A Little Fabric Shop...
I love walking around my neighborhood (Astoria, Queens) because it's one of those areas of NYC where you get a true cross section of the population. There are some upper middle class, middle class, and working class folks of every ethnic and religious denomination. You're as likely to run into a white out-of-work actor as you are 2nd generation land owner leaving his local mosque. The other great thing about Astoria is that it's a great case study for small business environments, especially retail. Raquel and I were walking home when she decided to stop into the fabric shop along the way. The place was full of patches, brightly colored yarns, sewings kits, and bolts of fabric. It had the potential to be so exciting a place, so welcoming an envrionment, yet it wasn't. It was, instead this cold grey pall was cast over what should have been a vibrant visual array of fabric and supplies.
I didn't even have to glance upward before I realized the cause. The place was lit exclusively with 5000k T12 fluorescents and not evenly. Look upward and you saw that the fixtures were open, you could see the harsh lamps directly overhead. Worse than that the ceiling tiles were hanging down or removed in some cases to reveal the tin ceiling from whenever the place was built above. As I walked around the space, I couldn't help but think that this place needed a renovation, not just because it was lighting the space inefficiently but because it was lighting the space poorly. And therein lies why I find the sustainble retrofit market so exciting. The opportunity for these kinds of projects is everywhere, literally everywhere. As designers, builders and specifiers, let's look around and find our next opportunity. If I were pitching this shop owner on a retrofit, it wouldn't be to save the planet by being more efficient. I would tell him, he'd sell more fabric if his customers could see everything more clearly and in the proper color, and that he'd save money on his electric bill if he used less of it. I didn't pitch him this past Sunday, but the week is young... perhaps this little fabric shop in Queens will be Build2Sustain's first customer.
Build2Sustain is dedicated to sharing information about sustainable renovation and retrofit, particularly in commercial spaces. We look to foster conversation and appeal to business owners with transparent processes and a realistic focus on ROI.