New Jersey Future Report Seeks to Guide Municipalities in Addressing Climate Change

New Jersey Future Report Seeks to Guide Municipalities in Addressing Climate Change 789 444 DMR Architects

(Image courtesy of New Jersey Future)

New Jersey Future has published the Guide to Local Climate Change Adaption Planning, a first of its kind roadmap on how municipalities can proactively address climate change vulnerabilities in their communities.

“Municipalities can initiate comprehensive climate adaptation through hazard assessments, adaptation planning processes, and purposeful implementation of adaptation actions that make the entire community climate-ready. In fact, municipalities are now required to incorporate climate assessments and strategies into their comprehensive plans,” New Jersey Future outlined in their announcement.

Daniel Hauben, PP, AICP, LEED Green Associate was a contributor to the document.

LEED Certification: Building a Sustainable Future

LEED Certification: Building a Sustainable Future 789 444 DMR Architects

By Lisa Fant

Sustainability is on the rise in the real estate sector, driven by homebuyers’ preferences for eco-friendly properties and environmentally conscious building practices. With the pressing global issues of climate change, resource depletion, and the need for more sustainable alternatives, sustainability is now a top priority. It’s no longer an option but a necessity, fundamentally reshaping how architectural firms approach their projects.

Chief Operations Officer and Partner at DMR Architects in Hasbrouck Heights, Pradeep Kapoor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is recognized as an early champion of sustainable design as one of the first architects in New Jersey to achieve LEED accreditation. Crediting a longstanding interest and passion for sustainable design, Kapoor significantly expanded the firm’s sustainable design portfolio, including projects at certified, silver, and gold levels, such as Carlstadt Elementary School, the first LEED Silver public school in New Jersey.

Among many sustainability initiatives and projects, LEED certification stands out as a symbol of excellence in architectural sustainability. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a globally recognized third-party standard for designing, constructing, and operating high-performance green buildings and neighborhoods. This program employs a point-based rating system, with designations like silver, gold, and platinum levels based on the total points earned during the assessment. To attain LEED certification, a project must meet specific prerequisites and accumulate points in various categories, including carbon, energy, water, waste, transportation, materials, health, and indoor environmental quality.

“It’s about building holistically. It’s not just about saving energy and water, but the quality of the building,” said Kapoor. “The system considers everything from the use of locally sourced materials to minimize the carbon footprint associated with transportation and supporting the local economy to resource conservation strategies like collecting rainwater to reduce water demand.”

The specific LEED certification process and rating system are dependent on the project’s category—commercial, neighborhood development, residential, or cities and communities; however, the process generally includes the following steps:

  1. Registration: The process begins with registering the project with the Green Building Certification Institute to officially start the certification process.
  2. Selecting LEED Category: The project team must determine the appropriate LEED category.
  3. Goal Setting: Project teams must establish their sustainability goals and objectives. The goal should determine the desired level of LEED certification (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum). The total number of points required to meet each level of LEED certification are:
    • Certified: 40-49 points
    • Silver: 50-59 points
    • Gold: 60-79 points
    • Platinum: 80+
  4. Preliminary Review: The project team will review the project plan, and then proceed with design development, design completion, and construction commencement.
  5. Documentation: The project team must provide detailed documentation for each LEED credit they aim to achieve. Documentation can include plans, calculations, and specifications.
  6. LEED Review: GBCI conducts an official review of the project’s documentation, assessing whether the project meets the necessary prerequisites and qualifies for the selected credits.
  7. Certification: Once GBCI approves the project’s compliance with LEED standards, the project earns LEED certification at the appropriate level (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum).

While the process may initially appear demanding, it is integral to crafting environmentally responsible structures. In a world where sustainable design has become the new standard, achieving LEED certification sets a benchmark for sustainability that not only benefits the environment but also enhances the long-term value and appeal of the project. While LEED represents the highest sustainability standards, projects don’t require LEED certification to integrate sustainability.

“Sustainability is at the core of our projects, regardless of whether our clients are working towards LEED certification from the USGBC,” said Kapoor. “We keep in mind that one project can inspire many others.”

One of the standout projects within DMR Architects’ portfolio is the renowned Carlstadt Elementary School in Bergen County. During the school’s initial design phase in the early 2000s, there were fewer than 10 LEED-certified buildings in New Jersey. “Pursuing the certification back then was more of a challenge than it is today,” said Kapoor. “Most people just weren’t aware of it.”

By choosing to align with these groundbreaking guidelines, now adopted by more than 2,200 structures throughout the state, the project showcased a forward-looking commitment to sustainable construction and the enhanced well-being of its occupants. Carlstadt Elementary School became the 26th building to meet LEED standards in the state, earning the prestigious distinction of being the first LEED Silver public school in New Jersey and the pioneering LEED-certified building in Bergen County.

The school presented an opportunity to educate the community about sustainable architecture practices and how green design contributes to the well-being and quality of life of the building occupants and the broader community. “It’s about education and why these architects are committing themselves to this initiative,” said Kapoor. Additionally, DMR created a curriculum to teach Carlstadt students about the school’s eco-friendly features. “We want the students to see that because of the sun, the school has energy or that the items they recycle become materials.”

With the rise in LEED certification recognition in the real estate industry, more real estate professionals are embracing sustainable design benefits. This awareness is driving their growing interest in sustainable practices and the unique advantages they offer. “Real estate developers and agents are now promoting buildings and attracting clients and tenants to buildings that are visually appealing, but also have reduced operating costs due to resource efficiency,” said Kapoor. “What many people don’t know is there’s a LEED rating system for existing buildings. The certification isn’t only for new builds.”

By adopting a comprehensive approach to sustainable design prioritizing health and safety, office spaces, schools, and residential dwellings have undergone a transformation, resulting in more welcoming spaces and less impact on natural resources. The shift towards transit-oriented design is fostering the development of walkable plazas and neighborhoods. Although these concepts have always been present, there is now a newfound emphasis on their creation and implementation.

This article was written by Lisa Fant and originally appeared in New Jersey Realtor(R) Magazine.

Dunellen Among First NJ Municipalities to Adopt Climate Resiliency Plan

Dunellen Among First NJ Municipalities to Adopt Climate Resiliency Plan 789 444 DMR Architects

Dunellen is believed to be the first municipality in New Jersey to adopt a stand-alone Climate Resiliency Plan following Governor Murphy’s 2021 amendment to the Municipal Land Use Law. The borough retained DMR to write the plan which addresses its susceptibility to flooding and other global warming hazards.

“Preparing a roadmap for anticipating and avoiding the flooding and other devastation that we saw after Hurricane Ida in September 2021 is so crucial to us in Dunellen that we took the important approach to prepare this plan as a stand-alone document,” said Dunellen Mayor Jason Cilento of the plan that will be used to guide decision-making related to zoning, redevelopment, housing, infrastructure, green initiatives, pedestrian safety and other aspects of daily life and municipal governance. “DMR’s practitioners helped us complete a comprehensive, proactive and intentional plan that will advance municipal redevelopment and sustainability practices and benefit the borough for generations.”

The Climate Resiliency Plan includes recommendations to the Borough for the next decade and beyond to mitigate its exposure to worsening flooding, precipitation, and heat, such as:

  • Partnering with regional agencies and neighboring municipalities to address riverine flooding;
  • Amending local zoning and exploring other options to reduce development intensity in flood prone areas;
  • Promoting green building practices that help to reduce flooding and stormwater runoff.

“Similar to how DMR’s planners approach any project, we drew on our diverse expertise from land use and zoning to sustainability practices that will help protect Dunellen for the next decade and beyond,” said Daniel Hauben, PP, AICP, LEED Green Associate.  “It is wise for municipal leaders to plan ahead of natural disasters as we see one in a hundred-year storms making landfall more and more often.”

DMR’s work to complete the plan included:

  • Analyzing the existing infrastructure, including water, sewage, power and gas; Dunellen’s flood zones and vulnerability for flooding regardless of the designated zones; and natural hazards;
  • Completing a vulnerability assessment which examined and rated the risks facing community assets, such as brooks, parks, transit lines, and buildings;
  • Completing a build out analysis to project how much redevelopment could occur within vulnerable areas under current zoning;
  • Recommending resiliency strategies, design standards and policies;
  • Identifying grant programs to provide critical funding for the projects outlined in the plan.

DMR’s previous planning work in Dunellen also included a Master Plan Reexamination; the Master Plan, Complete Streets and Transit Friendly Planning Survey; Cannabis Business Public Survey; and numerous Redevelopment Plan amendments and other efforts to address affordable housing and infrastructure projects.

Prospect Park Becomes First NJ Municipality to Adopt Community Energy Plan

Prospect Park Becomes First NJ Municipality to Adopt Community Energy Plan 789 444 DMR Architects

Prospect Park in Passaic County has become the first municipality to adopt a Community Energy Plan under the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) and Sustainable Jersey Clean Energy Grant Program, an effort to align with The State’s Energy Master Plan, the roadmap to reaching Governor Murphy’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050.

The borough used its $25,000 grant to retain DMR to prepare the plan, which identifies more than two dozen initiatives that Prospect Park will implement within a five-year period, including:

  • Installing renewable energy sources, energy storage, and public EV charging stations on municipal properties, and improving energy efficiency of municipal buildings;
  • Creating opportunities for community solar programs that allow the public to purchase solar energy from off-site sources, with an emphasis on availability and affordability for low- and moderate-income households;
  • Outreach campaigns to increase resident and business participation in incentive programs offered by the state, federal government and utilities like PSE&G to transition to electric vehicles, make energy efficient improvements and install solar and other forms of renewable energy;
  • Replace older borough fleet vehicles with newer, preferably electric alternatives, and adopt fuel efficient fleet vehicle management practices;
  • Make energy planning inclusive of low- and moderate-income and non-English speaking households;
  • Adopt zoning and regulatory language that permits renewable energy production and energy storage.

“We applaud Mayor Khairullah and the Prospect Park council for recognizing the role that reducing carbon-based energy sources plays in the overall health and wellbeing of everyone who lives and works in Prospect Park,” said Tracey Woods, Energy Program Manager for Sustainable Jersey. “Their commitment to change shows that any municipality can address climate change in a meaningful way.”

“This is the next step for us toward making more clean energy sources available and reducing GHG emissions,” said Mayor Mohamed T. Khairullah.  “We had a public reading of the plan earlier this month and there was overwhelming support from our residents and businesses.”

“There are state-level grants, tax credits from the Federal Inflation Reduction Act, and incentives through utility companies available right now making it the ideal time for municipalities to create Community Energy Plans,” said Daniel Hauben, PP, AICP, LEED Green Associate. “As planners committed to building healthier and more affordable communities, our team at DMR is equipped to guide our municipal clients through the resources that are available to them now.”

In June 2022 NJBPU approved $820,000 in grants to 46 municipalities to create Community Energy Plans to combat climate change.  Prospect Park was one of only 24 designated as overburdened and eligible for $25,000.

Approved ESIP Will Fuel $12.5M in Projects

Approved ESIP Will Fuel $12.5M in Projects 960 540 DMR Architects

With the recent approval of a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’ Energy Savings Improvement Plan (ESIP), the Hackensack Board of Education will begin energy improvement projects valued at $12.5 million, without utilizing its capital reserve or impacting taxpayers.

The proposed improvements will ultimately result in cost savings of nearly $11 million over the next 20 years and reduce Hackensack’s carbon footprint by 5,146,261 pounds of CO2 annually.

As architect of record for the district, DMR brought the ESIP program—designed to provide public entities a funding option for energy-related improvements using the value of the energy savings that result from the projects—to the BOE’s attention as a sustainable way to pay for the much-needed upgrades. Projects include:

  • HVAC upgrades at all schools including 53 classrooms at Hillers School and Hackensack Middle School, which will also receive ventilation upgrades;
  • Unit ventilators, steam traps, radiators, boilers, transformers, air handler and chiller replacements across facilities;
  • The replacement of more than 10,000 lighting fixtures with LEDs;
  • Solar panels on all buildings, a project that will save $206,000 annually;
  • Weatherization of all building envelopes;
  • Upgrading building controls to enterprise management systems

“This milestone is the next step forward in implementing important projects that will increase energy efficiency, reduce energy consumption and improve the educational experience for all students and staff,” said Hackensack Superintendent Robert Sanchez.

“The HVAC and window replacements are particularly timely as the board prioritizes ensuring that students, faculty and staff are returning to healthy buildings,” said Donna Coen O’Gorman, AIA.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the average American car emits about seven tons of CO2 a year.

“In essence, we are reducing carbon emissions similar to if we took nearly 370 cars off the road while also benefiting everyone in Hackensack but without costing anything to our taxpayers,” continues Mr. Sanchez.

In addition to management of the ESIP program, additional architect of record projects are underway including: window replacements at Hillers School; restroom renovations at Jackson Avenue School and Fairmount Elementary School; elevator additions at Jackson Avenue School and Fairmount Elementary School; and a new portico at Hackensack High School.

Pictured above, solar panels at Hackensack High School. Photo courtesy of EZNERGY. 

Frank J. Gargiulo Campus Awarded LEED Gold Certification

Frank J. Gargiulo Campus Awarded LEED Gold Certification 789 444 DMR Architects

The Frank J. Gargiulo Campus, the new, 350,000 square foot high school that opened its doors in September 2018, has achieved LEED Gold certification.

The vocational-technical high school is an icon for sustainability and will soon be awarded the LEED Project of the Year: Schools award from the United States Green Building Council New Jersey Chapter.

The building is equipped numerous sophisticated sustainable elements, such as wind turbines, geothermal heating, 27,000 square feet of solar panels and 20,000 square feet of green roofs, all of which helped the building achieve a total of 75 points.

The project was an intense collaborative effort and included a team of numerous professional services and construction firms, with DMR serving as the architect of record and LEED specialist.

DMR Honored with CIANJ Environmental Leadership Medal

DMR Honored with CIANJ Environmental Leadership Medal 789 444 DMR Architects

On April 26 DMR was among those to receive a 2019 Environmental Leadership Medal from the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) at its celebration of environmental leadership in the business community. The inaugural awards program celebrated environmentally-friendly companies that have demonstrated leadership in sustainability. DMR was honored in the category of green leadership, which recognized the firm for having a commitment to sustainability at the management level.

DMR has been at the forefront of sustainability and sustainable design in New Jersey for more than 15 years. The firm was one of the earliest to embrace LEED certification, with the first of its professionals receiving certification in 2003. This commitment led to the creation of a Director of Sustainable Design position, one that is still fulfilled by the same person, a Partner of the firm, today. The firm also designed Carlstadt Elementary School, the first LEED Silver public school in New Jersey and the first LEED certified building in Bergen County, a catalyst to a portfolio of LEED certified buildings that now includes five Gold, Silver and Certified level projects, with several more on the boards to receive certification in 2019.

Pictured above, from left to right, are Francis Reiner, CIANJ President Anthony Russo, and Lloyd Rosenberg.

Green building isn’t far flung anymore, and a NJ firm is celebrating that fact

Green building isn’t far flung anymore, and a NJ firm is celebrating that fact 960 540 DMR Architects

Written by Christine Fisher. Produced by Brandon Bagley.

There’s a Nelson Mandela quote that reads, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” In a way, Lloyd Rosenberg, founder of DMR Architects, has done just that.

When Rosenberg founded DMR Architects in 1991, the first buildings he designed were schools. He had been designing them since graduating from architecture school, and he’d amassed potential clients who agreed to give his new company a try.

Twenty-five years later, Rosenberg is still building schools, returning in a sense to his roots, but lots of other things have changed. For starters, DMR Architects has diversified, and it’s become a leader in green building.

Hudson County’s $144 million high school

In 2016, DMR Architects celebrated its 25th anniversary, a milestone Rosenberg is especially proud of. The company has a staff of 40, and is currently building a $144-million high school for Hudson County, New Jersey.

“The high school we’re doing now is spectacular. It’s going to be a building that’s going to set the bar for high schools throughout the country.”

DMR Architects is the lead designer on that 350,000-square-foot design-build project, for which it’s seeking LEED Platinum Certification.

“The high school we’re doing now is spectacular,” Rosenberg says. “It’s going to be a building that’s going to set the bar for high schools throughout the country—the technology and programs and infrastructure and energy savings, all the things you’d want to put in a school.”

The building will have solar power, geothermal heating and cooling, a partial underground garage for employees and water retention systems. A roof will capture storm water to irrigate landscaping, and all of the mechanical systems are being built with the best green building products on the market.

The building was designed to suit what educators hope to teach, and it will have a fabrication lab, applied science labs, a television production and radio broadcasting studio, digital media labs, a culinary lab, architecture and engineering labs, a hydroponics lab, musical theater, a dance and drama studio, yoga, judo and other fitness rooms.

Rosenberg has always designed schools, but now the green technologies, and the administrators’ willingness to embrace them, have changed.

An easier pitch

Rosenberg has designed thousands of schools and public and private buildings in New Jersey, and says he was “very much in the forefront” of sustainable design.

In the beginning, he had to make presentations explaining why green buildings cost more than traditional buildings. In the early ’90s, when DMR Architects started, green buildings often cost 10 to 30 percent more.

“I don’t have to make that pitch anymore,” Rosenberg says.

Today, he says, the difference between an energy-efficient building and a non energy-efficient building is almost negligible. That’s partly because all of the required products are readily available.

“The cost is in the certification, the paperwork, the testing, going back and doing some examinations and reports to prove that it’s been done [right], but the basic building doesn’t cost any more, it may even cost less,” Rosenberg says.

The motivation has changed, too. DMR Architects’ first green building clients sought LEED Certification as a marketing tool. Clients today opt for green buildings to save money through energy efficiency and utility savings.

The benefits of diversifying

DMR Architects has taken on medical buildings, public and private buildings, institutions, even a train station.

“I’d always hoped to be a midsized architectural firm that was diversified in what we do,” Rosenberg says.

He sought variety so that staff wouldn’t feel pigeonholed in one sector and to help protect the company during economic downturns. At times, the residential market has boomed for a few years and then gone flat. At other times, it’s been the public sector.

Outside of providing resiliency, trying out different sector projects has given perspective. Clients benefit from that different view, Rosenberg says.

“We built a train station, not necessarily in our sweet spot, but we were actually complimented because we took a fresh approach, not one that someone had done over and over and over again,” Rosenberg says. “We actually proposed to the user a different way of doing something, which they embraced, and now it’s the standard for them.”

Shared success

The firm makes a point of hiring “top talent from the top” and “top talent from the bottom,” which gives it the experience of senior staff and the technological expertise of recent graduates. While the new hires helped more experienced employees stay relevant, the senior people help new hires “learn what they don’t know.”

“I love young people that come in with enthusiasm,” Rosenberg says. “They want to learn and the more you throw at them the better job they do. I love to see people who came here as a graduate and now they’re project managers. I’m proud of those people that I’ve given the opportunity to do it. I’ve helped them, but they’ve really done it on their own.”

When DMR Architects turned 25, the firm hosted a series of employee-engagement activities—like a company boat ride and company picnic—to celebrate not just the success of the firm, but the success of its individual employees.

“When we started in 1991, we had three people; we now have 40,” Rosenberg says. “People that are here have been with me some 24 years. Most of the staff has over 15 years with the firm… so I think it’s successful when you have the vast majority of the staff that has been here that long.”

This article was originally featured on US Builders Review.