Thursday, March 29, 2007
Wainscott planning office goes solar
Land Planning Services, Ltd., located at 405 Montauk Highway just west of the Wainscott hamlet, is poised to become the first business in the Town of East Hampton (outside East Hampton Village) to have a solar photovoltaic electric system installed. The 5.1 kW system provided by GreenLogic Energy will provide more than half of the electricity the private land planning office requires to run its business.
"This is something I've wanted to do for years," said LPS president Laurie Bernhardt Wiltshire regarding 'going solar.' "Our office is a salt box with a giant south-facing roof and it just seemed so logical." The current LIPA rebate, federal tax credits and IRS depreciation made this an attractive time for Wiltshire to proceed with solar installation.
"This coming year we'll celebrate our 10th anniversary as a land use consulting and expediting company and my staff and I are pleased with the directions we're taking. We advise our clients of the most responsible ways to achieve their development and preservation goals. Our clients are showing growing interest in site planning and design to maximize the green potential of their projects. Now we're able to share our firsthand knowledge of the planning that goes into alternative energy solutions."
Research and project manager Sara Gordon, who joined the LPS team last September, researched photovoltaic systems and consulted with several area PV providers. Gordon, a sustainability advocate who previously worked with Gordian Raacke of Renewable Energy Long Island (ELI) on the Long Island Solar Roofs Initiative, and trained this past year with Al Gore and The Climate Project to present the global warming slide show featured in 'An Inconvenient Truth,' was more than happy to help make Wiltshire's solar ambitions a reality.
"We all need to put significantly more effort into reducing greenhouse gases," states Gordon. "It's not difficult, but it does take that initial commitment, that willingness to acknowledge the negative impact our current practices have on the planet. The good news is that the technologies we need to solve the problems we've created are readily available to us here in our affluent nation."
The entire LPS staff is on board with effort's to reduce the office's ecological footprint. The office recycles much of its waste, and is continually looking for ways to improve efficiency, reduce resource use and eliminate toxic materials. They provide environmentally-friendly cleaning materials to the office cleaning service, and have replaced numerous incandescent bulbs with compact flourescents. LPS also saw the office's electric bill decrease dramatically with the recent purchase of a highly-rated Energy Star refrigerator for the office's kitchen.
Wiltshire and long-time LPS Senior Planner and Project Manager Susan Brierley will further explore the planning industry's sustainable practices when they attend the American Planning Association's National Conference in Philadelphia next month.
"We live and work in an environmentally fragile region, with significant and appropriate constraints on development," says Brierley. "We [LPS] have always sought to mitigate the impact of site development with innovative approaches. Recently we've been exploring new sanitary system designs that function effectively in high groundwater areas. We're also following the evolution of low-impact coastal erosion control systems closely, since many of our clients' properties are vulnerable waterfront sites. And the lighting plans we produce are far more energy conscious than in the past."
LPS selected GreenLogic Energy, a Sag Harbor based alternative energy system designer and installer, to install their PV system. GreenLogic Energy also installed the very first commercial system in East Hampton Village, at the Amaden-Gay Agency.
Marc Clejan, the co-founder of GreenLogic points out that "working with LPS has been a pleasure. They looked at every issue in detail, and made a very thoughtful decision about how they could best reduce their business' environmental impact, while also making a sound financial investment. The knowledge they have gained from this effort positions them well to guide their clients on these important issues."
The installation also required the replacement of the roof and the removal of several trees. "Cutting down those old oaks is another thing I've planned to do for some time," explains Wiltshire. "All of the trees we removed were not healthy and could have come down on the building in a bad storm. We plan to replant with smaller trees, to shade the lawn and help cool the warm summer breezes."
LPS understands sustainability as not just an environmental issue, but an issue that conerns the overall health of the community. Wiltshire and her staff are advocates of progressive policies regarding affordable housing and transportation, and they have worked aggresively with coalition efforts in East Hampton and Southampton to expand programs related to transfer of development rights and accessory apartments over commercial structures.
"We recognize that incentive programs are needed to address the severe need for moderate-income and workforce housing if the community is to remain economically sustainable, and that this can be achieved in an environmentally responsible manner," notes Wiltshire. "As planners, we're in a great position to guide change."