As if recent football results weren't enough to heat up the rivalry between New York, Boston, and San Francisco, add to the contest the quest for title of "greenest city."
Of course, New York has a long history of leadership in finance, media, and fashion. But green? Why not Masdar, or one of the new built-from-the-ground-up green utopias, asked session moderator Andrew Shapiro, co-founder of GreenOrder.
The city's strength is partly its age, size and complexity. "The reality is that the majority of cities aren't green field opportunities," said panelist David Bartlett, IBM's vice-president of industry solutions during the session. "Old infrastructures are where the opportunity for innovation lies. I think that makes New York the best candidate," he added.
The city's aged infrastructure is more opportunity than obstacle, said panelist Steve Cohen, Director and CEO of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, pointing out that it's better for a city like New York to have an aged subway, in need of repair, than to have to build a new system from scratch, at nearly insurmountable costs.
"It'd be nice to have a computer controlled subway system, but I'd rather have what we've got, than to dig up the whole city today," said Cohen. That said, the city has a track record of committing to billion-dollar scale green infrastructure, from the 3rd Water Tunnel, to the 2nd Ave Subway line. "This city is used to spending billions on capital. We're not going to go through the anti-tax disinvestment cycle," that has taken hold in other areas of the country, said Cohen.
In New York, the political leadership starts with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has led a sweeping effort to ready the city for the stresses of climate change and an additional million residents expected by 2030. The resulting blueprint, PlaNYC (pronounced plan-why-see) points the way to increased building efficiency, higher levels of renewable energy, less waste, cleaner air and water.
The technology tools that will make possible this smarter, more efficient future are entering service today. "There's a huge proliferation of smart sensor technology where we can see -- with much better x-ray vision -- what's happening with our building, with our transport system, with our energy networks," said Bartlett. "Visibility, control, and automation, they're the heart of smart."
"No one is listening holistically to buildings," said Bartlett. There's automation device by device, or system by system, but no one is watching the sum of the systems, and doing do can deliver savings of 40 percent or more. "It's a concept I call 'the building whisperer,'" he said.