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National Grid eyes green "model home" as marketing tool

These downtown Buffalo houses will be given a "green makeover" and act as a model home so locals can get ideas about what efficiencies to pursue.
Daniel Robison
These downtown Buffalo houses will be given a "green makeover" and act as a model home so locals can get ideas about what efficiencies to pursue.

The century-old building (two homes connected by an add-on) that sits on a short tree-lined stretch of Buffalo's Washington Street has been empty for years.  

It used to be a doctor's office, but now it's showing its age: the pay phone right inside the door still notes to customers that calls are 25 cents.

In many places this building, which sits at the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, would be destined for demolition. Instead of bulldozing it though, plans are being drawn up to modernize it, using energy efficiency techniques.

But there is a catch: the project has no architect, price tag or timeline.

Changing the "culture of energy delivery"

On Wednesday, National Grid and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) touted a modest plan to make the small building more "green." If the project is carried out, the structure will be used by National Grid to as an advertisement to show the public - their customers - how to become more energy efficient.

What's unclear right now is if National Grid will then try to sell those efficiencies to consumers.

"What's really important is that we show the consumer, the resident, the changes and opportunities that are going to lie ahead of them for cost efficiencies and better delivery of energy," says Matt Enstice, CEO of the BNMC. "What we want to do is bring them into this home, show them the opportunities and work with them to change the culture of energy delivery."

But the building also represents a lost opportunity for BNMC. By committing to rehab the structure, the ever-expanding organization is essentially pledging to not using the space to further its overall mission of medical research, health care and creating jobs.

"What we're going to use is the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus as a vehicle to highlight what National Grid is trying to get out there in the public," Enstice says. "Our partnership is being formed so we can both win on this."

If you pay an electric bill in western New York, chances are your check winds up at National Grid. But giving a 6,000-square-foot facility the full green treatment isn't cheap. A significant amount of money, from private sources, taxpayers, and ratepayers, will have to be found.

While the two corporations made their intentions clear during a press conference Wednesday, there are few concrete plans with regards to what will actually happen at the site. There's no date yet for construction to start because there's no architect, design, budget, funds or timeline for the project.

"We're not there yet," Enstice says.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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