Polishing up Ithaca’s West End

Retaining the beauty of the past while supporting a sustainable future: Elmira Savings Bank polishes up Ithaca’s West End

The new home for Elmira Savings Bank (ESB) at 602 West State shows how smart re-use can bring an abandoned, century-old structure back to life.  This revived commercial space was originally built to house the Ithaca VFW, was transformed into a funeral home, and later housed a succession of restaurants. Now the home of a full-service community bank, this high-performance building shows how sustainable design can maintain the aesthetic allure of historic buildings.

The design team, led by HOLT Architects, understood the significance of the building as a landmark located at one of Ithaca’s busiest intersections. Although it does not lie within a designated historic area, the building owner and designers were conscious of its value to the community. The ideas for the renovation they presented to the city planners reflected their research and respect for retaining as much of the circa-1900 building as possible.

Image courtesy of HOLT Architects

The original brick exterior, which had been painted blue in recent years, was cleaned and restored to its original appearance as depicted in historic photographs. A renovated entry, upgraded building envelope, and windows that recreate the look of the original steel frames were added to improve the overall energy efficiency of the building. Metal sunshades were installed on the windows to temper the strong sunlight pouring in throughout the day.

A new 1,600 SF brick and glass addition to the north offers natural light and added functionality. On the west, a convenient drive-through service window uses an underground pneumatic tube system. The canopy for the drive-through complements the existing architecture, and thoughtful site work provides ease of access for bank customers and employees.

The interior of the building had deteriorated over the years, making the floor and roof systems irreparable. The design team was challenged to create a new, enhanced infrastructure with floors, walls, joists, and roofing. The new design is informed by state-of-the-art banking system workflow needs and the specific visual aesthetics and branding of Elmira Savings Bank. The renovated interior features a hybrid teller-line solution; streamlined, efficient technology mounting; and advanced acoustics to ensure customer privacy. Natural light fills the interior, creating a bright, lively, and engaging space for commercial banking clients and employees.

Taitem Engineering designed the mechanical and electrical systems for the building, which included electrical systems to accommodate bank equipment, security access points, and a new heating and cooling system. The original building was heated with a conventional boiler loop serving perimeter radiation and cooled through a rooftop unit serving the second floor and an air handler located in the basement serving the first floor. The owner’s goal was to have a consolidated mechanical system with all interior equipment located in the ceiling space and all exterior equipment at grade for easy maintenance. 

Taitem’s mechanical engineer, Dominick DeLucia, suggested an air source heat pump to achieve ESB’s energy and efficiency goals. Taitem’s design team suggested the owners take a tour of HOLT Architects’ new offices to get a better understanding of this kind of system. After touring the space, ESB board members agreed that an air source heat pump would meet their heating and cooling needs efficiently and economically. They also appreciated the look and feel of the exposed ductwork that is showcased in HOLT’s new space.

Dominick DeLucia, the project engineer from Taitem Engineering shared, “not only has the air source heat pump system improved the efficiency of the heating and cooling for the entire building, but It has also allowed for zoning each space on both floors to improve overall occupant comfort.” The air source heat pump system was paired with an energy recovery ventilation system on each floor, which also greatly improves the indoor air quality and comfort to employees and clients.

Elmira Savings Bank intends to install a solar electric system on the building in the future and aims to be part of the Ithaca 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca. The 2030 District project is part of a larger effort in Tompkins County to reduce Ithaca’s greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.

From high-efficiency windows that mimic the original steel frames, to the all-electric heating and cooling system, these improvements are a testament to the sustainability efforts of the Elmira Savings Bank board and its commitment to the Ithaca community. The building reflects the beauty of so many older Tompkins County buildings as well as the community’s preservation ethic. The ESB board is “walking the walk” when it comes to sustainability and achieving its goals to significantly reduce energy use in their buildings. The success of this project laid the groundwork for another celebrated Elmira Savings Bank location in Vestal, where the team will continue to showcase the preservation of historic buildings in the Southern Tier, while moving its valued building stock forward toward a sustainable future.

Solar by Taitem – the Viridius Story

Ithaca property rental company Viridius turns to Taitem for a solar energy solution to grow the business bottom line and achieve their sustainability mission of Earth Friendly Rentals. Owners Zöe Hare and Stuart Staniford describe the process and why they chose local solar installer Taitem Engineering. Stunning aerial views of their Snyder Hill property show the 21.5 kW ground-mount photovoltaic array. State-of-the-art technology for design and data collection, paired with Taitem’s accessible community presence, are key benefits for Viridius. Tenant Michael Lenetsky couldn’t be happier.

Support Team Taitem’s Ride for Life – Sept. 9

The Southern Tier AIDS Program does incredible work to prevent the spread of HIV and provide care management services for HIV+ individuals.  Taitem is again a Corporate Sponsor for the 19th annual Ride for Life around Cayuga Lake on Sept. 9.  Please join us in supporting this essential community organization by donating to our team’s fundraising goal of $7,200 and/or volunteering on Ride day.

Taitem recently toured the Ithaca office of STAP. We learned that almost 100 staff members in 3 offices serve clients and run programs in 8 counties. Because HIV often spreads intravenously, STAP has become a leader on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. For instance, the Syringe Exchange Program reduces harm to users of both legal and illegal drugs and stops the spread of many diseases, including Hepatitis C. We saw the big machine that sterilizes the used sharps and chops them into little bits before they are properly disposed of as non-hazardous waste.

We also saw how a Narcan kit works to deliver the antidote naloxone if someone has overdosed. STAP distributed 2,000 Narcan kits in 2016! There were 310 overdose reversals reported as a result.  More impressive stats:

As engineers we appreciate numbers. As people, we appreciate the warmth, compassion and commitment so clearly expressed by the staff we met during our tour. We hope you will make a donationvolunteer and hold the clients, staff and community of STAP in your heart.

USGBC Tour Features Zero Energy Hemsin House

Hemsin House
Zero Energy home in Ithaca NY

For architects, building professionals and anyone who wants to learn what it takes to create affordable homes and a net zero energy footprint, this event at the newly-completed Hemsin House in Ithaca will be educational and inspiring. On Wednesday, July 12, the New York Upstate Chapter of the US Green Building Council will host a tour and presentation by owner-designers Courtney Royal and Umit Sirt, both sustainability professionals at Taitem Engineering. Event details and registration.

Hemsin House, on a hilltop overlooking Cayuga Lake, is a cost-effective, healthy home for the couple and their two young children while also serving as a sustainability showcase. Solar panels on the roof generate enough electricity to heat, cool, and power all appliances and lighting in the course of a year, and help the house earn the Energy Star and LEED Zero Energy designations. A 15% window-to-wall ratio, optimitized building envelope design, use of local hardwoods, water conservation methods, low VOC paint and finish materials, and even landscaping will help the home attain LEED for Homes Platinum status.

Tour attendees can earn continuing education credits: 1.5 LU  from the American Institute of Architects and 1.5 hours from the Green Building Council Institute.

Interior of Courtney’s LEED certified home.

Net Zero Energy Building Design Two-Day Training

May 15-16, 2017
EcoVillage Ithaca, 218 Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca, NY
To register, contact Liz Walker at liz.learn@ecovillageithaca.org

This two day training will focus on design and construction details to achieve net-zero energy use in new buildings. Approved for continuing education credit with AIA and GBCI. Join Ian Shapiro, founder of Taitem Engineering and co-author of the book Green Building Illustrated (Wiley, 2014) and Liz Walker, co-founder of EcoVillage Ithaca, and Executive Director of its educational arm, Learn@Ecovillage, as they address fundamentals and strategies for zero energy design. EcoVillage and cohousing concepts will be covered as well as site visits to homes and commercial community buildings at EcoVillage’s three cohousing neighborhoods, emphasizing different green building approaches, styles and details, culminating in the newest neighborhood called TREE, one of the largest Passivhaus development in North America, which includes a number of net zero homes.

The training fee includes lunch, a copy of Ian Shapiro’s book Green Building Illustrated and Liz Walker’s book EcoVillage at Ithaca: Pioneering a Sustainable Culture. A limited number of scholarships are available for students, women and low-income participants.

What people are saying:

“Excellent seminar! Very valuable.”
“EcoVillage is an excellent place to see first hand the topics covered at this seminar.”
“Ian is an accomplished speaker – excellent way of fielding questions, positive connection with audience. Presented topics in a way that could be easily understood.”

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn the fundamentals of design to achieve net-zero energy in new buildings, including heating/cooling options, hot water strategies, insulation and window design, lighting and electrical load for net-zero.
  • Learn specific construction details which help to achieve net-zero energy, including techniques to achieve low infiltration and to minimize thermal bridging.
  • Understand the concepts of cohousing and ecovillages as examples of neighborhood level design for sustainability.
  • Learn options for measuring and verifying net-zero performance, and approaches to maintain persistent net-zero performance.


Liz Walker Liz Walker, Executive Director of Learn@EcoVillage and Co-Founder has provided vision, leadership and prodigious hard work since the founding of EcoVillage at Ithaca in 1991. As collaborator, she has helped launch Gaia Education which teaches sustainable community development around the world.

Ian Shapiro started Taitem Engineering in 1989. He has led applied energy conservation research projects, many design and energy projects, and has delivered workshops in the areas of energy audits, managing energy projects, and the energy code. Ian’s presentations and workshops are impactful and highly recommended.

This course has been approved for 14 AIA LU. This education session may be self-reported by LEED Professionals for 14 GBCI CE hours.

For questions and to register, contact Liz Walker at liz.learn@ecovillageithaca.org

This event is co-sponsored by:

Taitem Engineering

USGBC NY Upstate Chapter

Taitem now helps clients achieve LEED Green Homes distinction

Taitem is proud to announce that Senior Sustainability Consultant Courtney Royal has been named a LEED for Homes Green Rater. She is one of only six accredited professionals serving upstate New York with a local presence. Courtney works with homeowners and multifamily developers to create beautiful green buildings that minimize operating costs, while earning national recognition from the US Green Building Council.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The LEED for Homes and LEED for Multifamily Midrise certifications guide building owners to achieve environmental and financial goals. As a Green Rater for Taitem Engineering, Courtney Royal consults and provides technical support for new construction and major renovations of existing homes and multifamily dwellings up to eight stories tall.

Q: Why engage a Green Rater for a home or multifamily building?

A: Because Green Raters help:

  • Build for durability and sustainability
  • Improve the environment and your bottom line
  • Lower utility bills by avoiding energy waste
  • Support good health and beautiful aesthetics with natural materials, intentional daylighting, and clean indoor air.
  • Comply with local laws that require LEED certification (in certain locations)
  • Earn Energy Star certification then take it up a notch. Achieving a LEED Green Home rating satisfies the Energy Star requirements while also addressing water use, site impacts, building materials, and more.
  • Qualify for property tax abatements (in certain locations)

Taitem is responsible for on-site verification and works with the owner’s project team to complete the LEED for Homes Workbook certification packet. Courtney is involved from the design phase through construction completion to ensure sustainable features are incorporated and project certification targets are achieved.

Walking her talk
Courtney’s most recent project is her own home, completed in December 2016 on a hilltop overlooking Cayuga Lake. The house, collaboratively designed with her engineer husband Umit Sirt (also of Taitem), is slated to earn both the LEED for Homes Platinum and Zero Energy Capable designations. A few of its many notable features include:

  • Light-filled interior created with a low 15% Window to Wall Ratio (WWR); wedged walls surround all windows and highly reflective paints and surfaces enhance the space.
  • Gorgeous compressed-paper countertops with the look and feel of stone
  • Heat pumps for clothes drying, domestic hot water, and of course heating and cooling.
  • Stormwater management using grassed swales to feed an on-site pond

How do I learn more?
Schedule a complimentary consultation with Courtney. Expect her to ask great questions, listen for your goals, and clarify which building features matter most to you, including the look and feel of your renovated or future home. She will describe her process of working with the architect, contractor and entire team, and the benefits you can expect as a result.

Contact Courtney Royal at 607-277-1118 x126 or croyal@taitem.com.

Interior of Courtney’s LEED certified home.

Heating downstairs versus upstairs

Check out this three part blog post on the Building Evidence blog that outlines Ian Shapiro’s continued research on heating systems in two-story buildings.

“…I now have data for several buildings, and it all says the same thing:  The majority of heating that happens in two-story buildings happens downstairs.Continue reading…

Eliminating Energy Use in Existing Buildings: Easier Than We Think?

Check out this snippet from a recent post @Building Evidence:

…the focus of a talk on existing buildings raised a few eyebrows and people have been coming to ask:  Can it possibly be easy to eliminate energy use in existing buildings? Here is a summary of the talk:

  • Climate change is real. The widely-accepted goals of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 are important.  2050 is not far off. We need to get moving. And the task at hand may be … easier than we think. READ THE FULL POST….