Peak sustainable living: Aubertine & Currier designs unique straw bale house

Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors has designed a unique straw bale home in Henderson with a variety of other sustainable features as well. Straw bale insulation dramatically cuts heating costs. Rendering courtesy Aubertine and Currier

Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors has designed a unique straw bale home in Henderson with a variety of other sustainable features as well. Straw bale insulation dramatically cuts heating costs. Renderings courtesy Aubertine and Currier

Melanie D. O’Brien, originally of Staten Island, acknowledges that both she and her husband Robert M., “by our nature think very long-term.”

Coupled with the pair’s environmental consciousness and intrepid spirit, it’s a patience that will serve them well as they reap the energy savings on what could be the north country’s first ever straw-bale home on Route 3 in Henderson, which they plan to start building this spring.

That’s straw, not to be confused with livestock-edible hay, and lots of it. Five hundred, 18-inch thick by 14-by-36 bales of straw, to be exact.

“Straw is basically rot resistant, insect resistant, moisture resistant,” said Brian A. Jones, one of two architects at Aubertine and Currier Architects, Engineers and Land Surveyors, Watertown, who have spent the past three months designing the house for the O’Briens, researching innovative techniques and soliciting their input on aesthetics.

Straw bale houses are popular in drier climates particularly in California and the Southwest. In the north country’s wetter climate, the design required careful position of the straw bales above the floor, insulation that the designers say is likely to slash heating costs at least in half. Straw will rot if left directly in water for extended periods of time. [Read more…]

Burgeoning biomass: ReEnergy Black River leads NNY biomass boom on post

Trucks unload at ReEnergy Black River on Fort Drum, which opened after being converted from a coal-burning site to a biomass facility this summer and is providing an important market for forestry residuals. Norm Johnston/ NNY Business

Trucks unload at ReEnergy Black River on Fort Drum, which opened after being converted from a coal-burning site to a biomass facility this summer and is providing an important market for forestry residuals. Norm Johnston / NNY Business

Biomass is becoming an increasingly viable source for thermal and electric energy in the north country, spurred by this summer’s conversion of Fort Drum’s former coal burning site into ReEnergy Holdings LLC’s 60-megawatt Black River biomass facility, the USDA’s support for shrub willow production and home-based biomass heating initiatives.

New York’s biomass potential is “unparalleled” given existing forest resources and the potential to use agricultural land to sustainably grow biomass crops, according to a North Country Sustainability Plan released in May, a comprehensive look at energy in the region funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Thirty percent of the seven-county region’s thermal energy needs are already met by wood, a resource that only generates 1 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with heating fuel, that report said.

“It’s important to note that biomass is the only renewable fuel that provides a base load for electricity,” said Eric W. Carlson, president of the Empire State Forest Products Association, as hydro, wind and solar are all subject to the whims of natural conditions. [Read more…]

Small Business Startup: Denmark Gardens

Patsy Makuch opened Lewis County's first apple orchard this year. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Business

Patsy Makuch opened Lewis County’s first apple orchard this year. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Business

Lewis County’s first apple orchard had a successful first season [Read more…]

A healthy dose of jobs

Diane B. Scott, center, a pharmacy technician instructor at St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES’s Northwest Tech Center in Ogdensburg, poses for a portrait with students, from left, Scarlett M. Cameron, Monica L. Arquette, Brooke E. Oshier and Kristin B. Kuca during BOCES’s new pharmacy technician course. Jason Hunter/ NNY Business

Diane B. Scott, center, a pharmacy technician instructor at St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES’s Northwest Tech Center in Ogdensburg, poses for a portrait with students, from left, Scarlett M. Cameron, Monica L. Arquette, Brooke E. Oshier and Kristin B. Kuca during BOCES’s new pharmacy technician course. Jason Hunter/ NNY Business

BOCES pharmacy tech course launched in three centers [Read more…]

Massey golden at 50

Massey Furniture Barn owner Shawn E. Massey reclines in the store’s Arsenal Street showroom on a recent afternoon. The business, begun by Mr. Massey’s father, celebrates 50 years in business this year. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Business

Massey Furniture Barn owner Shawn E. Massey reclines in the store’s Arsenal Street showroom on a recent afternoon. The business, begun by Mr. Massey’s father, celebrates 50 years in business this year. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Business

With son at helm, Massey Furniture Barn hits half century [Read more…]

The push for sustainable growth: With plenty of assets to market, many agree north country should diversify for future economic development

From the vibrant lake and riverfront destinations of Sackets Harbor and Clayton, to sprawling new housing developments cropping up across Watertown to the bustling commerce on Arsenal Street, Jefferson County’s growth over the past two decades has been noticeable and transformative. While the narrative follows a somewhat different line in Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, business owners, educators and economic development officials paint a picture of vibrancy in the tri-county region, and pin hopes on entrepreneurship, education and natural resources as future drivers. Though Jefferson County is the fastest growing in the state in terms of population, its progressive growth over the past 25 years could be bounded in the future by a struggle to attract new businesses because of New York’s historically unfavorable business climate and uncertainties over troop levels at Fort Drum.

Crews work on Interstate 781, also known as the Fort Drum connector road, in March 2012. The limited access, four-lane highway opened to traffic Dec. 6, 2012. Until its completion, the post lacked direct access via an Interstate highway. The project was in the works for several years. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

Crews work on Interstate 781, also known as the Fort Drum connector road, in March 2012. The limited access, four-lane highway opened to traffic Dec. 6, 2012. Until its completion, the post lacked direct access via an Interstate highway. The project was in the works for several years. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

Tied to post

Few could deny that Fort Drum is to credit for much of Jefferson County’s transformation. It has left an indelible mark since the Sept. 11, 1984, announcement that the north country would become home to the 10th Mountain Division, with about 29,000 people arriving to live and work on or near post by 1988.

Since fiscal year 1988, the post has injected a staggering $18,345,535,016 into the local economy, as of the most recent economic impact statement officials released in March for fiscal year 2012. That report credits the post with $1,441,992,825 in economic impact for the north country in fiscal 2012, accounting for the presence of about 19,000 soldiers and 20,000 family members.

But with two opposing forces — federal sequestration threatening cuts on one hand and September’s announcement that Fort Drum was one of five sites chosen by the Missile Defense Agency as a potential East Coast missile defense site — the looming question is whether the county’s economic development can continue or if the area has arrived at somewhat of a tipping point. [Read more…]

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Building activity shows uptick in ’13

After a somewhat sluggish 2012, construction activity in the Watertown area has picked up through the first half of 2013 but still lags in comparison to the past five years, building permits show.

Total declared value in construction permits filed in the City of Watertown Bureau of Code Enforcement, including new structures, additions, alterations, repairs and maintenance, totaled 3,278,356 over the first two quarters of 2013, while that figure was 1,942,067 through the first half of 2012. Total declared construction value for 2012 reached just 16,326,074, down about 63 percent from a high over the last five years of 43,882,327 in 2011.

Major projects including renovations at Samaritan Medical Center and the construction of the Creek Wood Apartments off Mill Street contributed to the spikes in the third and fourth quarters of 2011.

So far in 2013, the largest single building project in declared value according to permits filed was the addition of a 60-by-100-foot shell at 1340 Washington St., North Country Neurology, valued at $800,000. The practice expanded from about 3,600 square feet to just over 10,000 square feet to accommodate an expanding pool of clients and additional neurologists, a project begun in late spring and completed this fall by Lunco Corp., Carthage, which also designed and built the original structure. [Read more…]

For retiring CEO, board chairwoman, legacy is leaving firm in great care

Pamela S. Beyor, chairwoman of the board of directors at Bernier, Carr & Associates, and Bernard H.  “Bernie” Brown Jr., CEO, pictured in March, will retire in December after a combined 57 years with the firm. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Business

Pamela S. Beyor, chairwoman of the board of directors at Bernier, Carr & Associates, and Bernard H. “Bernie” Brown Jr., CEO, pictured in March, will retire in December after a combined 57 years with the firm. Amanda Morrison/ NNY Business

Pamela S. Beyor, chairwoman of the board of directors at Bernier, Carr and Associates, jokes that she’s worked with Bernard H. “Bernie” Brown Jr., the company’s chief executive officer, longer than she’s been with her husband.

When the pair’s professional career — a combined 57 years of service and leadership of a firm that has been part of many prominent north country developments in its 43 year history — ends at the close of 2013, they do so with complete confidence in the capable and talented team of leaders they’ve mentored.

And, with neither planning to leave the area they’re entrenched in professionally and personally, the two say they’ve managed to keep glimmers of sadness and nostalgia at bay with the prospect of continuing on as chairwoman and CEO emeritus, respectively, delving into hobbies and community service. [Read more…]

The new faces of leadership

The new leadership team at Bernier Carr and Associates, from left: Kris D. Dimmick, vice president of operations, Kevin E. Lewis, director of business development, Rick W. Tague, president, and Mickey G. Lehman, executive vice president. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

The new leadership team at Bernier Carr and Associates, from left: Kris D. Dimmick, vice president of operations, Kevin E. Lewis, director of business development, Rick W. Tague, president, and Mickey G. Lehman, executive vice president. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

Bernier, Carr and Associates future in hands of partnership team [Read more…]

A diamond anniversary

Jane Fuller, center,  owner of Jean’s Beans on Eastern Boulevard, with daughter, Heather Bowman-Bates, secretary, and son, Mark  Bowman, vice president and cook. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

Jane Fuller, center, owner of Jean’s Beans on Eastern Boulevard, with daughter, Heather Bowman-Bates, secretary, and son, Mark Bowman, vice president and cook. Justin Sorensen/ NNY Business

Jean’s Beans marks 60 years dishing up a north country tradition [Read more…]