Party Walls


Heather Breslin is the Director of Marketing at SWA and considers herself fortunate to work with such a passionate, talented, and fun group of people. She earned a bachelor's degree in urban planning but pursued marketing in her professional career; her role at SWA allows her to combine both areas of expertise to make a positive impact on our buildings and communities.

Posts by Heather Breslin

Harvey and Irma: Hurricanes, Floods, and the Days After

They call it hurricane season. That time of year when tropical depressions form off the west coast of Africa somewhere north of the equator. The rotation of the earth and the prevailing winds cause these low-pressure pockets to migrate slowly westward, and if conditions are apt, pick up strength along the way.

As deadly and destructive as hurricane winds are, it is typically the associated water that causes the most physical damage: horizontal rain at 100 mph overwhelming already stressed buildings, prolonged periods of heavy rain inundating drainage infrastructure, and coastal storm surges pushing tidal waters many feet above normal.

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma, a record Category 5 storm, is seen in this NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center image from GOES-16 satellite taken on September 5, 2017. Courtesy NOAA National Weather Service National Hurricane Center/Handout via REUTERS

As of this writing Hurricane Irma is just north of Puerto Rico with Category 5, 185 mph winds. And Harvey, a rain event lasting days and dumping up to 50 inches of rain ravaged Texas and Louisiana one week ago. Because of where and how we chose to build our communities, these disaster events will remain inevitable. There are concrete steps we can and should take to improve the resiliency and disaster resistance of the buildings we build, but in reality, much of what we built in the past is disaster prone and not resilient. (more…)

New York Keeps It Clean with a Global Commitment to Emissions Reduction

This October, Governor Cuomo announced with former Vice President Gore that New York will join the Under 2 MOU effort to join states and cities around the world in pledging to reduce GHG emissions 80% by 2050. The Under 2 MOU is a global joint effort to encourage action at the Conference of the Parties meeting at the 21st UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris later this year.

This is not the first commitment that impacts performance targets for buildings in New York. Both the city and state have committed to deep reductions in emissions that have regulatory and programmatic impacts on buildings.

What Targets are in Place?

The Under 2 MOU program is already in line with New York’s same self imposed target in place: 80 by 50 via Executive Order No. 24 which was signed in 2009. New York is one of 20 states, plus DC, with a target in place.



New York City has a comparable target.  In September 2014 the One City Built to Last plan also targeted an 80% reduction by 2050. But to reach this target, the city needs to reduce 30% of GHG from the building stock by 2025.

How Does New York Reach These Goals?

What Are We Learning from Energy Benchmarking Programs?

According to the Institute for Market Transformation, fourteen cities, two states, and one county in the U.S. now have energy benchmarking and transparency policies in place for large buildings. This means that continually more cities and jurisdictions will have an understanding of how their buildings perform. It also means that these policies and their outcomes can be compared against each other and ultimately improved.

Transparent Energy Benchmarking Policies

14 cities, 2 states, and 1 county in the U.S. now have benchmarking and transparency policies in place for large buildings.


With these improvements in the policy landscape impacting the built environment, the question was asked: How can the data be analyzed, and what impacts do the policies themselves have on building energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and the local economies?

At the end of May the Department of Energy (DOE) published the DOE Benchmarking & Transparency Policy and Program Impact Evaluation Handbook, which provides “cost-effective, standardized analytic methods for determining gross and net energy reduction, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mitigation, job creation and economic growth impacts” for jurisdictions that operate benchmarking policies.

Also released in May was the New York City Benchmarking and Transparency Policy Impact Evaluation Report which utilized real NYC data using the same methodologies.

SWA worked with the Navigant Consulting and DOE teams to review data from two jurisdictions and develop methodologies for analysis.

The general findings of the research team were: (more…)