Goodman Realty Group’s green redevelopment projects—award-winning Hotel Andaluz and Winrock Mall—set state and national standards for water and energy conservation.
Interview by Tami Brunk
Gary Goodman has a big idea for New Mexico. In Goodman’s vision, New Mexico steps up as the global leader in resource management and technologies—beginning with water. “The path forward,” he says, “is for the six New Mexico communities—business, not-for-profit, tribal, educational, research and political—to sit at the same table and work together toward that aim.”
Goodman is hardly just an “idea man”—he’s walking his talk in big way. As CEO of Goodman Realty Group, his firm is setting state, national and global standards for energy and water management. The firm’s redesign of Hotel Andaluz included the installation of the state’s largest privately installed solar-thermal water-heating system, reduced the hotel’s water use by 66 percent and integrated an award-winning energy-management system. Consequently, the hotel gained status as one of just two Gold LEED-certified historic hotels across the nation.
Goodman’s massive makeover of Winrock Mall will integrate photovoltaic (PV) panels on every rooftop to fuel a portion of the energy needs for the Winrock Town Center, including an electric trolley. He hired a farmer in place of a landscaper to grow produce for an on-site farm store that will serve 1,000-plus community residents. The center’s world-class water-capture and -recycling system will irrigate 30acres of orchards, gardens and a vineyard, and—if all goes according to plan—two nearby parks now irrigated by aquifer.
While he describes himself as an eternal optimist, Goodman is not wearing rose-colored glasses. In our interview, he drills down into what holds New Mexico back and proposes a pathway toward a vibrant economy based on the industry of sustainable resource management.
Brunk: You’ve said you think New Mexico needs to be “about something,” and that something should be water resource management. Tell me more about that.
Goodman: We believe New Mexico should be a center of excellence for water technology. The reason we say that is because our laboratories and universities are doing more terrific water research than any other place in the country. When we’re getting together and talking about how to deal with the droughts we’re having, the meetings should be held in Albuquerque. We should lead our region. When California wants to solve their water problems, they should come to Albuquerque. The number one growth industry in the world is water management.
Brunk: Do you think New Mexicans know about the research happening here?
Goodman: No, our problem is largely self-perception. There is so much happening in this state that nobody knows about. Spend a day at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Go visit the consortium between the University of New Mexico (UNM) and the labs. The work they are doing is groundbreaking.
We went to New Mexico State University and told them, “We’d like to do some water-research projects. Do you have any water-research projects you could show us?” They gave us a letter saying, “Here are a dozen water projects we’re working on. If none is to your liking, we’ll send you a dozen more.” The scope of these projects blew us away.
The truth is that incredible stuff is happening here. There are many water-related businesses and patents based on work that has been done New Mexico. The newspapers don’t talk about it, and the public doesn’t identify with it. We’re a rich state. We’ve got billions that we invest outside the state. We’ve got to start investing in ourselves.
Brunk: What do you think about New Mexico leading in solar-energy technologies as well?
Goodman: I’d like to see us as experts on the management of all resources because it’s a tremendous growth area. But we have the state Legislature trying to reduce the renewable-energy standards for the state, so they’re zigging while we’re zagging. Renewable energy is profitable, and it’s the direction in which we should be moving. The writing is on the wall. We have more sun, more space, and more energy and water concerns than anyone. If we could solve our own problems, we could solve the problems of the world.
Brunk: Winrock is generating a lot of buzz in its cutting-edge green design, and I know you want it to model your “big idea.” How are you modeling water conservation at Winrock?
Goodman: We’re attempting to use only the aquifer for hygiene and cooking. The water will be used three times before leaving the property. Toilets and water features are second use; third use is irrigation. The system we’re putting in could bring the rainwater we collect up to drinking quality. We’re actually reprocessing all sewage, nearly up to drinking standards, and using it for irrigation.
Brunk: In addition to PV panels on all rooftops, how will you address energy conservation on the property?
Goodman: We will be using ground-coupled heat-pump systems, so the cool temperature of the earth will enable air conditioning. We’ll have some type of biomass digester that will take our organic stuff from farming and turn it into a combination of energy and fertilizer. We’d like to have some form of biodiesel. We’re talking to UNM and Sandia National Laboratories about creating a hybrid biodiesel car. We want to see what ecosystems we can create in an urban environment.
Brunk: Returning to the topic of how New Mexico can move forward as a leader in the areas you propose, what needs to happen to make that a reality?
Goodman: Fifty to 60 percent of what we need to be doing is a matter of PR, just to let the world know what we’re doing. When you come into the airport, what do you see? There’s a big sign that says, “Bernalillo County, we’re more than you think.” That says everything. Now think, what if it said, “Welcome to Albuquerque. Bring us your Water Problems. We’ll Solve Them.” The sign we currently have is saying, “We’re not quite as crappy as you think we are.” Our version says, “This is what we excel at.”
Brunk: When you talk about low self-perception, it makes me think of how many times a big public or private project is handed over to an out-of-state firm.
Goodman: We’ve got this mistaken idea: “If you need somebody bright, you’ve got to go outside of the state.” We’ve got to start saying, “We’re not trolls here; we’re really bright, capable people.”
In our development at Winrock, not one contractor, subcontractor, consultant or engineer lives outside of New Mexico, and very few live outside of Albuquerque. And we’re doing work that is groundbreaking.
Brunk: What are some challenges beyond self-perception?
Goodman: The challenge is getting everyone together to look at the big picture and say, “This is something we’re going to promote and publicize.” We don’t have a unified vision. It doesn’t happen because we’re not all pulling in the same direction. It’s going to take enlightened leadership that really embraces the big idea.
I firmly believe we’ve got the talent here. It’s a wonderful place to live. We’ve got wonderful people, talented people. We’ve got all the ingredients to be successful except getting everyone on the same page.
Brunk: Despite the obstacles, you’ve shared your optimism that something is shifting, that we’ve turned a corner. Tell me about that.
Goodman: I think it’s starting to happen. I give a lot of credit to Mayor Berry. He recruited Village Capital to come to New Mexico and declare it a center for water excellence. Village Capital is going to pick 12 of the top water startups in the nation and bring them to Albuquerque for mentoring. Our goal is to get some of those companies to move here. Village Capital will take the top two companies that they find and start investing capital. We’re trying to set up a program where we’ll match everything that Village Capital does on the condition that they’ll move to Innovate ABQ. We’re campaigning to be part of the development team for that, and we would want these water companies to anchor Innovate ABQ.
Brunk: What are other positive trends you see in Albuquerque and New Mexico?
Goodman: There’s a lot happening right now in the city with entrepreneurship that we’re very excited about. The Kaufman Foundation has decided to work in Albuquerque to foster entrepreneurship. Up to now, they’ve only worked out of Kansas City. They are one of the largest entrepreneurial not-for-profit foundations in the world, and they believe Albuquerque is the next major center for innovation. The Kellogg Foundation is also very active here.
Elon Musk’s solar company [SolarCity] has opened offices in New Mexico; he has an incredible program going. We have a lot of incredible things happening here. I think it’s a happening place. We’re our own best-kept secret.
Albuquerque-based Tami Brunk writes about sustainable projects and ecovisionaries whose work opens new paradigms and possibilities.
A version of this article was originally published in Construction Reporter.