopt these new technologies, integrate agencies and motivate people is part of the evolving lessons learned. PlaNYC 2011, in updating the 2007 plan, reflects a change in the way the city does business. As silos break down and stakeholder groups find strength in coalitions, as new data is generated, and as the city progresses to more ways of solving complex problems, these lessons become important not just for the city but for others as well.


In Progress


One of the stated goals of PlaNYC is to be a model for other entities, be they public or private. As the City finds ways to collect

and analyze data, to explore new collaborations, and streamline procedures, it has become the largest laboratory for implementing broad social and economic change. Within the City, the Mayor’s challenge has been voluntarily adopted and there has been a concerted effort to make information available:

 Voluntary Adoption

29 Hospitals and Universities accepted the Mayor’s challenge. They created emissions inventories and action plans, and meet regularly to share information. With around 75 campuses and as much as 80 million square feet (about 13% the size of the Manhattan land mass), this is a sizable commitment. Many have already met their 2030 goals, and are setting new ones.


PLANYC 2030 7 Increase impact of energy efficiency efforts through coordinated energy education, awareness, and training campaign.



7 Provide energy efficiency financing and information

8 Create a 21st century energy efficiency workforce

9 Make New York City a knowledge center for energy efficiency and emerging energy strategies

8 Facilitate 12 Support cost-effective  construction of repowering or 2,000 to 3,000 MW replacement of our by repowering old most inefficient and plants, constructing costly in-city power new ones, and plants building dedicated transmission lines.

9 Increase amount of 13 Encourage the  Clean Distributed development of clean Energy (DG) by 800 distributed generation MW

10 Support critical expansions to city’s natural gas infrastructure.

15 Increase natural gas transmission and distribution capacity to improve reliability and encourage conversion from highly polluting fuels

In Progress

 Create NYC Energy Efficiency Corporation to capitalize on the federal stimulus grants to make energy efficiency financing less risky.  Engage with commercial lending industry and nonprofits, and work with NYSERDA, PSC and others to provide transparency. Created Amalgamated Green, a  Will launch Green Light NY, a public group of unions and professional private partnership to educate designers associations which is identifying and real estate people about lighting. and working to develop the skills  Will incorporate efficiency into licensing needed for energy efficiency exam for electricians. programs.  Working with US DOE and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to develop national certification and standards. Using the data and experience from PLANYC 2030:  Create a national Energy Efficiency Engineering University in New York.  Host research, encourage best practices, and quicken cycles between idea generation and adoption.  Align with cultural institutions to create new exhibits. Not enough land suitably zoned  Create demonstrable benefits at current for power plants to build new. industrial sites by replacing old units with new that burn cleaner fuels, increase capacity and efficiency, and improve operational flexibility.  Support wholesale energy markets to drive investment in repowering old plants by advocating amongst state and federal regulators to adopt rules that balance rate payer and utility concerns. Creating distributed energy  Examining North River Wastewater through new cogeneration plant at Treatment Plant in partnership with Rikers Island, and the new Police private sector. Academy in Queens. Will create 15  Explore as part of City Hall renovation. MW from reusing heat created in process of generating electricity.  Streamline permitting and interconnection for private developers.  Encourage utlities to improve coordination of electric and gas distribution planning.  Advocate for cost effective ratepayer funded incentives. No new gas lines for 40 years to  Proposed Spectra Energy & Transco the 90% of utilities that are gas Williams pipelines. fired.  Work with ConEd, national Grid, key partners to accelerate upgrades to gas distribution.  Help create economies of scale for conversions while examining gas extraction concerns.



11 Foster the market 14 Foster the market for for renewable renewable energy in energy by providing New York City incentives and reduce barriers to renewable energy and pilot emerging technologies 6 Cut peak load 16 Ensure the reliability by 25% through of New York City increased power delivery enrollment in peak load management programs and real time pricing. 12 Accelerate reliability improvements to the city’s grid by advocating for Con Edison to implement recommendations from the City’s report on the western Queens power outages 13 Facilitate grid repairs through improved coordination and joint bidding 14 Support Con 17 Develop a smarter Edison’s 3G and cleaner electric System of the utility grid for New Future initiative to York City modernize the grid


In Progress

 GreeNYC study which showed that 60% of ratepayers would pay a premium for renewable.

 Explore pooling consumer purchasing power by developing awareness of options.  Work with energy service companies to account for GHG reductions from consumer purchases.

 Grid more reliable after western Queens power outages. New issues:  Electric transmission lines limit how much energy can be imported.  Indian Point nuclear station may close, putting greater strain on system.  Summer causes activation of dirtiest plants.

 Diversify energy portfolio by including  PJM (Penn, New Jersey, Maryland) robust interconnection;  Connect deep offshore atlantic wind.  Canadian hydropower, or upstate wind.

 Brand

The City has engaged in a communications plan to ensure that other cities and states know what they are doing, and how they are doing it. Initiatives that have planted trees, expanded community gardens and increased urban open spaces, have made the city more attractive. Enhancing the brand of New York City brings with it enviable benefits in terms of real estate values, tourism, job growth and more. Solving all of the

 Pilot smarter grid thru Energy Enterprise Metering System (EEMS) in thousands of buildings to manage peak load.  Partner with private sector and academic institutions to implement a federally funded smart grid demo project at Brooklyn Army Terminal.  Support Con Edison’s efforts to scale up cost-effective technologies based on lessons learned from pilot projects.  Use city wireless communication infrastructure to help automate utilities’s meter reading.

problems of a city as large as New York is a long journey. But it is the future for New York and most of the rest of the people living in the world. Setting goals, measuring the success of those goals, and planning for the next steps is a process that can keep that journey on track for this and the next generation.


PLANYC 2030.pdf PLANYC 2011.pdf



“Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.� Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846-1912)

“Occupy Wall Street� is strangely lacking in demands. There is palpable anger over income disparity, government and a never-ending jobs crisis. But demands? Not really.


This is a group with slogans: there is no plan to shape the future. This is a failure of vision.





Planning is hard. Not only must problems be identified and quantified, solutions must be proposed—even solutions that might fail. We feature PlaNYC because it is a visionary plan for the people of New York. Its very transparency is a brave move to bring people together in creating a stronger New York. Tellingly, it is not GreeNYC, but PlaNYC. The emphasis is not on an idealistic outcome, but on the process of change. For many, the promise of “green” has failed to materialize. “Sustainability” seems a kind of walking in place: use less of everything, waste nothing, hold strong. “Green” has devolved into an advertising slogan: yet another way to buy things to stimulate the economy—just “good” things that don’t harm the earth.


et the green economy is real. Like all technical revolutions, it is a nexus of two things: need and possibilities. The need is for a constant, reliable supply of clean and efficient energy, water, transportation and industry. The possibilities are endless for new—and sometimes radical—ideas that will provide control over our futures. It promises a more localized decision making process, as large infrastructure projects become responsive to state and regional resources and needs. For the Fortune 500, the green economy is here, now. The leaders are creating new opportunities in entrepreneurial partnerships, revised standards and the promise of new, eager markets. These companies are measuring their carbon footprint, planning reductions up and down their supply chain, and finding ways to profit from renewable energies that are under their control.

Billions of dollars are already flowing into companies that are developing biologic replacements for petroleum; innovating the grids that balance load, demand, storage and renewables; using nanotechnologies to speed processes and design new elements. Many of these companies are helping to define and support the next generations of regulations for a cleaner economy. They are not afraid of the future—certainly not China. They see the selling, deploying and licensing of U.S. innovation as the future. It is a heady vision, one that has something for everyone. There’s high financing for infrastructure, energy and water projects; building for engineers, plumbers, electricians and construction workers; innovation for universities; services for measurement experts, designers and business consultants; policy and contracts for law firms; and new technologies for utilities and gas companies.


ut it won’t happen without leaders invested in a comprehensive futurism that includes planning for new partnerships between government, industry, finance and private investment. It is no longer about conservative or liberal, but about how to best use all our resources so that we can benefit from the green economy. Occupy Wall Street is an inchoate growl. The danger is that growl will become a roar without a commitment to a strategic vision for the great possibilities in a low carbon future.

2012: Is the future still what it used to be?

December eMagazine: What happened in 2011 and what does it mean for the future? THE GREEN ECONOMY discusses the trends, thought leaders and the technologies that could shape 2012. To submit your predictions, join the conversation on facebook at,

Changing Perceptions: Low-Cost Material Becomes Green Building Gold

Focused on sustainable, affordable housing for low-income and disaster-stricken communities in Nicaragua and around the world, Ben Sandzer-Bell has found that the best way to stimulate a green economy is to create one of your own design. CO2Bambu is his brainchild, and the vehicle for his transformative goals足: an eco-conscious enterprise that can provide lasting housing and economic change.


Design Strength (kg/cm2)

Mass Per Volume (kg/m3)

Elasticity (kg/cm2)
























As a frequent visitor to Latin America, Ben Sandzer-Bell saw the opportunity to use his aerospace engineering background to create a business. His vision was for a company that would have a positive impact by building longlasting, locally-sourced, locally produced green housing made of bamboo. The result of his quest is CO2Bambu, a company that started putting up 80 buildings in Nicaragua and has plans to expand to sustainable, highly portable housing for disasters like tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes. He started in Nicaragua because he saw the need. As he said, “The rest became a function of the bamboo available in Nicaragua, which is uniquely fitted to construction. Since there is a massive housing deficit in Latin America, it was a no brainer.”


ike every aspiring entrepreneurial venture, CO2Bambu has put the founders’ resolve to the test. For local Nicaraguan farmers, bamboo is minimally useful, often razed to make room for cash crops or pasture land.

“It was hard to convince farmers that throwing away bamboo was getting rid of something that has economic value,” explains Thelma Mena, CO2Bambu program manager. “Our job was to work with the farmers to show them the value of bamboo, and then help them combine their ancestral farming and building capabilities with modern quality control and construction techniques.” Working closely with northern Nicaraguan farmers, CO2Bambu exchanged information, often learning as much as they taught. “Local farmers taught us how to harvest with the cycle of the moon,” added Mena. “The New Moon is the ideal time for cutting bamboo because it means the water levels in the bamboo stalks are at the lowest, which helps prevent disease in our harvested bamboo.”


O2Bambu homes have several unique characteristics that make them easy to sell to potential funders. Not only are they created by local hands using local, sustainable materials, they offer tremendous advantages in strength and flexibility. (See chart previous page) These qualities mean it withstands flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes more resiliently than concrete and steel. Though not significantly cheaper than conventional building materials, it is cost competitive. These benefits helped to secure NGO sponsorship to start their first multi-housing building program for 80 homes.


ut getting started wasn’t as simple as just hiring laborers. Unlike a mature economy, where local stores carry all of the building materials required along with highly trained designers and builders, Nicaragua is still developing. As a result, the country lacks many of

the basic components necessary for the type of home building project CO2Bambu had in mind. As Sandzer-Bell noted when describing his experience developing what turns out to be a micro economy: “Step one: we train foresters who know how to grow bamboo and know when it is ripe for cutting. Step two: we work with local government officials on regulatory issues. And step three: we develop a crew of builders and civil engineers who can think bamboo.” CO2Bambu’s approach has managed to do something nearly impossible: They have kept significant portions of the profits and the environmental benefits within local communities. Their process includes:  Buying bamboo seeds from Nicaraguans trained in seed collection and preservation.  Donating seeds to local farmers who grow seedlings and transplant bamboo in reforestation projects—60,000 plants in the past 2.5 years.  Helping to restore riverbeds and previously clear-cut forested areas, improving water quality, soil retention, and natural habitats.  Sustainably harvesting by cutting only 30% of mature stocks at a time.  Training men and women to cure bamboo, build the bamboo mats used for house walls, and then buying back the materials.  Obtaining funding from local governments and international NGOs to hire local workers to build bamboo.  Giving women ownership of bamboo homes which last up to 25 years.

In a nutshell, CO2Bambu has worked hard to address their own market needs, as well as those of the community throughout the entire value chain.


he people of CO2Bambu are like a force of nature, believing both their business model and their bamboo homes to be ideas that are worth sharing. For the future, SandzerBell sees opportunity in Nicaragua as well as in disaster prone areas. In addiion to the benefits to the Nicaraguan economy, the greatest selling feature is CO2Bambu’s flat pack system, which uses mats for siding that can be shipped flat in kits that resemble an IKEA cabinet. This makes them easy to deploy following a natural disaster. Compared to the plastic tents—which some Haitian families still live in—CO2Bambu’s homes provide better shelter for a longer period of time. They can be built quickly and safely, and then later retrofitted into permanent shelters. This process fills an immediate need for housing and then transforms into long-term housing in a costeffective, environmentally-sensitive manner.


andzer-Bell is exploring ways to use carbon credits to help finance his projects, as well as building alliances with international NGOs to expand into Haiti and other distressed areas. “The same NGO entities that want to fight climate change are bound by traditional construction because they don’t have the time and resources to develop ecological housing solutions. So as soon as a disaster comes, they have to drop the climate change concern.”



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Vision & Planning 2011  
Vision & Planning 2011  

vision and planning are the twin keys that drive a new economy.