Roundtable Review: The Sustainable Building Imperative

On Feb 20th, we held our Sustainability Roundtable at Spring Place in New York. The roundtable, titled “The Sustainable Building Imperative“, was introduced by Greg Hale of NYSERDA and John Braley of Delos

Attendees each shared specific sustainable building failures they had experienced, notable projects they have led driven by sustainability, or struggles they have experienced in relation to designing and building sustainably. We then opened discusion to the group for comments and insights. 

Topics included the NYS goal for a carbon neutal building stock by 2050 (including the 85% of existing buildings which will need to be retrofitted to achive this goal); thoughts on the durability o traditional building methods, increasing building efficiency by 30-40% through insulation and fenestration; scaling down mass timber for use in residential projects; the challenges of navigating town planning authorities in relation to updating residential infrastructure, like septic systems; and the growing implementation of the WELL and LEED certifications so that building stock can contribute to population health and wellbeing.

Below are some of the statements from roundtable participants:

People are incentivised to do complicated things like add solar and dig ground source heat pumps, but if you add high quality insulation and a high performance window – there is a 30-40% energy saving.


While I love the idea of building a sustainable industrial building, is it even practical or feasible? Do I have that responsibility? I would feel great about it, but if it throws the numbers off, that makes it much harder.


When you have workers in a WELL certified space are Metlife and Axa, willing to give you 10% off your life insurance or health insurance policy?


Reframing the story around health and wellness is impactful and scalable – at the city and state level. To drive cultural / behavioural change, in storytelling we always ask: “What’s at stake, why should we care?”


As well as the “stick” side, we need creative “carrots” that help people make a 12% return instead of a 2% return. It needs to make sense for developers, because we have to find the investors to build affordable and sustainable housing.


Elon Musk is breaking through the noise with Tesla cars by talking about how the cars perform. We should be doing the same with buildings. Cars are always leading on this and we’re always trying to catch up.


Below are a few photos from the session. Brick & Wonder members can access to our Roundtable notes here

The roundtable was introduced by John Braley (speaking) and Greg Hale (to right) 
Brick & Wonder members Gaia Nodari and John Patrick Winberry
Brick & Wonder members John Patrick Winberry, Michael Biondo and Brooks Perlin
Brick & Wonder Members Jamie Hammel and Nancy Kleppel

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