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"Going Green NYC": VIP Opening of the New York Center
The New York Spiritual Development Center of Sukyo Mahikari was recently recognized as one of the most eco-friendly buildings in New York City. This achievement was celebrated with two events on May 6, 2010. In the afternoon, a representative of MillionTreesNYC joined Sukyo Mahikari staff and members in planting a cherry tree in the rear garden of the center in honor of Arbor Day.
 
An evening gathering brought together representatives from organizations involved with promoting environmentally responsible buildings, as well as leaders of the business, political, cultural, and spiritual communities for the presentation of a green building award to the center.

Margaret Leighton, a Project Manager from the New York State Energy Research and
 
Development Authority (NYSERDA), presented the New York Center "with an award in recognition of its investments in green technologies that will significantly reduce the center's carbon footprint and conserve New York City's valuable energy resources." Out of more than 900 eco-commercial buildings constructed in New York City that have received NYSERDA support and ratings, the center is only the 33rd building to receive this special recognition. In addition, the center is the 10th "New Construction" building expected to be certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) of the U.S. Green Building Council, with a projected efficiency of 38% better than NYSERDA specifications. The center is aspiring to LEED Silver Certification.

Center Director George Houston colorfully described some of the many challenges that had to be overcome during the course of construction in order to comply with the strict,
 
green building methods. The challenges were due in no small part to the fact that some of the technologies are so new and because meticulous care had to be taken in each step of the process - not only in the construction, but also in the demolition and treatment of the demolished building materials. For example, not only did the old bricks need to be cleaned off as the building was being demolished, but each brick had to be accounted for and
 
re-purposed. Not one could be wasted.

One of the special guest speakers, Rabbi Marvin Tokayer, the former chief rabbi of the Jewish Communities of Southeast Asia and the Far East, described Sukuinushisama, whom he had known since the early 1960s, as his best friend. Rabbi Tokayer spoke of Sukuinushisama as a pioneer in environmental awareness, remembering that he first heard the word
 
ecology from him. Sukuinushisama's emphasis on respect for the natural environment and all materials form the foundation for this green building, creating a physical expression of his spiritual teachings.

Mr. Ishan Tigunait of the Himalayan Institute also spoke, congratulating the New York Center on its fulfillment of the highest green building standards. Mr. Tigunait is the son of
 
the present spiritual leader of the Himalayan Institute, who was appointed by Swami Rama, a close friend of Sukuinushisama. Mr. Tigunait spoke warmly of his family's friendship with Sukuinushisama and their support for the environmental efforts of Sukyo Mahikari, as shown by our green building.

One of the most striking aspects of the evening was listening to the accounts of Sukuinushisama from one person who had close personal contact with him and another who had a close personal connection to him. It was evident that Sukuinushisama's desire to learn from his two friends and his respect for their different spiritual missions was at the core of their strong friendship with him. Their words illuminated Sukuinushisama's teaching that the origin of humankind is one and the origin of all religions is one.
 
Senior staff of Sukyo Mahikari North America attended the special event, including Regional Director Masaaki Fujisaki and Assistant Regional Director William Roberts.
What makes the center a "green" building?
Some of the eco-friendly features include:
• The north and south façades are made of a locally produced, concrete block product with high reflectivity, reducing heat gain through the façade and providing excellent insulation.
• Curtain wall window systems, which includes a double wall of glass with a gel of high insulation value in one of the glass walls. This curtain wall system provides natural light and ventilation while maintaining an energy-efficient building envelope (i.e., the outer layer of the building).
• The roof of the building is covered in a white, highly reflective membrane. There is a planned green roof system which covers the roof with plants. These systems minimize (a) heat island effect (the degree to which heat is radiated back into the environment) and (b) storm water runoff. All excess water is collected in rainwater tanks in the courtyard garden and used for gray water purposes, which currently include watering the garden and plants, and maintenance of a water reserve.
• Plumbing fixtures minimize wasteful use of potable water. Faucets are equipped with low-flow aerators and automatic shutoff. Toilets employ a water-conserving, 2-button design, allowing the option of flushing with as much or as little water as needed. In addition, a no flush urinal reduces water use.
• The HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) system and building envelope have been designed to meet and exceed all NYC standards, as well as the standards of energy efficiency of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
• Carbon dioxide detectors are integrated with the HVAC system in order to signal for extra ventilation only when a need is indicated. This keeps the air fresh while reducing the energy needed to cool or heat the building.
• The building does not use any CFC (chlorofluorocarbon)-based refrigerants, which cause damage to the ozone layer.
• All appliances meet Energy Star standards.
• Hand driers in the bathrooms eliminate the use of paper towels.
• The Kone eco-space elevator consumes approximately half the energy of conventional traction elevators and about one-third the energy of hydraulic elevators. It uses no oil, removing the risk of soil contamination and fire, and is made of 95% recyclable materials.
•All wood used for flooring and millwork is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which ensures responsible, sustainable, forestry.
• Wood joists from the original building were reused to make benches for the entry vestibule, a conference table on the 2nd floor, and for landscaping in the back garden. The remaining joists, along with the re-useable bricks, were sold to farmers upstate for constructing barns.
• A tall iron fence original to the building was sent to a metal worker to be re-worked into the current waist-high fence.
• Carpeting on the 3rd and 4th floors is made of all-natural wool and was installed with low-VOC (volatile organic compound) adhesives.
• Rubber flooring is used in high-traffic areas. Rubber is a rapidly renewable, natural resource.
• Bathroom flooring is made of terrazzo, with pieces of recycled mirror and recycled plumbing fixtures as aggregate, and partitions in the restrooms are made of recycled plastic.
• Kitchen counters are made of IceStone, an eco-friendly surface made with recycled glass and cement.
• A natural stone flooring was used in the lobby.
• All paints and adhesives are low-VOC (volatile organic compounds).
• Warmboard radiant heating is used on all floors. Hot water from the boiler circulates through rubber coils in the floor, the heat rises, and is thus distributed efficiently throughout the space.
• Lighting in strategic areas is controlled by timers or motion sensors to avoid wasteful use of electricity. Much of the lighting comes from compact fluorescent bulbs.
• The building purchases at least 50% of its power from Green Power, Con Edison, a program where 35% is wind-generated electricity and 65% comes from small hydro power. The cost is only 1 cent more per kilowatt-hour.
• Another factor taken into consideration in determining the center's carbon footprint and meeting green standards is the fact that about 85% of the members use public transportation to come to the center.


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Sukyo Mahikari Centers for Spiritual Development is the registered trademark of the Bishop of the North American Region of Sukyo Mahikari and is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. All rights reserved.

Sukyo Mahikari is an Affiliate with the United Religions Initiative (URI) of North America