Rocco Basile & The Passive Home Model : Succeeding in Up-Scale New York Housing

Rocco Basile
Rocco Basile

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has presented New Yorkers with an ambitious challenge for the next few decades: to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses the city emits by an enormous 80 percent before the year 2015 rolls around.

This daunting challenge has not deterred Big Apple denizens, but rather has inspired them to swing into action. In New York City about 71 percent of carbon emissions are produced by the city’s buildings, therefore a good place to look to reduce the city’s carbon footprint is in building construction. Through the retrofitting of older buildings, and the building of new structures with energy savings in mind, it has become possible to achieve de Blasio’s goal.

At the forefront of the energy savings revolution are what is known as passive housing. Brooklyn is at the forefront of passive home construction, with several projects already completed or under construction. One of the several builders engaged in retrofitting older homes and/or constructing passive homes is Rocco Basile of AVO Construction. Basile and AVO are currently involved in a project in Brooklyn’s exclusive Boerum Hill neighborhood in which sustainable design has enhanced the residence’s high quality-of-living standards. Located at 210 Pacific Street, some of the building’s many amenities include: enclosed parking with electric vehicle car charging capability, private terraces, rooftop cabanas, a fitness room and a common recreation space.

Basile, a Brooklyn native, is completely on board with New York’s long-term plans to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. “Having grown up in the city, it’s great to know that we are contributing to the future growth of residential properties and with as little environmental impact as possible,” says Basile.

The Boerum Hill project proves that a beautiful, high-end property can incorporate the passive home, sustainability model, and create a unique, desirable dwelling whose inhabitants can feel good about and comfortable in.

Passive homes maintain comfortable environments minimally influenced by outdoor temperatures without using active cooling and heating systems such as air conditioners or heaters, which need electricity to function. The passive model relies on many modalities to maintain comfortable temperatures, such as insulation, triple-glazed windows and more to create an airtight building envelope; plus an energy recovery ventilator, which extracts energy by exchanging interior and exterior air. In more temperate climates no active heating system is needed whatsoever, but in New York, where the weather is harsh, passive homes still rely on smaller heating and cooling units, which are only used when the weather turns extreme.

This new way of constructing dwellings can save homeowners in the vicinity of 75 to 80 percent on their energy bills, while at the same time drastically reducing the carbon footprint left behind by their home. One owner of a 3,140-square-foot passive house in Brooklyn Heights now pays $323 per year to heat his home with a gas boiler. The average cost of heating a similar-sized active house is about $2,500 per year.

Although it only adds between 1 and 6 percent to the cost of constructing a new home, many up-scale home builders are choosing to build passive homes for their well-to-do clients. The reason is not only that passive homes are good for the environment: passive homes also happen to be quieter, and generally more comfortable. The insulation not only keeps out heat and cold, it also keeps out street noise, which in New York can be a huge issue. Passive homes also eliminate or drastically reduce the use of noisy air-conditioners and boilers.

Alibaba’s Jack Ma Promises to Bring Jobs to USA

Jack Ma Yun, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Alibaba Group, is seen on a monitor during the The Future of the Global Economy. Photo courtesy World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland.

In the wake of the meeting between US President-elect Donald Trump and Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma, an Alibaba spokesman announced the company’s plan to incorporate and additional one million small US businesses onto its e-commerce platform.

The Chinese-based internet company, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, predicts that the plan, to be implemented over the next five years, will create about one million new US jobs as each business adds at least one employee. This is not the first-time Alibaba has suggested to bring more small US businesses into their enormous marketplace, but it is the first time specific target numbers have been suggested.

The meeting between the leaders took place at Trump Tower in New York, where the president-elect lives. Trump said the meeting was “great” and added that they would do “great things” together. Ma said Trump was “smart” and “open-minded.”

Ma said the focus of the meeting was to discuss the best ways to support small businesses, especially in Midwest America. The idea would be to introduce the products from farmers and small clothing-manufacturers to the vast Chinese market directly through Alibaba.

Alibaba has been aggressively pursuing foreign brands to set up Tsmall stores, their online platform which offers virtual store fronts and payment portals to merchants. His goal is to simplify the sales, payment and shipping process for the vast and growing Chinese shopper which Ma is relentlessly attracting to his e-commerce website.

Right now, there are about 7,000 US brands sitting on Alibaba’s Tmall, including US giants such as wholesaler Costco Wholesale Corp and clothing manufacturer Levi’s. Last year these companies made $15 billion in sales to Chinese consumers, although some foreign retailers say they have had a mixed success on Tmall.

Last month the US Trade Representative put Alibaba back on to an infamous list of blacklisted online retailers due to suspicions that the company does not do enough to end counterfeiting on their site.

Will Putin Retaliate or Not?

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to once again do the unexpected when he announced that he was not going to retaliate in response to President Obama’s move to expel 35 Russian diplomats from the United States. It seemed he only had to wait a mere three weeks or so for the bruhaha to die down when Donald Trump is sworn in as the next US president.

Now, however, there are reports that Russia is taking some steps to punish the US for its actions. Last week CNN reported that Russian authorities ordered the closing of the Anglo-American School in Moscow, siting an unnamed source who said he knew personally about the development. The school is for the children of Western embassy personnel from Britain, Canada and the USA.

The Russian foreign ministry denied the allegation.

CNN also reported that Russia ordered the closing of a vacation home used by US embassy personnel, about 16 kilometers west of Moscow.

In contradiction to earlier reports that there would be no reprisal against US diplomats in Russia, Russian spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova said that a Russian response to Obama’s actions would be similar which would “immediately backfire at US diplomats in Russia.”

“The outgoing US administration has not given up on its hope of dealing one last blow to relations with Russia, which it has already destroyed,” her statement said.

The Kremlin had previously stated that the US would “receive an answer” if it did anything to punish Russia. Obama sought to impose sanctions on Russia for its role in tampering with the recent US elections via hacking of email accounts associated with people in the Democratic Party. Several US intelligence agencies have stated the Russian actions were deliberately designed to interfere with the US elections, specifically, to help Donald Trump with the election.

Eighteen More Oil Rigs Bodes Well for Oil Economy

U.S. offshore natural gas production wells in the Gulf of Mexico and Southern California.

With the addition of two new oil rigs operating in the Gulf of Mexico 16 new ones across the US, there are now a total of 653 drilling for oil and gas.

It is good news for the oil industry, but those numbers are far below the number of rigs operating in 2014 and 2015. According to numbers released last week by the Houston-based oilfield-services company Baker-Hughes, this year’s number is lower by 47 since last year, and is still 65 percent lower than the 1,882 which were pumping out oil and gas at the end of 2014.

Of the 653 rigs working today, 129 are looking for natural gas and the remainder, 523, are bringing out oil.

The oil industry has been suffering as an oil glut continues to keep prices of oil low. Caused by a growing trend of drilling in US shale fields, combined with increased oil production by OPEC, the oil glut brought oil prices to half, and lower, than their mid-2014 high of $115 per barrel.

Lower oil prices froze exploration for new sources of oil and natural gas, and many people in the industry were laid off. The fact that the US rig count has been growing and now is higher than its been since January, could be a harbinger of better times for the industry.

Fox Buys Sky

Rupert Murdoch at Les Misérables red carpet movie premiere, Sydney, Australia. Photo by Eva Rinaldi.

It took five years, but Rupert Murdoch has finally acquired the rest of the UK-based Sky Network. Murdoch is the Australian-American media mogul billionaire owner of 21st Century Fox, who tried, but failed a complete buyout of Sky in 2011. Now he is getting the 61 percent that he didn’t already own for almost $15 billion, $13.52 per share. The price is a 36 percent increase over the closing price of the stock on December 8. Fox projects that it will be able to close the deal for $14.6 billion before the end of 2017.

The sale was scrapped in 2011 due to News Corp.’s phone hacking and alleged bribery scandal. Because of this summer’s Brexit decision, the value of the pound dived, making the price of Sky’s shares a relative bargain.

“We have been thoughtful, disciplined and focused as we have contemplated the best use of our capital to drive the growth of the business into the future,” said Lachlan Murdoch, 21st Century Fox’s executive chairman.

The deal with Sky is Fox’s largest transaction to date. Sky will add value to Fox by providing its own programming, library to sports broadcasting rights, and more during a time when large telecom and content providers are consolidating.

“All in all, even taking into account the sports cost issue, this is probably a better and more durable business than most US. investors would presume,” said Michael Nathanson, of MoffettNathanson Research, who lowered its rating on Fox shares to Neutral from Buy and increased the target price $2 to $32.

Rupert Murdoch owns 21st Century Fox with his sons James and Lachlan, including Fox TV network, Fox News and Hollywood study 20th Century Fox.