For about a decade, Rick Alfandre has had the dream of creating a green, sustainable office on Main Street in New Paltz for his business, Alfandre Architecture. And now he’s going to realize his dream. “It’s a happy thing, this building,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
It certainly has been. For about a decade, the firm has been seeking to build “a small office on a small property in a somewhat dense setting” to showcase what it feels it does best. When Alfandre Architecture finally appeared seeking approval to build from the New Paltz Town Planning Board for this project in 2007, the national recession was beginning to choke off development.
Not everything has been smooth sailing. But the architect remains confident that he’s on a righteous path.
Alfandre Architecture, in business in New Paltz for 22 years, is known regionally for creating environmentally friendly buildings constructed with high-tech materials. The big white building under construction at 231 Main Street will allow the firm to inhabit the kind of space it would design, a showcase for potential clients to see clean-tech green building in action.
“The idea is to build for generations,” Alfandre explained. “We’re not only trying to make something that’s technologically advanced to the greatest extent, but also something that’s beautiful.” The financial payoff is expected to be long-term and continuing. For a green-tech pioneer and regional leader in innovative building, his project is an irresistible proposition.
Alfandre has been a key figure in the Hudson Valley branch of the U.S. Green Building Council, which meets monthly to discuss energy innovation. “I think what Rick represents is keeping the excitement alive,” said Pat Courtney, Kingston-based regional outreach coordinator for NYSERDA (the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority), the state agency that among other things is tasked with matching energy-project needs with funding opportunities and other economic development resources, creating partnerships to encourage local energy projects, and supporting regional economic development efforts.
New approach — Green Bank
New York government has invested in green technology through subsidies, rebates, grants and tax breaks. A few years ago, it seemed as though solar-energy technology would become an important new industry in the Hudson Valley. Courtney described Ulster County as “the beating heart of residential solar,” leading the state in the number of installations. (Now Westchester County, with a much larger population, leads.)
But the enthusiasm was also nationwide. According to Wired magazine, the federal government directed $44 billion into the category from late 2009 to late 2011.
The green-tech bubble burst. Locally, Precision Flow Technology (PFT) decreased its workforce drastically and then moved its operations overseas. The Solar Energy Consortium (TSEC) enlarged its expertise from solar energy to all manufacturing. Sunwize and several other green-tech firms cut back. Other players like Solartech Renewables, a solar-panel manufacturer in TechCity, and Spectrawatt, a solar-cell development company in Fishkill that had some backing from Intel, slashed payrolls. Prism Solar in Highland, which made unique solar cells, is now focusing on a broader portfolio.