The Builder Project in Bedford Supports Clean Energy Initiatives

Adobe Stock / rh2010

The Builder Project, based in Bedford, aims to help small to medium-sized businesses in the area become more environmentally friendly.

Parveen Sikder-Rahman and Gregory Murphy’s first meeting for The Builder Project was at the Bedford Hills Memorial Park playground in early 2022. They met because their children go to preschool together, but it wasn’t long before they started their own business together.

Sikder-Rahman has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She participated in Westchester County’s Launch1000 program, which is designed to help residents evaluate an idea for a new venture, test it with potential customers, and see if it seems likely to succeed. That was in 2021, when she had an idea to create a network for women in the trades to find jobs and help with the labor shortage. It wasn’t successful, but the skills she learned helped her kickstart this next endeavor.

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“It taught me how to do market research, customer discovery and more,” says Sikder-Rahman. “That’s how we came to specialize in small to medium-sized businesses because I spoke to so many different developers, local and regional, and saw I was on the right track.”

Sikder-Rahman identified a gap in the clean energy market. All of the huge buildings in the area had clean energy companies from New York City reaching out to them and setting them up for the future. Meanwhile, the owners of buildings with just a couple of stories that usually held mom-and-pop establishments were often left in the dust.

“A lot of the smaller building owners, their budgets are stretched thin,” notes Sikder-Rahman. “Those big, big engineering firms aren’t going to come in and work with them. That’s what we do. We work with the small business owners.”

The duo knew that they could help make it possible for these building owners to enter the world of clean energy. It wasn’t long until The Builder Project was off the ground and running. 

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The Builder Project helps with the first step, which Sikder-Rahman argues can be the hardest. They work with building owners to create assessments to see where clean energy can be incorporated. It starts with an energy audit of the facility’s infrastructure and its energy efficiency. From there, they present three customized plan options. With Murphy’s decade-long background in construction management, The Builder Project makes it possible to guide clients and their contracts through the execution of each project. The company then follows up annually after project completion.

Sikder-Rahman says that what sets them apart is how local everything is. Because the pair are residents themselves, they have extensive knowledge of local building codes, permit processes, and the necessary inspections to complete the project. 

On top of that, though, is the fact that they’re able to help the community get one step closer to being fully green. One of the most common misconceptions, Sikder-Rahman says, is that people believe they need to make the change to go green all in one go. “That is absolutely not true,” she adds.

“The goal is, and where we excel, is we help people plan,” she explains. “There are so many rules and regulations coming down the pipeline to reach some sort of net zero by 2030, 2040, or 2050. It can be hard to coordinate.”

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That’s why The Builder Project is making information more digestible, which in turn helps building owners understand that going green actually is within their reach. 

“A lot of our clients, it’s just one person who manages several buildings,” Sikder-Rahman notes. “It’s hard to sit down and do all of this research. People don’t know where to start.”

For example, one of their clients is a coffee shop at which Sikder-Rahman and Murphy sometimes hold meetings. One of the coffee shop’s challenges was a high cooling bill in the summertime. 

“We did a thorough assessment and we found out that some of the issues came from the problems with the building envelope, the exterior of the building,” Sikder-Rahman explains. “In addition to that, it was the location of their thermostat.”

Something like moving the thermostat, or getting a smart thermostat, is a fairly cheap and easy fix for a small business owner. In another case, they worked on the Armonk Town Hall, which also had problems with the building envelope from electrical to heating and cooling. It’s something that calls for more extensive upgrades and a lot more money, but The Builder Project helps create a list of what is high priority and what can wait until further down the line. 

“Everyone is pushing heat pumps, which is amazing, but if you have leaky windows or a roof, then there’s no point in spending all that money when it will literally be going out the window,” Sikder-Rahman observes.

Besides that, one of Sikder-Rahman’s goals is to simply share general knowledge about what people need to know about going green. She sends out a weekly newsletter that briefs people on things like why an audit is important, where you can get funding, what the best path is, and so on.

“It’s really difficult to enter the world of clean energy and keep track of what’s happening,” she says. “NYSERDA has so many amazing resources, but it takes a lot of time. Just even thinking where to start is very, very overwhelming.”

The duo is gearing up for more interest as we near some of the net zero deadlines put in place by different municipalities. 

“It’s going to create a need for more energy efficient retrofits,” Sikder-Rahman notes. “That’s where companies like The Builder Project come in. The time to make the plan is now so you can slowly do it piecemeal. Change is expensive, but doing nothing will always cost more.”

Related: The Clean Energy Economy Is Hot for Westchester Job Prospects

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