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VINES, local leaders celebrate net-zero construction project on Binghamton’s east side

Vaughn Golden
VINES' new headquarters is set to become Binghamton's first net-zero commercial building.

Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments or VINES is building its new headquarters on Binghamton’s east side, the city’s first net-zero commercial building.

The new headquarters will feature straw insulation, heat pumps and solar panel arrays meant to achieve net-zero energy usage on the premises.

"We're going to hit that net-zero energy target so we will produce as much energy as we consume on site, which is so important in terms of the sustainability of the organization, but also moving the needle on sustainable building projects,” VINES Executive Director Ameila LoDolce said.

VINES was formed in 2007. It now runs 22 community gardens, a farmshare program and activities for youth around the tri-cities.

Laura Lee Intscher is the Vestal-based architect on the project. She said aspects of the building’s design, like the hay bales used as insulation, could inspire other energy-efficient building methods elsewhere.

"I think that the tendency is to always go ‘more technology’, to solve problems with more technology, and I like to look at systems that work,” Intscher said. “Straw bale works as a system without needing to add a lot of extra technology. It helps keep the building cool, it helps keep the building heated. So combining more of that hippie culture, those traditional ways of building with technology is the best solution for future energy goals."

Doreen Harris, president of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority or NYSERDA, which provided $400,000 for the project, said she believes that committing funding early on is key to leveraging other avenues of funding for projects like this one.

“In many ways, our funding was an anchor," Harris said. "And we allowed it to be an anchor to bring in other investments as you just heard about. In doing so, we have to maybe be a little bit flexible with timing, but it is important because it provides more leverage."

The new building is expected to be open and operational by September of next year.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.