Baltimore’s Vacant Houses!

While in Baltimore at an energy conference this week, I wandered around and snapped photos of several vacant buildings in what the locals called the “hood”.  Being from Buffalo, I am used to seeing a lot of vacant houses but what surprised me was that all of these row style houses are vacant, falling apart but they are still standing. There seemed to be thousands of them with a few here and there that are occupied.

In Buffalo, many of these would have already been torn down. Maybe because these common row houses are brick, they stand against fires and that is why they have not been demolished? Perhaps the city doesn’t have the income to tackle these buildings? What worries me is that if one comes down, several will have to come with it because of how connected each house is to one another. I bet many of these buildings are still standing because they are all supporting each other.  Whatever the reason they are still standing, I am keeping my fingers crossed that they live another 20 years in hopes that the neighborhoods will bounce back again.

Here are a couple links to read up on Baltimore’s Vacancy Crisis. Read up. Its quite fascinating. Seeing these in the flesh made me realize that Buffalo is not alone with its vacancy problems.

1. Vacancy and Art: Beautifying Baltimore’s vacant houses.

2. Selling Vacant Baltimore: A blog dedicated to selling these beauties.

3. Baltimore Brew: We have a vacant house for you!

Making Parking Garages Look Good.

When I was in Baltimore this past week, I spotted this parking garage. (See pic below!)

It doesn’t look fancy or anything but the art added to the exterior really made what would normally be a plain Jane site, into something that was pleasant. The colorful art gave life to something that is typically lifeless. What a simple, easy idea!

I wish Buffalo would take something like this into account when building parking garages… there are several downtown (Including this one –  The BNMC Parking Garage) that could be easily spruced up which would make the downtown area more appealing!

I also included  a link to the top 10 most beautiful parking garages. Take a look. Some of the parking garages are really neat!


Photo: Downtown Baltimore Parking Garage near Mulberry Street.

Tonight. 7pm. Ulrichs Tavern. BYP. Preservation. GO!

Tonights Buffalo Young Preservationists (BYP) event is a BIG DEAL. Bring your friends. Come out. Lets hang and talk. There are many many events happening this week that we all need to be prepared for.

Here is the Facebook link :

Talk proud about Buffalo, spread ideas and projects, and be a part of some serious grassroots preservation! All ages and professions welcome; you just have to have Buffalove. We have a couple big projects that we need your help with, so bring some friends for a beer.

*We’re switching it up for this month’s happy hour, come to Ulrich’s the oldest bar in town, but you already knew that. Meet up at 7pm until whenever. 

For more information, email

March Photo Update – Buildings on the West Side.

I spent a lot of time looking at buildings this past week. The warm, sunny weather and my interest in buying something has really pushed me to walk the west side in search of the best potential project to invest in.

Here are just a couple photos I snapped with my phone. More info/updates to come!







Zero Waste Construction Event – Tuesday March 20th / Hallwalls / 7pm / Free

Have you heard about the colossal amount of waste that happens during construction? It is staggaring.. but there are a lot of new ways you can reduce your waste that many people do not know about.

Check the zero waste institute website for more information:

Anyhow, you can learn about this topic TOMORROW because WNYSEA is putting on an event with Christopher Romano from UB. The event is free. If you haven’t been to a sustainable series event yet, this is the one to see.

Please join the WNY Sustainable Energy Association for the March installment of the Reitan Sustainability Speaker Series.

Tuesday March 20th at 7pm- Free 
Hallwalls – 341 DELAWARE AVE.BUFFALO, NY 14202 716-854-1694

This Month’s Topic will be:

UB Associate Professor of Architecture,Christopher Romano and his students give a dynamic presentation about new and sustainable methods in the field of innovative construction. Please don’t miss this exciting talk! Free and Open to the Public!

Professor Christopher Romano holds a B.P.S. in architecture as well as a professional M.Arch. degree, with a concentration in architectural theory and design, from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 2005, he received the chair’s award for consistent, high-caliber design work performed in the studios. His research and teaching explores the relationship between design and construction and the contemporary culture of building. <– Website Link

NESEA Inspires.

Three questions came to my mind this weekend…

Do I actually inspire people? Does NESEA inspire? Does the industry inspire?

Can I inspire? I guess so! Last week, I had a chance to extend myself beyond the norm. I completed a milestone in my life. I was a part of the keynote experience at NESEA. I kept thinking – who am I to tell these people where our industry needs to go and what to do? Well, it turns out that people not only listened and agreed, they were inspired. Maybe they did not all agree but I must have spoken to 100 people after that loved my enthusiasm, my energy, my information, my outlook as a young emerging professional…  they listened to my plea for us to get sexy and to start pushing the market. Many were impressed with my ability to giggle and ability to stand up there so confidently..  Listening to everyone really made me happy and really inspired. People actually want to hear what I have to say? Weird but true. What a milestone the BE12 experience was for me. Its crazy to say but I think I may have inspired some folks.

So, does NESEA inspire people? YES! The 4,000 people who came were a mix of people – students, professionals and even home owners. NESEA as the ability to recharge our batteries. NESEA inspires to rethink, relearn and recharge. NESEA teaches, loves and encourages the industry all in only 3 days. NESEA and the Building Energy conference is inspiring.

Lastly, does the industry inspire? I will say confidently, yes.  This year especially, there were several new faces – young faces and old. What really shocked me was the amount of new, young professionals that came to the conference. This year we had a group, a small group, but a solid one which is something that I have never seen before.  NESEA and the industry is starting to push into this young market. People want to be in the sustainable world and it seems that each year more and more young, smart, hip professionals attend the conference and even bigger – they are working in this field everyday. This is a big deal. The industry is inspiring people to join, to learn, and to gather. Pretty cool, huh?

NESEA is inspiring!

Here is the link to the NESEA photos by Matt Cavanaugh! Hope these inspire you!



Cities are the Future of the Green Building Industry.

Below is my keynote speech that I delivered this week at the Northeast Sustainable Energy Associations Building Energy Conference (BE12).  It was short, simple and sexy.  I hope you like it.


Cities are the Future of the Green Building Industry   

There are two things that I would like you to take away from my speech today.

Repeat after me :  Think Urban. Think Sexy.

Cities are the future of our industry.  Cities are our greatest resource. They are a true melting pot. They are the epicenter of our cultural growth, mixed uses, innovation and ideas. It is unfortunate to say that they have been neglected for over 50 years as our country has promoted and built sprawling suburbs that require more energy and resources that our earth can give.

Despite the push for sprawl, there is a new wave of people, an urban generation some may call it, who are pushing back and giving our cities love because of its walkability, density, accessibility and its sustainability. The urban generation recognizes that cities are the sexiest thing on the planet. Only in a city can you walk, bike or take mass transit to all of your needs.  Cities are sustainable.

So, who are these people that are embracing the city?  They are my generation – the 20 – 30 something and the empty nesters.   The millennial are so urban. We are connected. We love high design, walkable neighborhoods, bicycles, coffee shops and iphones. We love grassroots initiatives and being unique.

The empty nesters are very similar – they are embracing the city and are looking to toss out the big home that’s expensive to heat and maintain for a cool, urban setting that has many amenities within a short walking distance. Have you researched how many millenials and urban nesters there are? The numbers are staggering. Its something like 100 + million people depending on who you ask, of course.

So why am I driving this home today? The city is the future and the urban dweller is our target market. We as an industry need to learn how to appeal to the urban dweller. There are two ways that we can promote our cities and our industry.

  1. Drive the Market
  2. Drive the policy.

Lets talk about the market. The urban dweller is a very sophisticated consumer. We have subscriptions to dwell magazine,  organic honey in the cupboard and iphones. If our industry wants to target this market, we need to begin to think high design. Think urban and think sexy. Our industry needs sex appeal. We need the Madison avenue approach. Lets sell the sizzle not the steak. And let me be clear – sexy does not mean pink hard hats and cut off shorts on a lady. Sexy is high design. Sophistication. Allure. Good type face. Intuitive.

Now, lets talk policy.

Look, I am a Buffalo chic. Let me tell you about what Buffalo is doing so you can understand how cities can promote a sustainable lifestyle through policy.  Buffalo is implementing a new zoning code that is revolutionary. Little old rusty buffalo is right now taking away minimum parking requirements. Buffalo is pushing for 100 % storm water retention. Buffalo is giving vacant houses away for one dollar to avoid sending old growth wood to the landfill, to promote density and encourage new life in areas that have been forgotten. The urban dwellers get it. I am in the process of buying one of these dollar houses. Why? Because despite needing 40K worth of work, I see value in the urban setting. I see a mixed use neighborhood where I am close to everything, including the bars and coffee shops where I can make a positive impact in a neglected neighborhood. I am the market. That house will need to be energy efficient. Hell, if I can, I am making it net zero because as an urban dweller, I realize the importance.

If Buffalo can do this. Other cities can and will. Rarely is Buffalo ahead of the curve but this time we are. We are pushing the bar and creating a sustainable city.

As Douglas Farr, an architect and urbanist has said – We need a grand unification. I call it the cornucopia of sustainability.

We need to combine three areas – smart growth, urbanism and high performance buildings. We are all in this room to learn about high performance buildings but we represent the sustainable industry as a whole and therefore, we need to drive the market and drive the policy to bring these three areas together.  We will only be sustainable if these three things can come together and guess what – only cities can have these three things!!

So the message I give to you all is that – Think Urban and think sexy. Cities are the future. Let’s stop building energy efficient buildings with parking lots surrounding them and push to build denser and smarter. True energy efficiency will never be achieved on the scale of a single building.. so let’s think broader.

We need this in order to promote a world that is healthier, wealthier and more beautiful for present and future generations.  Lets think urban and lets think sexy and push our industry to where it needs to be to truly push for a sustainable 21st century.

Think Urban and Think Sexy!