AvalonBay should seek solar sustainability

AvalonBay could do two things to make its development proposal lots more palatable

Jane Buttars, Princeton
AvalonBay could do two things to make its development proposal lots more palatable to a public that finds Plan B woefully massive, monolithic in scale and noncompliant with multiple sections of Princeton code.
   They can open the central entrance to Building 2 as an archway open to the public moving between Witherspoon Street and the so-called public piazza. They can also install solar panels — now.
   An open archway would make the piazza much more accessible to the public — a big neighborhood benefit. Why does AvalonBay balk? They’ve already shuffled all the apartments to create a central entrance. A mostly glass entryway will give the “appearance” of accessibility — with small doors maybe six feet wide within a much wider arch.
   The interior space will be an empty lobby running east-west. Of course the building needs locks — easily installed for the north-south corridors on either side of the present lobby. Marvin Reed on the Planning Board and all of SPRAB certainly support this idea. I am dismayed that AvalonBay continues to say “no” to the obvious. Why, on this simple thing, doesn’t AvalonBay care about neighbors and streetscape? If they opened the small courtyard in Plan A, they can certainly open this archway.
   Solar. In response to SPRAB proposals, AvalonBay has revised its roof plans. The new plans offer much more south-facing space on the exterior ring of Building 1. If AvalonBay eliminated a small dormer window on the south-facing inner courtyard, they would have even more space available — plus south-facing roofs on Building 2, with very minor tweaks.
   Through a Power Purchase Agreement, AvalonBay could have a roof over the garage for a large solar array — paid for by the third party. They could generate more than enough energy to cover their electrical needs for all their common spaces (all exterior lighting, including garage, elevator and exhaust fan, bridges between garage, Building 1 and Building 2; pool; all interior lobbies, hallways, stairwells, mailroom, leasing office, marketing room, community room, lounge, fitness center, storage space, maintenance space, bike rooms, trash rooms and associated mechanical facilities; gas meter room).
   All at a discount of 20-50 percent over conventional utility costs, with a profit on surplus energy. Why would AvalonBay say “no” to such a no-brainer? Their corporate website (“Sustainability,” p. 8) indicates they’ve used solar for freestanding clubhouses, so doing solar for an entire complex would be a first for them. Are they ignorant of PPAs? Do they need help and explanations?
   AvalonBay could in fact take a lead role in the industry by including this component; they would also satisfy the requests of both the PEC and SPRAB to utilize solar power.
   Planning Board members should push hard on solar sustainability. Jon Vogel should show evidence that he’s committed to sustainability and green building. Right now, I’m missing proof.
Jane Buttars