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Local architect to build one of the first carbon neutral commercial buildings in North Tonawanda

The ultimate 'how to' project in sustainable and environmentally friendly building practices is in the works in North Tonawanda.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Another Earth Day has arrived. And while many of us may reflect on ways we can better help the environment, one Western New York woman is putting this into practice and developing a first of it's kind project for the region.

Kelley Culp-Burton is a leader in sustainable building practices in Western New York as a senior Architect and President of KCB Homes and KCB Architecture in North Tonawanda.

Culp-Burton has spent years building sustainable, eco-friendly homes for others and is now challenging herself to create one of the first carbon neutral commercial buildings in Buffalo. After receiving a $300,000 grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to fund help her environmentally friendly project, all the pieces are finally coming together to turn this dream into a reality. 

Credit: KCB Architecture

The project is more than five years in the making and will take the place of what once was an old lumber mill at the end of Main Street in North Tonawanda. That alone made the project challenging. Much of the original building material, besides it's wooden frame, was unsalvageable. Even the soil of the site contaminated and had to be remediated.

With that in mind, the project has come together using a holistic, multi-purpose approach aimed to reducing carbon all together.

"It's not just the building," as Culp-Burton puts it, referring to even how the building materials are made and the way the building will sit on the property. 

This mindset has been put into every facet of the building and will maximize the building’s carbon offset. It’s estimated that this building will have a net carbon savings of 22 metric tons a year, or the same amount emitted by two homes a year, or the equivalent caused by 144 acres of deforestation.

Credit: KCB Architecture

“We’re going to have solar panels on this, which is the south side, but then the other side of the building we’re having a green roof. So what we want to do is take the rain water, slow it down. We have the green roof that will use the rain water, it adds additional insulation. But then selecting the correct plants they absorb the carbon," Culp-Burton said.

Culp-Burton hopes that her project will set the bar for future developmental properties in North Tonawanda and across the Western New York region.

“I think it starts with a personal commitment and a personal commitment to the environment. And then as an architect, that we, through our business, we are able to influence and help direct these sustainable and healthy practices that will benefit everybody," Culp-Burton said.

And when Storm Team 2 Meteorologist Elyse Smith asked if there was a growing interest in more carbon neutral, eco-friendly, sustainable projects like this in Buffalo?

Culp-Burton's reply: “I think so. With public awareness increasing on the building, people like to know they’re in a place that is friendly to the environment. But in addition to that, the spaces are much more comfortable to be in from an environmental standpoint of heating and cooling, so people are concerned with allergens and transmittable diseases." 

Noting that this building's HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters catch those particles two fold, making the air in the building potentially cleaner and safer than the air in an outdoor, city environment. 

As of now, the project is just the original beams with construction expected to begin this summer. And Culp-Burton hopes that the building will be finished and open by March of 2023. 

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