If you’ve driven by the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) lately, you will have noticed a lot of changes. BNMC has a lot of completed and ongoing projects that are bringing sustainability to life on its 120 acre property. To learn more about some of these green projects, and to hear about the BNMC’s approach to sustainability, I sat down with Project Manager Mark McGovern (MM) to get the inside scoop.
GrowWNY: Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today. I’m excited to talk with you about your role here on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, some of the projects that you have been working on, and especially how sustainability plays a role in the projects.
MM: My role, predominately, is on infrastructure development projects, with both BNMC as an entity unto itself and the BNMC as a collective geography of 120 acres. Often in my role, it’s easier for us to think of sustainability on the capital end, as far as building something sustainable as it is to try to change people’s culture for thinking about sustainability. With that said, there’s a couple of projects that we are working on that are moving in that direction, to get people thinking about sustainability.
One of the challenges we have is transportation and parking. This is a good example of sustainability for the planet. We’re on a fixed asset—the big blue ball we sit on. We [BNMC] are on a fixed asset with the 120 acres we sit on, so we can’t continue to build parking because we will displace other opportunities for development. So, we recently constructed the largest parking structure in the City of Buffalo. It has 2,043 spaces to accommodate some of the demand forthcoming at 134 High St. When we looked at that as a sustainable asset, we took some serious cost-benefit analysis and put some money into it from a green perspective to make it last longer. For one example it has all LED lighting in the bays, there are ten electric vehicle charging stations in the ramp, we currently have a request into NYSERDA for some support for 450 KW solar ray on top of the ramp. It’s nine levels high. We made structural accommodations to columns and the foundation to support a large solar install. We’ll probably hear back about that by the end of [February]. Likewise, concrete is a pretty sustainable, green, long-lasting product that was produced locally.
That’s one aspect; so we build a big parking ramp! Also, what we [BNMC] do is encourage people to search out other options of getting here. We promote car sharing; the use of transit, there is an NFTA station right on our campus. We’re getting ready to launch, in the spring, a Social Bike program that is similar to the car share concept. You sign on for a bicycle; it’s solar, so the GPS unit on it is powered by solar, as is the credit card that you charge with. I think we are planning on deploying about 75 of those this spring. That will be a big launch.
We also have ten electric vehicle charging stations in the ramp, and 21 campus-wide. We’ve seen a fairly decent use of these. There are people who commute within that 30-35 mile range, it’s ideal because we don’t charge you for the electricity—we can’t charge you for the electricity! You are essentially getting free ‘gas,’ free power, free energy for your commute.
Right across the street at 589 Ellicott St., at the south end of the lot, is a piece of green infrastructure: a bio-retention facility, which we recently constructed. That parking lot used to be intersected by two roads, one heading east-west, and the other heading north-south. Eventually as Trico became larger and larger, it needed more parking so that lot was cleared, hence what you see out there today. There are no drains in that parking lot; it all kind of sheet drains down to the south end. It used to jump over the curb and into Goodell St., and then away to the Buffalo River. We’ve now intercepted that water, with the bio-retention facility, which is probably 240 feet wide by 25 feet across. The idea is to retain the first 1.25 inches of rainfall on site, before it’s released to the sanitary storm sewer. It has a jellyfish filter, made by Imbrium Systems, which takes out all the dissolved solids and pollutants off the lot. And there is a significant amount of “greenscaping” too, to improve the aesthetics of the place.
Additionally in that lot, we are putting a series of new light poles and luminaires in the lot. They will be totally powered by a thousand watt, 5 foot vertical wind turban on top of the 25 foot pole, and a 24 watt solar panel on the pole. So all the battery surge will be in the base of the pole. Lummi Solara is the company that owns the technology, and those poles you see out there now will go away and we’ll make an attempt to light up that parking lot only with renewable energy as far as the Lumaire. We’re hoping it’s going to work. The technology has been tested in Brooklyn and so forth, so that should be complete by May or April. So it’s kind of exciting.
GrowWNY: Thank you for sharing a lot of great examples of what BNMC is doing. I know you had mentioned that a lot of these projects are trying to get people to make more sustainable decisions right as they’re walking through the doors. What advice do you give to others when it comes to being sustainable?
MM: Yeah. A lot of what’s going on is within buildings that are sustainable is not obvious to a lot of people who aren’t in this mode of building things. But now-a-days, it just makes such financial sense to construct, build, and operate in sustainable and green perspective. There’s a lot of information out there that doesn’t take much research. You can inform yourself of these options and then how to go about it. I guess initially, it comes back to, you’ve got to have some type of willingness or belief that sustainability is something of value. And as we become more populated as a planet, and there are more of these buildings going up, and more vehicles going down the road, that to sustain ourselves we have to think of things like the laws of physics. “For every action there is an adjoining reaction. Energy is not created or destroyed, it’s just transferred.” So nothing really ever goes anywhere, we’re just kind of moving things around.
GrowWNY: So if you had to define sustainability, how would you give a definition for it?
MM:Sustainability I think it’s a buzz word, and it’s kind of popular now, and everybody wants to hop on it. I think it starts with an awareness and acceptance that a) we are on a limited kind of existence as far as the geography of the planet is limited as far as resources and space. We’re not going anywhere. That which is in the ground and we consume, is not going back into the ground in the same shape or form for a reusable process, for millions of years in some cases, as far as carbon.
And b) the belief that energy and matter is not created or destroyed, it just kind of shifts. So if we accept that, then the realization that we’re going to be here for a while, our children are going to be here for a while and nobody’s going anywhere. We need to try to make intelligent, informed decisions about ways to sustain the planet ourselves and all that comes with it as a collective unit.
The way sustainability is going to be successful is when people will realize that it’s going to be financial benefit, and that it’s economically feasible. A lot of pie in the sky ideas are not economically feasible. But a lot of returns on investments in infrastructure, and the payback going forward, makes the initial outlay more palatable for people, especially when you’re renovating or constructing the buildings. And there’s a lot of incentives for green and sustainability issues. Folks like NYSERDA and so forth, are financing that gap between, okay you’ve got a T12 lamp, why not vote an LED lamp. We’ll finance 50 percent of that gap. You’ll get the payback in 3 years. As they should be financing. The government’s been financing oil and gas explorations for 40 or 50 years, why shouldn’t they be subsidizing some of these more sustainable and global issues.
GrowWNY: So bringing it down to like a very very basic level, like in my home, what are some tips that I would want to look into in my sustainable effort?
MM: Well, doing more with less. You always see people replacing windows in their houses; this is one of the first things people always do. Well, that’s not always the most cost-effective return. Installation in the attic or walls is exponentially more beneficial than replacing windows right at the get-go like people normally do. Turn the thermostat down, putting an inflated blanket around your hot water heater, riding bikes to work, and stuff like that. Recycling is one of those things that just blows my mind, that here in the city where it’s such a low return of recycling. We live off by Parkside, and we’ve been there for about 2 years. I compost and I recycle and always, always my recycle bin is full every week I’ve got to have it out there, and I don’t take my garbage out every week. I think people might be conscious of what you’re purchasing and what you’re supporting. A lot of times, people select products, and I’m talking basic products, like packaging of groceries and so forth. When you look at what you consume and what you’re left over with, you should have consumed more and be left with less, but it’s not always an option in some stores.
Mark also gave us some really great insight about the projects going on at BNMC. Want to hear more? Stay tuned for a conversation with Mark about the “SmartHome Buffalo” project!