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Long Island architects talk sustainability

“How does sustainability help real estate redefine itself?”asked design architect Irena Škoda, president and one of the founding members of the Designers + Builders Alliance of Long Island at the nonprofit organization’s third panel discussion of its four-part Alliance Talks series, held March 22 at Country Carpet in Syosset.

The evening seminar, “Embracing Sustainability for Better Living through Design,” demystified sustainability, a concept that, when properly applied, is an essential, value-added result of mindful building and design in today’s market.
Described as “the leading voice championing homeowners,” Škoda, principal and founder of ŠKODA Design + Architecture, PLLC, is the series’ organizer and moderator. The panelists were: Steve Feldman, president and founder of Renovation Angel; John Barrows, founder and president of P3 Builder Group; and Bill Chaleff, AIA, LEED AP, of Chaleff & Rogers Architects, P.C. All were welcomed by Harris Cohen, president and owner of Country Carpet, an Alliance sponsor and Alliance Executive Director Suzanne Sokolov and introduced by Alliance members Christine Conte, Karen Ferreyra, Ellen Baker and Steven Engelson.

The panelists examined why sustainability, a viable option for over 60 years, remains misunderstood and under-utilized.
Škoda stressed the need to think in terms of ROI. “We need to see design as an investment,” she said.

Barrows said that “sustain ability means durability – it makes economic sense.” He spoke of a vision that extends beyond today and “designs and builds for tomorrow.”
Chaleff noted the short-sightedness of focusing on the upfront costs of homebuilding since homeowners can face foreclosure when unable to pay heating bills that soar due to energy inefficiency.

Sustainability must yield three quantifiable returns said Feldman: financial; environmental; and job creation.
Škoda pointed to the even greater need today for collaboration between designers and builders as more advanced technologies become integral components of design solutions. “All elements of all approaches must work together,” she said. For example, solar panels will fall short of their desired results if a leaky home and improper windows stay in place. Škoda stressed the overall goals of comfort and health in high performance homes.

All agreed that aesthetics must remain paramount and that creative solutions need to ensure that beauty is enhanced.
Chaleff urged developers, architects, planners, HVAC engineers and all project stakeholders to work together from the onset.

Feldman said that the mindset must change “and it has to start with industry professionals at the start of a project.”
All agreed that the end-user, the homeowner, is the most critical component in the mix. “Consumer education is an integral part of the process,” said Barrows, who also spoke of the need for conservation – simply using less –of the efficiency of equipment and the efficiency of the envelope.

“We’re designing for the people living in the homes,” said Škoda.

The ultimate myth is that sustainability costs more. It’s all about finding a balance of where to invest funds to yield the greatest benefit.

“We need to demonstrate the added value in a better built building,” said Škoda.
The event benefited Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead.

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