Meet the Honorees: Vlada Kenniff, Senior VP for Sustainability, NY City Housing Authority

Vlada Kenniff

by | Nov 10, 2022

Vlada KenniffThe Environment+Energy Leader Honoree program is an annual list that recognizes the environment and energy “doers” who break trail in creating new solutions, programs, platforms, best practices and products to help their companies – or other companies – achieve greater success in commercial and industrial environment and energy management. Meet the Honorees… is an ongoing series that will feature one E+E Honoree from 2022 each week. See the complete list of 2022 Honorees here.

Meet Vlada Kenniff. Vlada was named VP of energy and sustainability, Capital Projects Division, at the the NY City Housing Authority in March, 2020, and was recently promoted to senior VP for sustainability. In this role, she is responsible for leading NYCHA’s comprehensive Sustainability Agenda for the nation’s largest public housing authority toward a decarbonized future, while leveraging ongoing and future capital work to create training and hiring opportunities for NYCHA residents.

In the last two years, she focused on transformative waste management programs such as procuring the first pneumatic system as a retrofit to an existing building, mechanical waste collection and waste yards redesigns. In the clean energy space, she has been leading the work on transforming heating and cooling through the Clean Heat for All Challenge, she says.

Vlada’ s day-to-day consists of advocacy for funding for sustainability and resiliency funding, managing demonstration projects and teams leading them, aligning NYCHA through its complex transformation, understanding and negotiating new rules and policies impacting the work, and hiring and training talent.

What is your biggest energy challenge?

Vlada Kenniff: NYCHA’s biggest energy challenge is that most of the buildings in the portfolio use combustion technologies to provide space heating and domestic hot water which generate 70% to 75% of carbon emissions. On top of it, most of these systems are original to the buildings, and past their useful lives.

This means these systems fail often, and create difficult and unacceptable quality of life issues for our residents. To replace these systems, new technologies currently available on the market do not compete in cost with a replacement of a boiler, leaving buildings in a cycle of having to maintain outdated and polluting technologies.

NYCHA is leveraging its size to signal to the HVAC manufacturers that significant cost compression needs to happen for buildings like NYCHA to adopt electrification and decarbonization technologies though the Clean Heat for All Challenge..

What was a successful project or implementation you worked on that you can share?

VK: The Clean Heat for All Challenge is still a work in progress, but promises to be an important win. There are many people to thank for the ideas and partnerships that are bringing this project to reality. Jordan Bonomo, Edwin Mendez, Tom Sahagian and Steve Lovci who saw the potential, and are relentlessly working on the execution in NYCHA. NYSERDA’s Janet Joseph, Emily Dean, and Loic Chappoz have supported both the vision and development of technical specifications for desired product; and NYPA Keith Hayes, John Raudenbush, and Sinan Chen for procuring the product and overall project delivery.

What trends do you expect to see in the market in the next few years? What challenges will the industry face and what technologies or organizational changes will overcome them?

VK: NYCHA is in the process of a complete transformation and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fully recapitalize our buildings that are in desperate need of systems upgrades such as plumbing, heating, ventilation, elevators, and waste. The scale of work and competing interests for necessary buildings upgrades will pose a challenge in having to complete this work within limited budgets. Cost compression of space heating and domestic hot water heating technology will play a role in how much NYCHA will be able to include new, clean technologies in its buildings, while making sure that disadvantaged New Yorkers are not left behind in the clean energy transition.

Can you tell us about a recent interest that has had an impact on you and your work?

VK: When I’m not working (and I work a lot) or taking care of my two kids, I garden. That little bit of time that I spend tending to the plants in my garden goes very quickly. That’s when I do my deep thinking about the next project, innovation, or sustainability shift that needs to happen.


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