Construction, GPRO

NYSERDA to Fund Training for 2,700 GPRO Students

No Comments Posted on 11 December 2013 by Sarah Palmisano

Urban Green is eligible to receive nearly $600,000 from NYSERDA over the next two years to offset training costs for 2,700 students across New York State. GPRO courses will be discounted by 70% in 2014 and 60% in 2015.

With this funding, we will train 550 building operators to improve building efficiency and reduce waste; we will show 865 property managers and 670 construction managers how to improve indoor air quality and prevent pollution; we will teach 212 HVACR technicians about the role of mechanical systems in green building; and we will help 340 plumbers and 80 subcontractors understand how their direct actions on job sites affect the sustainability of the projects they are working on.

These workers will create healthier, more sustainable, and energy-efficient buildings across the state, in addition to increasing their job marketability due to growing demands for green building.

First come first served! If your company or organization is interested in offering discounted GPRO training for your employees, please let us know as soon as possible by contacting Sarah at If you are an individual interested in GPRO training, please let us know by filling out this form, as discounted public classes will also be available.

Commercial Buildings, GPRO, People, Residential Buildings

Green Supers Run Super Green Buildings (and Love It)

No Comments Posted on 27 November 2013 by Rena Lee

With up to 20% energy savings in each building – the numbers are clear. Green building operations and maintenance is helping residents, property owners, and the environment, but what about the agents of change themselves?

Two exemplary Green Supers, Victor Nazario and Marat Olfir, shared their stories at a panel discussion on the findings of 32BJ and Steven Winters Associates’ recent report.

Victor, Resident Manager at The Whitney (311 East 38th Street), says that the training critically changed his view on buildings and health. Becoming a Green Super gave him “renewed passion to learn more” about the repetitive tasks he performs in his daily work, and turned his job into a legacy for his family and future generations. His attitude of “If not us, then who? And if not now, then when?” is much needed to address climate change mitigation and adaptation here and around the world.

Marat, Resident Manager at The Future Condominiums (200 East 32nd Street), inherited a building from another Green Super who had already made a huge impact by upgrading boilers and heat-pumps in his building. Marat completed his own projects from “no-brainer” solutions like insulating steam-pipes in boiler rooms to large-scale installation of efficient lighting, water fixtures, and PTAC (packaged terminal air conditioner) insulation in residents’ apartments. This training helped Marat find a more advanced and secure job with a larger company.

Another Green Super said, “It’s good to get likeminded people in one room, to bring awareness. It becomes a cultural change, a practical way of thinking. It’s all about taking ownership of your building.”

Green training programs are quickly improving perspective and practice in the building industry. With this fundamental drive, building operators can use GPRO Operations & Maintenance Essentials training to sharpen their technical and entrepreneurial skills, by learning how to choose and install appropriate technologies. Successfully transitioning to a more sustainable building also requires communication skills to educate property owners and residents on new practices.

The skills taught by the Green Supers training reaches beyond the superintendents to their team members and the decision-makers investing in the Supers’ proposed energy efficiency projects.

Training programs like Green Supers have unprecedented  financial and environmental value – the personal and social investment are what make green building training a critical step towards a more sustainable New York.

Energy, GPRO, Homes, Improving Building Envelopes, Residential Buildings

Green Supers Run Super Green Buildings

No Comments Posted on 15 November 2013 by Rena Lee

As New York City’s boilers begin to work longer hours, so do the superheroes of our buildings – cleaning equipment, repairing leaky windows, and responding to heating complaints as the temperatures drop.

Over 1,000 of New York City’s buildings are run by superintendents capable of answering these calls of duty, while also saving energy and money for property owners and improving the comfort of our homes. These supers are graduates of 32BJ’s 1,000 Green Supers training program, a 40-hour course provided by the Thomas Shortman Training Fund that engages technical knowledge of energy and water efficient practices and products, and context for why these practices help build a better future for our city. Graduates of the program earn both BPI’s Energy Efficient Building Operator Certification and Urban Green’s GPRO Certificate in Operations and Maintenance Essentials.

How does this training translate into real change in our buildings? A collaborative study by 32BJ and Steven Winter Associates investigated the impacts of the 1,000 Supers program via interviews with 38 Green Supers and energy audits of 43 buildings.

Almost all of the supers interviewed (95%) successfully implemented energy efficiency measures within a year of graduation, mainly for new lighting (71%), but also for more costly investments such as HVAC (45%) and envelope (34%) system upgrades. The majority (80%) made changes in practices within a year, especially operation of HVAC (47%) and lighting systems (32%), and building envelope maintenance (32%). Results from the buildings’ energy audits indicate that these new measures are working, with 35% of the buildings qualifying as energy-efficient according to industry standards and 41% showing at least of average performance.

Green Supers training is not only making great improvements in buildings, but in the lives and careers of superintendents. Last week, at a panel discussion hosted by 32BJ SEIU and Urban Green, Green Supers: The Critical Role Of Energy Efficiency Training, we heard directly from two Resident Managers on the panel, Victor Nazario, (The Whitney, 311 East 38th Street) and Marat Olfir (The Future Condominiums, 200 East 32nd Street).

For Victor, the course changed his perspective on his job and made him aware of how our health is connected to our buildings. “It was no longer just a job but part of an overarching goal to make things better and part of my personal legacy” he said.

Marat had a similar experience, beginning to see the potential in each building.  It also helped his career, “Being a Green Super helped me get better jobs in good buildings.”

Bottom line: Building efficiency training provides supers with practical skills that can cut building energy use by up to 20%, while reinforcing the value of their work.

Can you imagine how much greener our buildings could be if all building operations and maintenance teams received this training?

Stay tuned for more good news now that GPRO O&M is available for managers!

The video recording of last week’s “Green Supers” event is now available here.


Urban Green and the United Association Forge Innovative Partnership

No Comments Posted on 06 November 2013 by Ellen Honigstock

Today we are proud to announce an unprecedented partnership between Urban Green Council and the United Association, the largest union of plumbers, pipefitters, welders and service technicians in the world. Together, Urban Green and the UA will teach thousands of plumbers and pipefitters across the United States the principles of sustainability and how to incorporate green work practices into their trade through GPRO, a national green building training program.

Plumbers and pipefitters are critical to achieving high-performing buildings. Plumbers are responsible for reducing water use in buildings, from installing efficient fixtures and appliances to introducing whole-building wastewater reuse systems. Using less water also means using less energy to pump, heat, dispose of, and treat water – resulting in substantial amounts of energy savings. Plumbers have long considered their mission to “protect the health of the nation.” GPRO training expands that mission to include protection of the environment as well. Pipefitters, along with sheetmetal workers and insulators, are responsible for installing efficient HVAC systems that use as little energy as possible while keeping our buildings comfortable and healthy.

Over seven years ago, Urban Green realized that the only green building education available was geared towards building owners and design professionals. We knew that in order for sustainability to spread throughout the entire industry, quality green building education was needed for the people who build and operate buildings. To make the courses interesting and relevant to the students, we collaborated with a group of experts in the plumbing industry, most notably Arthur Klock and John Sullivan of the UA Local 1 Training Center in New York City. Their deep expertise and passion for sustainability gave us a solid foundation for the course. “The people in our industry have traditionally viewed themselves as stewards of public health. We knew that if we presented it in the right way, they would embrace sustainability as a natural extension of that responsibility, and view it as a technical challenge to get it right.” said Mr. Klock.

This partnership will train exponentially more plumbers and pipefitters in green practices than ever before. GPRO training will benefit the UA members by providing them with the qualifications necessary to work on green and LEED projects. Contractors and Owners can also benefit by receiving a LEED credit for employing GPRO trained workers.

Many people in our industry aren’t aware of the extensive training that union plumbers and pipefitters go through to become journey workers. Each apprentice completes  more than one thousand hours of classroom training over the course of five years, while working full time to learn his or her trade. Many also complete additional hours to earn an Associates degree along the way. Now that sustainability will be added to their curriculum, these very qualified workers will take the lead in constructing our green buildings.

Construction, Energy, GPRO

NYC Agencies Expand Green Training

No Comments Posted on 12 June 2013 by Ellen Honigstock

New York City continues to be leader in greening its buildings and reducing energy consumption.

In 2011, NYC piloted its groundbreaking Energy Incentive Alignment Program at seven of its largest agencies.  The program was designed to motivate the agencies to conserve energy and reduce costs by allowing them to receive earned energy savings if actual energy costs were less than budgeted, but pay for any energy costs that were greater than budgeted.

The Department of Parks and Recreation, one of the city’s largest energy consumers, has a widely varying stock of over 1,000 buildings, ranging from 600-plus small comfort stations to 35 recreation centers, two museums and three large administrative facilities. Parks is already doing a lot to reduce their environmental footprint, including:

  • Installing solar thermal systems to heat the water at city indoor pools;
  • Increasing the number of green and white roofs on their facilities;
  • Sponsoring a 9-week energy contest to increase awareness and take steps to reduce consumption.

To take their energy-saving efforts one step further, the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) launched a pilot training program at the Parks Department using GPRO’s Operations & Maintenance Essentials.

A wide range of people directly responsible for the energy use in their buildings, including building managers, deputy chiefs, analysts, engineers, as well as purchasing and office staff, attended the training.  Matthew Brown, Energy Manager at the Parks Department and veteran GPRO instructor, spent a day and half showing the participants the relationship between building operations and climate change, and giving them a wide variety of strategies for reducing energy and water use—and saving money. Participants learned:

  • How to measure the performance of their building;
  • How to recognize problems with the building envelope and make improvements;
  • Ways to minimize water use;
  • How heating and cooling systems work and how they can be improved;
  • The ways lighting promotes comfort and safety and how to minimize energy use while ensuring good lighting;
  • How to maintain good indoor air quality;
  • The best ways to deal with waste, both from building operations and the occupant’s perspective;
  • How to deal with processes managed by outside sustainability experts, such as commissioning and energy auditing.

Response to the training was overwhelmingly positive: Said one participant:

“I just had a 20-minute conversation with someone about light fixtures, foot candles and CRI and that never would have happened before.  Since I am responsible for eight facilities, I now have a much better idea of ways we can improve.  I’m looking forward to the boiler trainings next!”

What makes this program stand out is the inclusion of management, procurement, purchasing and clerical personnel within the agency, all of whom play a critical role in how agencies manage repair and maintenance. Often, purchasing decisions are left up to procurement staff, but without an understanding of energy efficient products and associated benefits, it’s difficult to choose the most green option.

We are pleased that this pilot program successfully gave these city employees the knowledge they need to make their buildings more efficient as well as the motivation to act on that knowledge.

Construction, Energy, GPRO

Gaining an Edge through Sustainable Operations

No Comments Posted on 22 May 2013 by Matthew Rolnick

When you’re already one of the pioneers in building sustainability, how do you keep your edge? You use training to keep your staff engaged in the strategies and work practices that make buildings green. That’s exactly what Vornado, one of the largest owners and managers of commercial real estate in the U.S., has chosen to do.

Vornado is part of a growing group of real estate owner/operators who fully understand the positive impacts of sustainable operations on the bottom line. They have 30 million square feet of LEED-certified space and 25 million square feet with the ENERGY STAR label. They have structured their sustainability department to be a core part of their operations, managing all utility and energy efficiency spending, but they are not resting on their laurels.

In years past, Vornado ensured that managers were trained on the ins and outs of LEED and operating staff earned BOC (Building Operator Certification), but this time around, they wanted something broader to get management and operations speaking the same language.

GPRO proved to be the perfect solution and complemented what they had already learned from the LEED and BOC classes. GPRO goes beyond the required LEED checklist approach and explains WHY different elements of sustainabilityare important and what building managers and operators should be doing in their buildings.

Vornado partnered with Urban Green and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 94 to train their staff.  Vornado arranged time for the chief and assistant chief engineers to attend dedicated daytime GPRO classes at the union training facility and provided training space for the managers’ and assistant managers’ courses.

“GPRO is such a great course because it provides a whole new way for the chief engineers to look at—and be excited about— their work,” noted IUOE Local 94 training director Howard Styles.

Before classes began Urban Green worked with Vornado and Local 94 to ensure that the customized portion of the classes was the same for both groups – facilitating a common vocabulary throughout the organization.

The courses were well received and Vornado is already using some of what they found during the training to improve their work practices.

“We were thrilled to offer GPRO to Vornado staff.  Working with the GPRO team made everything so easy, even down to the logistics of getting the instructors and books. The curriculum was great – very comprehensive and engaging,” said Sukayna Paciorek, Vornado’s vice president of corporate sustainability.

GPRO was created to help organizations bridge the “green gap” between conventional practices which are still deployed at even the most forward-thinking organizations and green practices that will reduce operational costs, increase building value, improve occupancy and rental rates and create healthier indoor environments.

To learn more about how GPRO can help your organization, contact Matt Rolnick, GPRO Business Manager at

GPRO, People

Thank You, Summer Interns!

No Comments Posted on 22 August 2012 by Erin Johnson

Urban Green Council relies on our interns to help with our monthly educational programs, assist with fundraising, and work on developing our national certificate program GPRO. The Fall 2012 Internship season is upon us, and we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to our summer interns and thank them for their incredible work over the past three months.

[GPRO Intern]
Recent graduate from the New York School of Interior Design with an MPS in Sustainable Interior Environments.

Interning at Urban Green Council has been such an amazing experience!  The entire staff is truly dedicated to spreading the message of sustainability, and I am so happy for the opportunity to learn from them and contribute to their mission.  Working on GPRO has been especially rewarding, because I’ve been able to apply so much from my recent graduate studies to the development of the different course modules.  After this internship, I hope to implement all that I’ve learned to advance my career in the field of sustainable design and advocacy.

[Research Intern] Graduate of Tufts University with a B.S. Chemical Engineering

As a research intern, I have been working on the 90×50 project, which aims to describe the energy efficiency measures necessary to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 90% below 2010 levels by the year 2050. It is truly an eye-opening project, and I hope to see a greener New York City as a result of it! Working on 90×50 has taught me so much about the careful interaction between scientific research and feasible policy. I am so thankful for the opportunity to see the project through to its end, and I expect to use what I’ve learned about sustainability in all of my future endeavors.

[GPRO Intern] A California native and recent Tufts University graduate with a B.A. in environmental studies and English. 

The past three months at Urban Green Council have been a great learning experience. Working on GPRO curriculum development allowed me to combine my two primary interests—urban sustainability and writing/editing—in a really interesting way that I hadn’t experienced before. It opened my eyes to a new set of professional possibilities in environmental education and training, which I may not have otherwise considered. I was also lucky to work with the small, dedicated staff of GPRO. They gave me both independence and support, and really involved me in the big projects they were working on. They welcomed me as a part of their team, and I was able to learn so much about sustainable building practices, curriculum development, and the nonprofit workplace because of their inclusive attitude. Once my time with Urban Green Council ends, I hope to pursue a career in environmental journalism or communications (anything that involves both words and the environment!).

[GPRO Intern] California native with a B.S. in Environmental Science from UCLA.
I’m so glad I got the opportunity to continue my spring internship at Urban Green Council through the summer. As a member of GPRO’s curriculum development team, I gained additional responsibilities and helped with research, writing, editing, and more for the Construction Management and Operations & Maintenance modules. I’ve really enjoyed all aspects of my internship and I’m excited for my next step – joining Urban Green’s staff full-time as GPRO’s Curriculum Associate!

Best of luck to Jessica, Jamie, Natalie, and Charlotte on their future endeavors! We are now accepting applications for our Fall 2012 internship positions through the end of August.

Construction, GPRO

GPRO defines “Green Jobs”

No Comments Posted on 13 April 2012 by Anjuli Munjal

As the Training Manager for a pre-apprenticeship training program at Nontraditional Employment for Women, I am always looking for pathways to green jobs.  But, multiple years after we first heard the term, “green job” continues to be an enigma.  Does a green job have to be new? Does it have to be funded by stimulus money? Are all jobs that work with landscaping green? While the phrase has created a great deal of enthusiasm, it can definitely use a healthy dose of clarity and approachability.

At last week’s Good Jobs Green Jobs conference in Philadelphia, Ellen Honigstock of Urban Green Council helped provide this clarity by facilitating a panel discussion with leaders and instructors from three New York City building trade unions.

Ellen introduced the panelists as “the GPRO Dream Team.”  Their organizations, along with other knowledgeable trade professionals, helped develop the curriculum and classroom materials for GPRO, Urban Green Council’s national green building program. By contributing to GPRO, unions are demonstrating leadership in the green building industry– and making buildings more sustainable by training their members.

The panelists, each representing a different trade, spoke about their union’s integration of sustainability training and how it applies to their members’ jobs. Bob Muldoon, Director of the Green Building Initiative for the Local 32BJ Thomas Shortman Training Fund, explained the 1000 Green Supers program, in which over 1,500 NYC building supervisors participated in training about efficient building operations. John Sullivan, of U.A. Plumbers Local 1, brought up the valuable point that the plumbers’ curriculum has always taken efficiency and sanitation into consideration, which are some of the key areas of focus for efficient water systems in green buildings. He explained that Local 1’s apprenticeship program offers training for jobs in solar thermal systems and stormwater management and prepares their plumbers to keep up with market demand. Michael Yee, Director of the Educational and Cultural Trust Fund at Local 3 Electricians, mentioned that Local 3 provides classes for their electricians in renewable energy, such as solar panel installation and Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). He also outlined plans for a LEED- certified training center that will break ground within the year.   Howard Styles, Training Director of the IUOE NYC Local 94 Union of Operating Engineers, was unable to attend the panel but Ellen presented some of the green courses they are currently offering.

These plumbers, electricians, and building supers are some of the building trades that have incorporated GPRO into their curriculum.  Each panelist reported a similar goal for their training program, which is to ensure that green work practices and concepts are covered before their members move on to more complex coursework.  GPRO’s prerequisite course, Fundamentals of Building Green, teaches basic knowledge about sustainability and green building systems, while the higher level trade-specific GPRO courses focus on green practices critical to each trade. The GPRO curriculum stresses the “whole building approach,” making the material relevant to anyone working in the building trades. GPRO also prepares experienced tradespeople to take advanced green training courses in a variety of specialties including Solar PV and Solar Thermal Installation, Building Operator Certification (BOC), or BPI Energy Efficient Building Operator Certification.

John Sullivan pointed out that plumbers trained in solar thermal panel installation have more background and experience to do a quality job because of their foundation, safety perspective and troubleshooting experience than someone trained only in the installation itself.  So, if you are looking for green jobs that will become a career, you may not need to look any further than the established union apprenticeship training programs in New York.

Using the GPRO curriculum as a baseline for working within green buildings is helping to provide more definition to the term “green job.” A green job is not what the work is, but how you do it. Plumbing and electrical work and facilities maintenance are all green jobs, when the approach is responsible in terms of resource use and efficient operations.

EBies, GPRO, People

Thank You, Spring Interns!

No Comments Posted on 11 April 2012 by Erin Johnson

Urban Green Council relies on our interns to help coordinate our monthly educational programs and special events, assist with research and  fundraising, and work on developing our national certificate program GPRO. The Summer 2012 Internship season is upon us, and we wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to our spring interns and thank them for their incredible work over the past several months.

[EBies Intern] A California native, studying Sustainability Management as a Graduate Student at Columbia University.
I loved working this semester as the EBies Intern for this new and exciting competition!  I learned a lot about how sustainability initiatives can be implemented into existing buildings in order to improve our global carbon footprint.  One of the greatest perks of being an intern is being able to go to all the events and presentations by some of NYCs most forward thinking revolutionaries in the sustainable building sphere.  When I graduate from Columbia in December, I hope to find a job as a Sustainability Consultant either here in NY, or back home in San Francisco.

[Research Intern] Recent graduate from Tufts University with a Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering.
As an intern at Urban Green Council, I’ve had the chance to learn about all of the amazing strides that New York City leaders have taken to create a sustainable urban environment. There have been so many opportunities to attend courses and events, with great speakers at the forefronts of their fields. My favorite part about working here has been all of the laughs, advice, and life-talks with the other interns and the rest of my coworkers. After this internship, I hope pursue a career in sustainable development, chemical engineering, or some fusion of the two!

[Programs Intern] B.A. Political Science from Skidmore College, focus on environmental studies and sustainable development.
As someone who is passionate about green buildings and sustainable development, my favorite aspect of this internship has been the networking opportunities. I have met so many wonderful people in a variety of fields. I have also enjoyed working with my great co-workers over the course of my time here.

With the internship winding down, I am shipping off to Vietnam for four months where I plan to teach English and travel. Upon my return, I hope to find full-time employment in the sustainability field!

[GPRO Intern]
A recent graduate of Princeton University with a degree in architecture and certificate in urban studies.
I’ve met and worked with a lot of amazing people during my time at Urban Green Council. This is what I value the most, as many of the issues we’re confronting could not be tackled without the passion and dedication of those involved. Among my favorite moments were interacting with industry professionals at our GPRO courses and attending many of Urban Green’s programs—both of which left me constantly thinking of the interactions between environment and design, especially in the context of the city. I’m very excited about all of the inspiring discussions I’ve had here and hope to continue developing these ideas in graduate school, where I’ll be pursuing a Master’s in Architecture.

[GPRO Intern] A California native and UCLA graduate with a BS in environmental science and environmental engineering.
I’ve had a great experience interning at Urban Green Council these past few months. I’ve learned a lot about green building practices from working on the GPRO Fundamentals and Electrical Systems curriculums. The best part of the internship was attending the Urban Green Council events (and eating the delicious food at those events!) with my coworkers. While I don’t know where my next move will take me, I know I’ll welcome any opportunities to show my commitment to a more sustainable future.

Construction, GPRO

Good Jobs, Green Jobs

No Comments Posted on 07 March 2012 by Ellen Honigstock

Urban Green Council is a proud supporter of the Good Jobs, Green Jobs Eastern Conference being held in Philadelphia on April 3rd and 4th.

I will have the honor of moderating a panel discussion entitled Building Trade Unions Take a Leadership Role in Green Training. The speakers are part of the GPRO dream team – the union leaders who helped us develop and implement GPRO, our green professional building skills training program.  Included on the panel will be:

The theory behind GPRO is that green buildings will only perform as designed if the people who build, renovate, operate and maintain those buildings have a thorough working knowledge of green practices.

We are gratified to work with the labor unions who are taking a leadership role in accelerating the construction industry’s transition to green building by providing trained workers and collaborating with environmental groups to create comprehensive green worker training.

This panel will address labor unions’ critical role in transforming the green building workforce and how labor unions and Urban Green Council successfully collaborated to create GPRO, a national green building certificate program for contractors, trades, operators and building service workers.

Please let us know if you will be attending the conference.  This will be a chance for all of us to meet with community leaders, union members, environmentalists, business leaders and elected officials together to discuss how our region is, city by city and block by block, building the foundation for a green economy.

© 2012 Urban Green Blog.