New York’s residential market goes green

New York’s residential market goes green

Stephen DeSimone

Sustainable building practices have long been understood as challenging to achieve. They have been perceived to have high front-end costs, and there has been scant information available about their requirements and the direct benefits for project teams. So, why is New York City’s residential market “going green?”

Increasingly, cities and states offer generous incentives to developers exploring sustainability. Since 2000, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has offered Green Building Tax Credit, the nation’s first tax incentive program for the design, construction or rehabilitation of environmentally friendly buildings. This program is available to commercial and residential projects over 20,000 sf and developers can receive as much as $25 million in credit for eligible buildings. The New York State Energy and Research Development Authority also offers financial incentives. Together these programs have fostered broader interest in “green.”

The USGBC’s (U.S. Green Building Council) LEED certification guidelines were created to provide quantifiable national standards for sustainable building practices. They are currently available for all types of projects and successful projects are rewarded at LEED-Certified to LEED-Platinum levels. Specifications to receive LEED certification address over fifty requirements such as diverse issues as storm water management, the utilization of renewable energy, building reuse, construction waste management, low-emitting materials, and ventilation effectiveness. Innovation and communication among team members are vital to achieve successful cost-effective sustainable developments. Development teams, once segmented, now collaborate to explore creative sustainable solutions. Consequently, these new building standards are producing unique and exciting outlets for metropolitan growth. (Further information on LEED is available at

Once limited to academic/cultural centers, “LEED” has received acceptance in the commercial and residential markets. It is becoming increasingly clear to developers that the potential benefits outweigh the costs. While sustainable projects demand significant initial investment, when strategically approached, they are fruitful, long-term contributors to the communities they serve, offering substantial energy savings, decreased operating costs, and are a savvy marketing tool for environmentally conscious urban residents.

The proof of interest in sustainable building lies in the new LEED-certified projects sprouting up around the city, many of which take advantage of the above-mentioned incentives. The Dermot Company’s Clinton Green, designed by Fox & Fowle Architects, consists of two 25-story mixed-use towers containing over 650,000 sf. This project, which includes theatres, retail and condominiums, is filing for LEED certification and attempting to blend the market benefits of a green complex with the amenities of a luxury development, while maintaining an affordable budget. Similarly, Tribeca Green, a 25-story, 330,000 sf residential building located in Battery Park City, designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects for The Related Companies, is a LEED compliant complex. Currently under construction, it is designed following both the New York State and Battery Park City Authority “Green Building” Program. Its neighbors Millennium Point Tower and Battery Park City 18B, designed by Handel Architects and Cesar Pelli & Associates respectively, are also seeking LEED, New York State, and Battery Park City Authority certification. These projects in close proximity to one another are also adhering to Green guidelines by sharing resources.

Efforts toward green building are vast and varied and LEED certification is not the only means by which to take advantage of sustainable building practices. Utilizing “brownfield” sites is another approach towards achieving green values. InterActiveCorp Office Building, a 90,000 sf, 10-story building, developed by The Georgetown Company and designed by Gehry Partners, is under way on a revitalized West Side brownfield site. Structural engineering has helped enable poor soil conditions to be overcome making this “undervalued” property an appealing option for the project team.

In addition to these more traditional avenues of sustainable design, air/rights and preservation programs are also making headway in the “Green” arena. Solutions have been formulated that occur above, underneath, inside, around and adjacent to existing buildings, thus increasingly the designs need to address the integrity of the solution. Structural engineers have been particularly helpful in navigating building reuse, reducing material costs and construction time. At 455 Central Park West, the design team worked closely with the New York City Landmarks Commission and the City Planning Commission to devise a scheme which left the hospital’s primary 5-story brick and stone exterior form intact, thus gaining the development of an additional high-rise tower on the site. Similarily Sciame Development’s 80 South Street residential project, designed by Santiago Calatrava, will utilize an existing structure at its base, from which the unique pod-like dwellings will rise.

With the right tools and the right backing, New York City is evolving its attitude. Sustainable building practices currently challenge development teams adopting these new techniques, however a diverse variety of rewards have been made available for their efforts. As environmentally friendly guidelines become commonplace, the trendsetters of today will be positioned as leaders for tomorrow’s standard practices.


COPYRIGHT 2005 Hagedorn Publication

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