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Staff Profile: Joe Andracchio – Senior Sustainability Consultant

Each day, SWA’s team of over 110 staff, spanning four east coast office locations, collaborate closely to create more sustainable, efficient, healthy, and accessible buildings. We have a passion and drive to implement best-practice solutions that help clients reach their goals – and that ultimately help the people that occupy these spaces and the environment.
We offer a wide breadth of services at SWA, in turn, we have a lot of staff who do very different things! Our knowledgeable staff provide consulting for services such as existing building decarbonization, accessibility compliance, net-zero construction, and green building program certification. We also have an outstanding operations team that help to ensure the business is optimized to run smoothly and efficiently on a daily basis.
We want to highlight all of this amazing talent that we have at SWA; so, join us in our series of staff profiles that will span across all teams, job levels, and offices. Check out our Careers page as well, for our open positions!

First up to bat, we have Joe Andracchio, a Senior Sustainability Consultant on our Residential Buildings Services group. Joe is based out of our Washington, D.C. office and has been at SWA for around 4.5 years. He is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Maryland!

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10 Ways to Enjoy a Festive AND Sustainable Holiday Season

Between gift shopping and trying to keep up the holiday spirit with decorations at home, it can be frustrating to try to remain sustainable. It may feel as though you’re forced to choose between enjoying the holidays and feeling guilty about putting up all those lights around your tree.

Here are 10 ways you can have a festive holiday and feel better about it too:

Holiday Sustainability Ideas infographic

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Zero(ish) – Waste Living

In a world where everything seems to be packaged in two layers of plastic, where we are encouraged to constantly discard items to make room for new ones, and where social media drives our desire to consume the newest trends, it can seem impossible to reduce our waste. Living a zero-waste lifestyle seems almost too overwhelming. I find myself wondering, “How can I possibly reduce waste when industries target consumers to do the opposite?” and “Even if I do make changes in my own habits, is it enough to make a difference?

I struggle with the same paralyzing vastness that Jonathan Chapman mentions throughout his book Emotionally Durable Design. Paralyzing vastness describes the tendency to do nothing when a task seems too large to conquer, instead of taking smaller steps. In the past, the seemingly vast nature of zero-waste living discouraged me from doing anything beyond entry-level recycling, but I realized that minimizing my waste is something worth tackling. Therefore, I will be sharing some ideas for working towards a zero(ish)-waste lifestyle — because going from zero to one hundred, or in this case one hundred to zero can be scary — and I’ll include my experience implementing a few of the ideas myself.

WEEK ONE: Apartment Composting

In blogs and articles that speak on behalf of zero-waste living, the importance of sharing with others and asking for help getting started is most frequently emphasized. For example, my apartment complex does not offer any composting services, but the SWA office does (yay sharing!). For week one, I started composting and designated two small resealable containers — one for food waste, and another for paper towels — that are now living on my kitchen counter. I intended on utilizing these two bins throughout the week, and then bringing them to the office for a dump. If you have the ability to start your own compost bin, that’s great too.

While using paper towels throughout the week, I felt less bad about it knowing that they wouldn’t be going into the landfill, but I developed some questions: If I use the paper towel with cleaning supplies, can it be composted?… Is it worth collecting small bits of food waste when I could just eviscerate them in the garbage disposal?… Are garbage disposals bad for the environment and/or do they affect the energy utilized for wastewater treatment?

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Electric Cars: Are They Better for Your Pocket and the Climate Right NOW?

Electric Vehicle Plugged in to charger

Last week, I read a blog post from Connecticut Fund for the Environment President Curt Johnson, and he reaffirmed what I already expected: my next car will likely be an electric vehicle (EV). I currently drive a Toyota Prius hybrid, but when I bought it in 2013, the price to purchase and to operate an EV did not work out, so I chose the Prius, which has very reliably achieved 50 mpg over the last six years.

As an engineer who admittedly knows nothing about cars, I feel like the information out there on EVs is either slightly biased (i.e., published by EV manufacturers) or not transparent enough with the math to convince me. So I set out to create a blog post that was unbiased and transparent. I liked this one from Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, so hopefully I’m making it a bit more user-friendly and applicable to your current/local situation.

I just wanted to know two simple things (and admit to ignoring a long list of other factors that influence the type of car most people will choose to drive):

Number 1: At what gas price is an EV cheaper to drive per mile?

Number 2: While EV tailpipe emissions are zero, is my local electric grid clean enough that it’s a good idea, right NOW? I know my next car will be electric, I just don’t know WHEN the grid will be clean enough that it’s better for the environment for me to switch.

When I began writing this article, I had no idea what the answers would be.

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Climate Week NYC: Seven Days of Climate Action and Discussion

 

Climate Week logoLast week, as I was writing this blog, I came across a New York Times article: “The Amazon, Siberia, Indonesia: a World of Fire.” By now, I’m sure most of us are aware that the Amazon Rainforest has been burning for weeks, but this deliberate act of environmental destruction will contribute to a feedback loop. These fires release carbon dioxide and kill the trees and species that not only remove greenhouse gasses from the air but are part of vital fragile ecosystems. As more climate-warming gasses fill the air, extreme weather patterns, drought, species loss, and global warming are exacerbated. These effects then accelerate the spread of infectious disease, global poverty, and human health defects. Overall, climate change and environmental degradation negatively affect both humans and the planet, which makes us less resilient and allows for climate change to accelerate even more aggressively. And the cycle continues.

So, for the sake of our (really wonderful) natural planet, and humankind, it is crucial that we try to hinder this feedback loop and make climate action a priority around the world. And, although individually we can try to have a more reciprocal relationship with the planet, our actions and voices carry more weight collectively, which is where Climate Week NYC comes in.

What is Climate Week NYC?

Organized by The Climate Group, Climate Week NYC is an annual week-long gathering for citizens and global leaders to join forces and take action to mitigate environmental harm caused by human activity. There will be a number of public events each day from September 23-29, including tours, film screenings, conferences, and more.

Fun fact: Swedish teenager and activist Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic all the way from England to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit, scheduled on the first day of Climate Week NYC!

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Recent Developments in Off-Shore Wind Energy Production and Renewable Energy Storage

Image of off shore windmills

Block Island Wind Farm, courtesy of the US Department of Energy

Overview

There have been several local and global developments recently with regards to off-shore wind turbines. Advancements in energy storage from both wind and solar energy, coupled with the increased rate of adoption of wind turbines could serve as a major step towards a more renewable-based energy grid and a more sustainable future.

Updates on Energy Production

First, let’s explore some recent news surrounding the adoption of off-shore wind turbines. On a global scale, Scotland’s Hywind project recently proved that technology developed for and by the oil drilling industry can be successfully applied to off-shore wind turbines.[2] The floating 30 MW wind farm, made up of five turbines off the Aberdeenshire coast, has been operational since October 2017. During a three-month period of stormy conditions from November 2018 to January 2019, the wind farm managed to continue energy production at 65% of their maximum capacity. Note that during this period, a North Atlantic hurricane produced swells up to 27 feet! Over the course of a year  “maximum capacity” is approximately 135 GWh of electricity- or enough to power 20,000 Scottish homes. To ensure that the turbines can withstand weather events on that scale, the floating turbines are ballasted by 5,000 tons of iron ore, and 1,323 tons of chain anchor it to the seafloor. This off-shore farm proves that wind turbines can be successfully deployed in deeper waters where it would be increasingly expensive to extend the physical structure of the turbine tower to the seafloor. Additionally, the US, UK, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France, and South Korea all have started to piggyback off the success of the Hywind farm in various ways. For instance, South Korea partnered with the Equinor, the primary backer of Hywind, to conduct a feasibility study for a 200 MW farm that would be located off the coast of Ulsan.[3][4][5][6]

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20 Years of Wintergreen!

A lot has happened since the start of the WinterGreen newsletter, which was first distributed 20 years ago via fax machine. From the inception of LEED, to the Climate Mobilization Act, WinterGreen has covered it all.

In honor of its anniversary, we are looking back at the milestones that occurred along the way and making predictions for the future…WinterGreen Banner circa 1999

1999 – Steven Winter Becomes Chairman of the US Green Building Council

Image of Steven Winter as USGBC ChairmanAs Chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council from 1999 to 2003, Steven Winter helped guide the organization through a period of immense growth. This included the launch of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, also known as the LEED® Rating System, and Greenbuild, the nation’s largest green building conference and expo.

 

2000 – SWA Receives NYSERDA Pioneer Award

Image of Steven Winter with NYSERDA AwardAt a gala event celebrating the 25th anniversary of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Steven Winter Associates (SWA) was presented with the NYSERDA Pioneer Award for their extensive contributions to making buildings more energy efficient and sustainable.

 

2001 – Green Building Guidelines Book Published for Home Builders

Image of Green Building Guidelines bookIn conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), and the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC), SWA staff collaborated to create “Green Building Guidelines: Meeting the Demand for Low-Energy, Resource-Efficient Homes.” The book provided green building techniques and strategies for home builders and residential construction professionals.

 

2002 – SWA Helps DEC Become New York State’s First Ever LEED Certified Building

Image of New York DEC Headquarters in AlbanyWorking with NYSERDA, Picotte Companies and WCGS Architects, SWA provided certification support to the design team, earning the project LEED V2.0 Silver. SWA’s services included initial LEED tabulations and goal setting, detailed LEED V2.0 evaluation reporting, and completion of the final documentation package, which led to the certification of New York State’s first ever LEED building.

 

2003 – The Solaire Declared Nation’s First “Green” Residential High-rise

Image of The SolaireNew York Governor George Pataki dedicated The Solaire as the country’s first “green” residential high-rise building, calling it “a benchmark for urban sustainable development and for green buildings worldwide.” SWA supported the design team on this project from conceptual design phase through construction administration. The Solaire, located in New York’s Battery Park City, was the first residential building to be completed in downtown Manhattan after the terrorist attacks of September 2001, and was the first beneficiary of Governor Pataki’s green building tax credit.

 

2004 – SWA Joins Project Team for Oculus Terminal at World Trade Center

Image of World Trade Center PATH TerminalLed by the joint venture of DMJM+Harris and STV, as well as the internationally renowned architect, Santiago Calatrava, SWA was invited to join the project team to provide energy efficiency and sustainable design consulting services for the new World Trade Center station, also known as the the Oculus. The rebuilt PATH terminal is incorporated into the design.

 

2005 – USGBC Announces LEED for Homes Pilot Program

Image of home under constructionExcited to announce the first ever LEED program for residential construction, the USGBC immediately began seeking applicants to test the effectiveness of the all new LEED for Homes through a Pilot Program. LEED for Homes, which is considered a green building milestone, was made possible by a passionate committee of industry professionals co-chaired by Steven Winter.

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The Top 10 Party Walls Posts of 2018!

2018 has been a year to remember for SWA’s Party Walls blog. Our consultants have shared their passion for high performance buildings by recounting stories from the field and providing information, new findings, and best practices to improve the built environment.

Whether discussing topics based in New York City or Southeast Asia, here are our fan favorites from 2018…

Collage of blog images

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What is the Carbon Footprint of Your Holiday Shopping?

Have you ever wondered about the carbon footprint of your shopping habits? Is online shopping better for the environment than brick and mortar shopping? There are many studies on the subject and there are myriad factors to consider when answering these questions. To try and make this process a little easier, we have pulled together existing research and have developed a guide to reducing your carbon footprint this holiday season.

Image of Santa gifting coal

One 2013 study by MIT looked at the impact of online vs. in-store shopping for a few items (a t-shirt, a Barbie Doll, and a computer) and concluded that a few key factors can tip the scales in either direction. While this study ignored the impact of the embodied carbon of these items (more on this later), let’s look at the biggest factors that could contribute to your holiday shopping carbon footprint and factor into the store vs. online debate.

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Replacing Indian Point – An Update

Last year, we wrote about New York State’s plans for replacing the 2,000 megawatts of electricity provided by Indian Point. As of March 2018, Indian Point is still slated to close in April of 2021. The New York State Independent System Operator (NYISO) will reassess the plant’s retirement plan later this year and will continue reassessing this plan regularly to ensure that the state’s electricity needs are met. At the time of the initial closure announcement, the replacement plan leaned heavily on increasing transmission capacity to New York City, particularly via the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express. However, there were still some gaps between downstate’s power requirements and the total power available without Indian Point.

Indian Point Image

In December 2017, NYISO released an Indian Point retirement assessment report and concluded that downstate’s power requirements will be met, providing that three proposed power plant projects in New York and New Jersey are completed on time. The CPV Valley Energy Center will be a 680 MW natural gas-fueled combined cycle plant in Wawayanda, NY, opening later this year. The Cricket Valley Energy Center will be a 1,100 MW natural gas-fueled power plant in Dover, NY, and is slated to begin power generation in 2020. An additional 120 MW of capacity will be added in Bayonne, NJ. As of the end of 2017, NYISO has determined that all three of these projects must come online by 2021 in order for the Indian Point shutdown to go through.

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