Kathleen Caproni Makes Sun Creek Center Marbletown’s First Fossil Free Commercial Building.

Kathleen Caproni, Ph.D. is the owner of Sun Creek Center, the first 100% fossil fuel free commercial building in Marbletown, NY. A clinical psychologist, she had the Center built in 2009 to create a healing environment that would reflect the values and amplify the benefits of her business. Today the solar-powered Center stands on 2 acres of preserved natural space. It won the 2019 Marbletown Environmental Conservation Commission’s “Green Award” for Efforts Towards Sustainability and Green Business Practices in the Community.

It took over 2 and a half years of approvals before she was able to break ground. Even with several well informed members, Caproni found the local zoning board slow to act.  Creating the first fossil free building in town, Caproni faced issues with financing as banks want to know what the value of something will be on the market, and they had no other buildings in the area to compare to. She was one of the first people in town to install a ducted air source heat pump for heating and cooling, powered by the building’s solar array. While a permit was necessary for its installation, a heat pump as the heating source was not an option back in 2009. She comments, “It would be wonderful for all of our local governments to create more streamlined processes so that people who are interested in making ecologically sound choices are well supported.”

In the years since then, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has developed and updated numerous incentives to promote the switch to sustainable technologies. Caproni’s experience was that the level of help depended greatly on the person on the line at a given time.

We spoke with Caproni again in early 2022 when the day’s temperature highs were below freezing, and nights even lower. She had gotten an air source heat pump, which functions by harnessing the heat from air outside. While there has been a misconception heat pumps would not function in the climate of the northeast, Caproni has had no major issues using hers to maintain a comfortable environment. While worried about a sharp increase in her electric bill, she had so far seen only a very small increase – and no fuel bills at all.  One drawback she has spoken on was the aesthetics of the condenser unit outside the building, and thinks about ways to cover it up. Still, she says, “It has been a really good investment.”

Caproni feels Marbletown is perfectly poised to become a model, especially with the recent influx of people from more southern parts of the state following the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these people have bought properties and will be renovating them, providing there are enough well prepared builders, architects and technical assistance providers, and modernized building codes –  to ensure sustainable investments become the new normal.

Going forward, Kathleen hopes to install additional solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations at the Center to support clients’ sustainable transportation choices. She is getting help from Tom Konrad, Chair of the Marbletown Environmental Conservation Commission and a volunteer Energy Coach with New Yorkers for Clean Power.  The Marbletown ECC is currently supporting the Marbletown 100% renewable Action Plan in partnership with Sustainable Hudson Valley. Learn more and begin by making your own renewable plan here.