New Smoke-Free Policy and Environmental Development Practices Reflect the Expansion of Belmont's Efforts to "Go Green"by dcarpenter
At a time when Western New Yorkers are becoming increasingly aware of how many different ways the environment impacts their lives and their communities, Belmont is stepping up its continuing efforts to "go green."
According to Vice-President for Property Operations Pamela Berger, Belmont is actively implementing a growing range of environment- and health-enhancing initiatives designed to improve WNY's quality of life. Partnering with Buffalo-based energy firm Solar Liberty, Berger says that Belmont is preparing to equip four of its facilities with 25-kilowatt solar energy conversion systems.
The arrays, each of which consists of more than 100 collector panels, are scheduled to be installed at its 1195 Main Street Buffalo office and three of the 15 residential properties it currently manages. The sites initially set to receive systems include the Townview Apartments at 50 Grambo Drive in Lancaster, Grand Island's Islandview Apartments at 2136 Baseline Road, and Seneca Woods, located at 745 Indian Church Road in West Seneca.
Encouraged by financial incentives New York State was offering last year to promote energy efficiency, Berger says that taking advantage of alternative energy options was the responsible thing to do both environmentally and fiscally. Based on the amount of power such systems typically generate in climates similar to WNY's, she expects the equipment at the four sites to collectively produce more than 100,000 kWh of electricity a year.
"Not only does this potentially free up more than $14,000 of our funding in the first year alone," she points out, "it produces both immediate and longterm environmental benefits." In addition to decreasing current demand on community energy resources, she notes that the nearly two tons of greenhouse gases the systems are projected to remove from the environment over the next 25 years is the equivalent of planting more than 76,000 trees or eliminating mid-sized vehicle emissions on nearly 3.5 million miles of highway.
Berger points out that in an effort to similarly "clear the air" in the personal living environments it provides for the more than 1,000 Western New Yorkers who call its residential properties home, Belmont is also working closely with the Erie-Niagara Tobacco-Free Coalition to make all of the 15 properties it manages smoke-free.
She says that residents at the 10 properties where it's already been adopted have been very positive in their response to the new policy, whose implementation at the remainder of Belmont's sites is expected to be completed by early 2011.
As the organization continues efforts like these to more actively "go" green, the challenge facing Belmont's Vice-President for Housing Development Michael Riegel comes from the flip side of that process... finding ways to "start" green.
"Being involved in the construction of hundreds of individual and multiple-unit properties over the past 20 years," Riegel says, "we've seen the steady growth of the importance of ‘green' practices in the planning and funding processes of housing development. I'm proud to say that Belmont projects incorporated ‘green' elements like high-efficiency furnaces and Energy Star appliances even before including ‘green' in proposals went from being accepted to being encouraged to now being required."
Riegel observes that, like provisions dealing with lead-based paint and asbestos that were added in earlier years, "green" design is now a permanent part of securing funding for affordable housing. "Belmont, however," he notes, "sees this not as a rule to follow but as an opportunity to lead. Not only will every new project we propose meet or exceed all major funding sources' ‘green' requirements, we'll actively seek innovative ways to incorporate all possible ‘green' elements into future projects."
"It's our hope," he adds, "that by setting that standard for ourselves and encouraging the municipalities we partner with to upgrade their project specifications to be more ‘green,' we can help improve everyone's quality of life."