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Thread: The rise of the green building

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    Default The rise of the green building

    The rise of the green building

    Dec 2nd 2004
    From The Economist print edition

    Architecture: New buildings use design and technology to reduce environmental impact, cut costs and provide better places to work

    IT IS officially known as the Swiss Re Tower, or 30 St Mary Axe. But Londoners universally refer to the newest addition to their skyline as “the Gherkin”, thanks to the 41-storey building's distinctive, curved profile, which actually looks more like a pine cone (see right). What is most remarkable about the building is not its name or its shape, however, but its energy-efficiency. Thanks to its artful design and some fancy technology, it is expected to consume up to 50% less energy than a comparable conventional office building.

    Most people are not used to thinking of large buildings as vast, energy-guzzling machines. But that is what they are. In America, buildings account for 65% of electricity consumption, 36% of total energy use and 30% of greenhouse-gas emissions. So making buildings more energy-efficient could have a significant impact on energy policy, notes Rebecca Flora of the Green Building Alliance, a group that promotes sustainable architecture. That is a key goal of the “green architecture” movement, which is changing the way buildings are designed, built and run.

    Proponents of green architecture argue that the approach has many benefits. In the case of a large office, for example, the combination of green design techniques and clever technology can not only reduce energy consumption and environmental impact, but also reduce running costs, create a more pleasant working environment, improve employees' health and productivity, reduce legal liability, and boost property values and rental returns.

    The term “green architecture” only came into use in the 1990s, but the movement's roots can be traced back a long way. Crystal Palace in London and Milan's Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, for example, built in 1851 and 1877 respectively, used roof ventilators and underground air-cooling chambers to regulate the indoor temperature. Today's enthusiasm for green architecture has its origins in the energy crisis of the 1970s, when architects began to question the wisdom of building enclosed glass-and-steel boxes that required massive heating and cooling systems. Early proponents of more energy-efficient architecture included William McDonough, Bruce Fowle and Robert Fox in America, Thomas Herzog in Germany, and Norman Foster and Richard Rogers in Britain.

    These forward-thinking architects began to explore designs that focused on the long-term environmental impact of maintaining and operating a building, looking beyond the so-called “first costs” of getting it built in the first place. This approach has since been formalised in a number of assessment and rating systems, such as the BREEAM standard introduced in Britain in 1990, and the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) starting in 2000.

    The LEED standards are intended to produce “the world's greenest and best buildings” by giving developers a straightforward checklist of criteria by which the greenness of a building can be judged. Points are awarded in various categories, from energy use (up to 17 points) to water-efficiency (up to five points) to indoor environment quality (up to 15 points); the total then determines the building's LEED rating. Extra points can be earned by installing particular features, such as renewable-energy generators or carbon-dioxide monitoring systems. A building that achieves a score of 39 points earns a “gold” rating; 52 points earns a “platinum” rating. A gold-rated building is estimated to have reduced its environmental impact by 50% compared with an equivalent conventional building, and a platinum-rated building by over 70%.

    Rating buildings in this way reveals how inefficient traditional buildings and building processes are. “We can sometimes waste up to 30 cents on the dollar,” says Phillip Bernstein, an architect and professor at Yale University. “It's not just the consumption of energy, it's the use of materials, the waste of water, the incredibly inefficient strategies we use for choosing the subsystems of our buildings. It's a scary thing.” In part, he says, this is because the construction industry is so fragmented. Designers, architects, engineers, developers and builders each make decisions that serve their own interests, but create huge inefficiencies overall.

    Green is good

    But things are now changing, as green architecture moves into the mainstream. In the spring of 2003, Toyota completed a 624,000-square-foot office complex in Torrance, California, that received a LEED gold rating, thanks to the inclusion of features such as solar cells to provide up to 20% of the building's energy needs. Also last year, Pittsburgh opened the doors on its 1.5m-square-foot convention centre, the largest building to be awarded a gold LEED rating so far. The USGBC says nearly 1,700 buildings in 50 states are now seeking LEED certification and 137 have been constructed and certified so far. And America's General Services Administration, which oversees all non-military government construction, recently decreed that all new projects and renovations must meet the minimum LEED standards.

    In Britain, meanwhile, 70 office buildings constructed during 2003, representing 25% of the total by floor area, met the BREEAM standard. Similar standards have been adopted in New Zealand, Australia and Canada. In China, the Beijing Organising Committee of the Olympic Games aims to host the first zero-net-emissions games, which will include constructing all buildings and sports venues using green-architecture principles.

    There are many ways to reduce a building's environmental impact. Consider the 48-storey Condé Nast Building at 4 Times Square in New York, for example, which was designed by Fox & Fowle Architects. It was one of the first examples in which green-architecture principles were applied to a large urban office building, and informed the drawing up of the LEED points system, since it uses almost every energy-saving technique imaginable.

    Special glass allows daylight in to reduce the need for interior lighting, keeps heat and ultraviolet rays out, and minimises heat loss in winter. Two natural-gas-powered fuel cells provide 400 kilowatts of power, enough to provide all the electricity needed at night, and 5% of the building's needs during the day. The hot-water exhaust produced by the fuel cells is used to help heat the building and provide hot water. The heating and cooling systems, located on the roof, are gas-powered rather than electric, which reduces energy losses associated with electrical power transmission. Photovoltaic panels on the building's exterior provide up to an additional 15 kilowatts of power. Inside the building, motion sensors control fans and switch off lights in seldom-occupied areas such as stairwells. Exit signs are illuminated by low-power light-emitting diodes. The result is that the building's energy consumption is 35-40% lower than that of a comparable conventional building.

    30 St Mary Axe, designed by Foster and Partners, is also packed with energy-saving features. In particular, it uses natural lighting and ventilation wherever possible. The façade consists of two layers of glass (the outer one double-glazed) enclosing a ventilated cavity with computer-controlled blinds. A system of weather sensors on the outside of the building monitors the temperature, wind speed and level of sunlight, closing blinds and opening window panels as necessary. The building's shape maximises the use of natural daylight, reducing the need for artificial lighting and providing impressive long-distance views even from deep inside the building.

    The highest-profile green building currently on the drawing board is the Freedom Tower, which will be built on the site of the World Trade Centre in New York. The architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Studio Daniel Libeskind, have incorporated environmental design features throughout the huge complex. The main tower, which will rise 1,776 feet, will include solar panels and a wind farm, the turbines of which are expected to deliver around one megawatt of power, enough to provide up to 20% of the building's expected demand. Like other green buildings, it will rely on natural light and ventilation, and energy-efficient lighting.

    High energy costs, environmental concerns and anxiety about the “sick building syndrome” associated with the sealed-box structures of the 1970s all helped to jump-start the green-architecture movement. But now economics is driving the shift towards greener design, as new materials and techniques fall in price, argues Michael Crosbie, an architect at Steven Winter Associates, a consultancy based in Norwalk, Connecticut. He says his clients “are much more demanding because they see the incredible amount of money it takes to get something constructed, and they want a return on that investment.”

    Why it pays to be green

    Going green saves money by reducing long-term energy costs: a survey of 99 green buildings in America found that on average, they use 30% less energy than comparable conventional buildings. So any additional building costs can be recovered quickly: according to the USGBC, the 2% increase in construction costs required to achieve a LEED gold rating typically pays for itself in lower running costs within two years. The traditional approach of trying to minimise construction costs, by contrast, can lead to higher energy bills and wasted materials.

    Energy-saving techniques need not all be as exotic as installing coated glass, computer-controlled blinds or photovoltaic cells. Mr Crosbie says builders are now insulating buildings more effectively, in some cases using materials such as recycled paper and fabrics, including old, shredded jeans. It is more effective than traditional insulation, he says, saves money and is easier on the environment.

    Green buildings can also have less obvious economic benefits. The use of natural daylight in office buildings, for example, as well as reducing energy costs, also seems to make workers more productive. Studies conducted by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan, environmental psychologists at the University of Michigan, found that employees with views of a natural landscape report greater job satisfaction, less stress and fewer illnesses. Lockheed Martin, an aerospace firm, found that absenteeism fell by 15% after it moved 2,500 employees into a new green building in Sunnyvale, California. The increase in productivity paid for the building's higher construction costs within a year.

    Similarly, the use of daylight in shopping complexes appears to increase sales. The Heschong Mahone Group, a California-based consultancy that specialises in energy-efficient building technologies, found that sales were as much as 40% higher in stores lit with skylights. It also found that students in naturally lit classrooms performed up to 20% better. Green buildings can also reduce legal liabilities for their owners, since they are less likely to give rise to “sick building” lawsuits. But more studies are needed, says Caren Glotfelty, director of the environmental programme at the Heinz Endowments, a non-profit foundation run by Teresa Heinz Kerry that funds sustainable initiatives.

    Despite its benefits and its growing popularity, green architecture is still the exception, not the rule, however. The main problem is co-ordination, says Mr Bernstein, who is also vice-president of the building solutions division at Autodesk, a software company. Green buildings require much more planning by architects, engineers, builders and developers than traditional buildings. “The building industry is very disaggregated,” he says, “so adoption patterns are really, really slow.” But new software is now improving planning by simulating how a building will perform before it is built.

    Autodesk's software can create a three-dimensional model of a building and then work out how much energy it will use, taking into account its shape, heating and cooling systems, orientation to the sun and geographic location. Other such tools abound: the designers of 4 Times Square calculated its energy consumption using a free package called DOE-2, developed by James J. Hirsch & Associates together with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, with funding from America's Department of Energy.

    Greener by design

    In the old days, says Mr Bernstein, assessing a building's environmental impact had to be done with spreadsheets, calculators and informed guessing, and three-dimensional modelling was primarily used to prepare presentations. But now the three-dimensional computer models are being used with sophisticated analytical tools. “We are getting to the next phase where you can analyse rather than simply represent,” he says. It is then possible to predict how much energy and water a building will consume, how much material will be needed, and other parameters that determine its LEED certification. All of this is old hat for the airline and automobile industries, where computer models have long been used to trim costs and streamline design before construction begins. Now the same technology is being applied by architects.

    Computers also make possible entirely new designs. 30 St Mary Axe, for example, could not have been built without a computer model to specify the exact shape of every one of its 5,500 glass panels, or to model the airflow in and around it. Similarly, computer modelling made possible the Avax office building completed in Athens, Greece, in 1998. It has sheaves of glass which open and close automatically, depending on the intensity and angle of the sun, to provide sunlight while preventing the building from overheating. The ventilation system in Pittsburgh's convention centre uses the natural “chimney effect” created by its sweeping roof to draw air through vents by the river below, cooling the building without using a single fan.

    This is more than a mere fad, or the use of technology for the sake of it, says Mr Bernstein. Green architecture will, he suggests, help to reshape the construction industry over the next five years, with ever more innovative, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings. “No one is doing this for fun,” he says. “There's too much at stake.”

  2. #2


    that tower is beautiful

  3. #3


    340 On the Park in Chicago is the first residential highrise in the city to be LEED Certified. It is a 62-story highrise. Construction actually began on this tower yesterday 02/28/05. It will top out at 640'.

    Last edited by BVictor1; March 2nd, 2005 at 01:02 AM.

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    Default Freedom Tower

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    New York City


    Special section in today's NY Times on Green Architecture:

    Putting Environmentalism on the Urban Map

    EFFICIENT The Solaire in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. Its green roofs cover much of its nonmechanical space, a requirement.

    Published: May 17, 2006

    YES, there are sweeping views of the Hudson River, 35 acres of parkland and waterfront promenades. But what gets James Cavanaugh especially jazzed about Battery Park City is the reclaimed toilet water, processed by a waste-treatment plant in the basement of an apartment building at 20 River Terrace.

    The plant is located in the base of the Solaire, the first residential high-rise building in New York City to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

    The Solaire, certified in 2004, is still the exception in the city; only recently have architects, developers and construction managers begun to integrate so-called sustainable design into their high-rise projects. But in Battery Park City, the Solaire has become the rule.

    By 2009, when all the available sites on its 92 acres will be developed, Battery Park City will have eight green residential buildings and a green Goldman Sachs headquarters. All these projects are expected to be certified gold — with three potentially rated platinum — under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ratings system.

    The LEED ratings were established by the Green Building Council to evaluate a building's efforts to use renewable materials, conserve energy and water consumption and enhance indoor air quality. This makes Battery Park City an experiment in creating an all-green neighborhood, which so far appears to be unmatched in the United States.

    "It's looking at the way an entire built community comes together — Battery Park City is visionary in that regard," said S. Richard Fedrizzi, president and chief executive of the Green Building Council, a coalition of building industry leaders who promote environmentally responsible — or sustainable — design. "It's a beacon for what communities all over the country and all over the world are doing."

    The greening of Battery Park City started in 1999, when the authority — a New York State public-benefit corporation — drafted its own green building guidelines, which require that every residence in the area meet strict sustainability criteria. (The guidelines for commercial properties followed in 2002.)

    Battery Park City is now insisting that developers retrofit their existing pre-guideline buildings to make them green, a process under way at the New York Mercantile Exchange's building.

    "We have the opportunity in Battery Park City — because our authority is in control — where we can make it a condition for all future development," said Gov. George E. Pataki, in a telephone interview.

    People have come from all over to learn from Battery Park City, including contingents from the Czech Republic, China and Korea. The authority recently made a presentation to the United States Conference of Mayors in Albuquerque and was part of an international green building challenge at the international Sustainable Building Conference in Oslo.

    "This is a movement that is taking hold and moving forward," said Timothy S. Carey, the former president and chief executive of the Battery Park City Authority.

    The visitors come not only because of the high concentration of green buildings there, but also because the authority's green guidelines are so stringent. In many cases, the guidelines exceed those of the Green Building Council. The buildings also have to be 30 percent more energy efficient than New York State building code demands for all types of construction.

    The authority requires photovoltaics, which capture heat from the sun and turn it into electricity. Green roofs are required for 75 percent of a building's nonmechanical roof area. All the parks are run organically, using horticultural soap instead of pesticides, and the ball fields feature waterless urinals and composting toilets.

    In evaluating developers' proposals, the authority gives almost as much weight to the environmental pitch as it does the financial. "We expect potential developers to go beyond our guidelines and do even better," Mr. Cavanaugh said. "We're not just looking for top dollar, but also sustainable design. The developers are really on notice. They've got to push the envelope every time we engage them to be as aggressive as they can."

    Mr. Carey said that at first the authority's board did not know what to make of the idea. "Some thought I meant green bricks."

    Mr. Pataki said the initial resistance among developers was also strong; some New York City developers still have not joined the bandwagon. "You really had to convince people that they weren't out of their minds to take this dramatic step," Mr. Pataki said.

    Russell C. Albanese, the president of the Albanese Organization, said he remembered being in a room with about a dozen other developers, listening to the requirements for the Solaire in 2000. "It was new for all of us," he said, adding, "It seemed to make sense as far as building for the future."

    Mr. Albanese developed the Solaire, completed in 2003, and now has two more projects in Battery Park City — one to be finished this year, another in 2008. Other developers building in the area are the Related Companies, Millennium Partners, the Sheldrake Organization and Goldman Sachs.

    Finding materials was more challenging six years ago than it is now. Battery Park City requires 35 percent certified wood in the buildings' interiors (wood that has been harvested sustainably). To meet this standard, Mr. Albanese said he had to marry a wood manufacturer in California with a cabinetmaker in Canada. He also had to find materials that would be environmentally acceptable but also aesthetically pleasing. Porcelain or ceramic tile, for example, "didn't meet marketing criteria," Mr. Albanese said. "It was environmentally O.K., but not what consumers would want."

    These kinds of materials have become more widely available these days. While chemical-free paint was once hard to find, it is now used by the average consumer. Products that were custom made for the Solaire — adhesives, appliances, enamels — are now sold at Home Depot.

    The cost of making things green has also dropped. Whereas 15 to 17 percent of the $120 million Solaire went toward sustainability, Mr. Albanese's next building, the Verdesian — also a rental — has an added green cost of 8 percent, the developer said.

    Still, the extra cost of building green is higher in Battery Park City than the national average, which is now believed to be around 2 to 5 percent, in part because of the authority's tough guidelines. But developers, in turn, can get higher rents and sales prices. Green apartments sell at an estimated 5 percent higher than market, Mr. Cavanaugh said. A 2005 survey of Battery Park City residents found that almost half said they would be willing to pay a premium to live in a building with green features.

    "Pretty soon there will be no more 'green buildings,' because all buildings will be green," said James F. Gill, the chairman of the Battery Park City Authority. "People are willing to pay up to live in a healthier environment."

    The air is filtered twice — outside the building and inside the apartment — humidified in the winter and dehumidified in the summer. "Nobody ever opens their windows," Mr. Cavanaugh said.

    In the Solaire, the tenants also save money, 50 to 60 percent of every air-conditioning bill, because the cooling source is centralized. Mr. Albanese said he was able to go beyond 35 percent energy efficiency using additional heat-recovery technologies. The building reuses heat exhausted by fans in the kitchens and bathrooms, which saves a lot on energy costs.

    The filtration plant in the Solaire treats all the water in the building as a large treatment plant would, with micro-organisms eating the waste. The building also has motion sensors in the corridors, where lights are dimmed by half from midnight to 6 a.m. When a door or an elevator opens during those hours, the lights go to full level.

    The Verdesian runs on a natural-gas microturbine that creates electricity, which helps power the building. The heat given off in this process is used to create the hot water. Mr. Albanese said this amounted to overall efficiency of 80 to 85 percent for the building. A typical power plant — which burns fossil fuels like oil, gas or coal — is about 30 percent efficient.

    Over the years, the authority has tightened its guidelines. Originally, 60 percent of all construction waste had to be recycled, for example. That requirement is now 80 percent. Buildings were first required to recycle gray water — from the laundry or shower — and reuse it for irrigation.

    Now all water must be recycled, including toilet — or "black" — water, which is reused for toilet flushing, air-conditioning, irrigation and central laundry. This has resulted in buildings that use about 50 percent less potable — drinking — water than standard buildings do.

    The authority has also toughened how it tracks construction. Now developers are required to educate their construction teams about why they are being asked to do things differently. Developers must demonstrate how they are meeting the green guidelines.

    After a project is done, developers must file annual reports that account for their energy and water savings.

    The green building movement is catching on in pockets nationwide. The Rose Smart Growth Investment Fund I, a real estate investment fund run by the developer Jonathan F. P. Rose, buys buildings and makes them green. Last month, the fund bought two buildings in downtown Seattle and planned to reduce their energy costs, operating expenses and improve the air quality for tenants.

    In October, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signed into law in New York City the Green City Buildings Act, which requires that nonresidential projects costing $2 million or more meet silver LEED standards. (Schools have to be only LEED certified.) Still, mandating green building remains an emerging concept.

    "I still haven't seen that commitment to using government authority to have an entire community," Mr. Pataki said. "There is still more to do to encourage governments to build these into their codes and standards, to encourage manufacturers to make materials and to encourage consumers to look for it."

  6. #6
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    UPDATE Last updated: July 17, 2006 10:26am

    Mixed-Use Three PNC Plaza Goes Green

    By Marita Thomas

    PITTSBURGH-PNC Financial Services has the final design for Three PNC Plaza promising “the nation’s largest mixed-use green building,” according to a statement, confirmed by Gary Saulson, PNC’s director of corporate real estate. The construction cost has risen by between $8 million and $9 million above the initial $170-million estimate, Saulson tells, “primarily to further upgrade the residential component and increase the number of hotel rooms from 158 to 185 rooms.”
    The changes, he says, “are based on demand. It’s our intent for this to be the high-end property in this market.” He expects to announce a major hotel operator soon. The 23-story, 752,000-sf building includes approximately 320,000 sf of office space, a 10-story hotel, and 30 residential condos on the top 10 floors, along with an underground garage to accommodate 330 vehicles and ground-floor retail/restaurant space.

    The locally based Reed Smith law firm has committed to 50% of the office space, and Saulson says PNC, which originally planned to take about 25% of the remaining office component, will now take more. “The office portion is essentially fully preleased,” he says.

    Tenants in the 13 buildings on the PNC-owned land where the new structure will rise have been relocated, according to Saulson. “In August, deconstruction of those buildings will begin.” The “deconstruction,” versus demolition, is in keeping with PNC’s environmental goals. Locally based Construction Junction will take the buildings apart piece by piece, retaining any useful parts for either recycling or resale. Saulson says PNC has used the same company on previous projects, “where it has utilized or recycled up to 90% of a building’s materials.”

    PNC will own the new building, which extends its existing campus on Fifth Avenue west to the end of Market Street. Locally based Oxford Development Co. is developing the structure on a fee basis. The designers are San Francisco-based Gensler architects and the locally based Astorino firm.

    PNC obtained a $30-million incentive package from the state, and the city, school district and county are providing tax incentive financing, which the owner will repay using approximately 60% of the estimated $1.2 million in new annual property tax generated by the project. As the overall costs rose, “the government contribution did not increase at all,” Saulson says. The opening is scheduled for late 2008.

    Copyright © 2006 ALM Properties, Inc.

  7. #7


    Developers Say They Can’t Build Green

    By: Matthew Schuerman
    Date: 4/9/2007

    Despite the hype about green roofs; despite the rampant branding of luxury residences with names like the Solaire and Tribeca Green; despite the cachet that once-repulsive ideas have now garnered (waterless urinals! recycled rainwater!), technologies that allow buildings to generate at least a portion of their own power in a clean, efficient way are having trouble catching on in Manhattan.

    And it is not the developers or tenants or architects who are standing in the way, but instead regulators and the utility company, which cite safety and technical concerns.

    In 2005, the city Department of Buildings essentially issued a moratorium against the installation of microturbines, which are minivan-sized generators that provide clean power and hot water in residential buildings. Several buildings around Manhattan that had been planned before the new rules took effect now have these metal boxes at the tops of the buildings, worth between $50,000 and $100,000, completely idle and offline.

    Meanwhile, another developer, Douglas Durst, has run into a different kind of resistance from Consolidated Edison while trying to install a much larger clean-power plant in his new office tower in midtown. He suspects that the utility cannot be too thrilled that he is trying to take away some of their business.

    “It is a frustrating situation,” said James Cavanaugh, the president of the Battery Park City Authority, a state agency that runs the landfill development on the Lower West Side, where three new apartment buildings are topped with microturbines that they cannot use. “This technology is acceptable in many other parts of the country and has been used in New York prior to this regulatory difficulty. These are very experienced and reputable developers. When you have companies such as Albanese, Related and Millennium standing behind technology, they do not do so lightly.”

    MICROTURBINES, WHICH ARE CONTAINED WITHIN metal boxes and could easily pass as just another heating/ventilation/air-conditioning component stuck on a roof, reduce pollution by burning natural gas rather than diesel to generate electricity; and they save energy by capturing the heat thrown off to warm the water that runs through a building’s hot-water system.

    The situation is particularly poignant for Battery Park City, a well-groomed 92-acre enclave close to Wall Street, whose owner, the Battery Park City Authority, requires developers to use green-building practices. In 2005, before the Department of Buildings took a position on microturbines, the authority adopted new guidelines that encouraged their use.

    Soon afterward, the authority found out that the city was instituting a more onerous procedure, in which the Fire Department would have to review the new specific make and model of any microturbine that would be installed in order to make sure that it did not pose a fire hazard. The Fire Department would not respond to requests for an interview, and it is unclear whether, to date, it has approved any models at all.

    By the time the rule came down, three developers had all planned for microturbines, Mr. Cavanaugh said. The generators are all sitting in the buildings, waiting to be hooked up, while the buildings use back-up systems instead. The 275-unit Tribeca Green, by the Related Companies, opened in 2005; the 250-unit Verdesian, by Albanese Development, debuted in 2006; and the 35-story Millennium Tower Residences, by Millennium Partners, started move-ins four months ago.

    Martin Dettling, vice president in charge of design and construction oversight at Albanese, said that “the timing could have been better” for the new regulations, although he supports the concept.

    “Originally, what we looked at was quite easily approvable, but then different manufacturers came out with different systems, so the city decided to take a close look at these and come up with regulations,” Mr. Dettling said. “I wish the process would go faster, but the most important part is safeguarding the public. That’s of paramount concern, and I believe it is a safe system and they will come to see that.”

    The Buildings Department recently considered an agreement that would specify which microturbines would be permissible at Battery Park City, according to authority spokeswoman Leticia Remauro, but “the Fire Department would not sign off on it.”

    A Buildings Department spokeswoman, Kate Lindquist, did not comment on the agreement, but said the department had convened a task force last year to come up with a rule governing all microturbines. The task force is still working on it and doesn’t expect to have it complete by the time the City Council votes on a major code revision this spring.

    “Microturbines are 15 to 20 years old. Our Building Code, which was written 40 years ago, does not address their use and installation,” Ms. Lindquist said in an e-mail. “The Task Force is working as quickly as it can to develop a new rule to speak to the safe installation of microturbines, not only in industrial, storage and high-hazard buildings but also in residential, commercial, educational and other occupancies.”

    The microturbines that fit at or near the top of these residential towers are rather modest. They are sized to provide the amount of hot water that a building would need rather than to cover electrical demand. Since apartment buildings don’t use that much hot water, the amount of power they produce is not great either: maybe 3 or 4 percent of the total power needed in a building.

    The specs given by one producer, Ingersoll Rand Industrial Technologies, sound impressive: The microturbines reduce carbon-dioxide emissions in a building by about 133 metric tons a year. That amount turns out to be the equivalent of getting just 20 cars off the road a year, which is about how many drive by on West Street in the blink of an eye.

    Still, it’s better than nothing.

    “The city has an enormous challenge in terms of providing its future electric supply,” said Mr. Cavanaugh. “It is even more important for the larger picture of what we do here in Battery Park City. We consider ourselves an incubator and a model to demonstrate technologies for use elsewhere.”

    Ashok Gupta, the director of the air and water program at the National Resources Defense Council, said that developers could eventually use larger microturbines to cover more of their buildings’ energy needs, and that the technology would have to play a role if the city intends to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent—the goal that Mayor Michael Bloomberg set in December when he outlined his sustainability initiative.

    “I think it is going to be playing a small part, but it’s a portfolio approach,” Mr. Gupta said. “Every little bit is going to help, but most of it is going to be coming from distributed generation, under which microturbines can be an important contributor.”

    THE COGNERATION PLANT THAT MR. DURST is installing at 1 Bryant Park, a 52-story office tower under construction at 42nd Street and Avenue of the Americas, however, is much larger. It will produce 5.4 megawatts of electricity—enough to cover 70 percent of the building’s power—and because other technology will allow the plant to cool the building as well as heat water, it will reduce emissions by 50 percent, according to Mr. Durst.

    “The resistance from Con Edison to these facilities is overwhelming,” he said at a recent energy panel for Mayor Bloomberg’s upcoming PlaNYC report on the city’s future. “And the reason they are resistant is that they get paid by people using their transmission lines—so when you build on-site generation, Con Edison is losing income.”

    Mr. Durst, who also installed fuel cells at 4 Times Square and microturbines at a West 57th Street apartment tower, the Helena (where they, like the ones in Battery Park City, are sitting unused), told The Observer in a follow-up interview that it took a year and a half to gain approval from Con Ed to use the cogeneration plant, but that he expects it will be operating when 1 Bryant Park, also called the Bank of America Tower, opens next year.

    He gave up on incorporating certain elements, such as designing the system to operate even after the electrical grid goes down, because it took Con Ed too long to approve it. But Mr. Durst acknowledged that the utility has become more willing to cooperate in conservation measures.

    “I think they are better now than they were in 2003,” he said. “The leadership has changed; I think just the basic awareness has grown.”

    Joe Petta, a spokesman for Con Ed, said the 1 Bryant Park cogeneration plant had several “technical issues that needed to be addressed in order for their project to safely and reliably interconnect with our system.” He also disputed the idea that the utility didn’t have an incentive to encourage conservation, saying that New York City is basically maxed out on available power produced by existing plants and is an expensive and politically difficult environment in which to build more.

    “We need to make significant investments in infrastructure, and we have an active program in demand-side management to slow demand growth and to keep usage down, which helps us defer infrastructure expenditures,” he told The Observer. “We have a targeted reduction of 675 megawatts. That offsets the need for a new power plant.”

    copyright © 2006 the new york observer, llc

  8. #8

    Exclamation Vidio about a GREEN building

    A web link and vidio about a "green" building in Battery Park City.

  9. #9
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    Con Ed is this city's own little evil empire (well, not so little but evil through and through).

  10. #10


    May 20, 2007

    Why Are They Greener Than We Are?

    Wijnanda Deroo for The New York Times
    The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision in the town of Hilversum.


    The headquarters of the federal environment agency in Dessau, Germany, occupies a low-slung building on the edge of an abandoned gasworks. Dessau, a center for munitions production during the war, was virtually obliterated by Allied bombs. Over the next 50 years, East German factories saturated the soil with chemical and industrial waste. Yet both the agency building and its location might be said to embody a new, ecologically sensitive Europe.

    Designed by a young Berlin-based firm, Sauerbruch Hutton, the building is touted as one of the most efficient in the world, but it doesn’t wear its sustainability on its sleeve. Four stories high, it wraps around a vast interior courtyard that is cooled and heated by a system of underground pipes. Vents in the glass roof allow hot air to escape, and an occasional breeze passes through the courtyard’s gardens. The sinuous wood structure is clad in horizontal bands of candy-colored, enameled glass panels, in shades of green, red and blue. The pattern, it turns out, is carefully tuned to the surrounding environment: the green reflects a nearby park; the red, the brick facades of an industrial shed; and the blue, the sky.

    After more than a decade of tightening guidelines, Europe has made green architecture an everyday reality. In Germany and the Netherlands especially, a new generation of architects has expanded the definition of sustainable design beyond solar panels and sod roofs. As Matthias Sauerbruch put it to me: “The eco-friendly projects you saw in the 1970s, with solar panels and recycled materials: they were so self-conscious. We call this Birkenstock architecture. Now we don’t need to do this anymore. The basic technology is all pretty accepted.”

    In the United States, architects cannot make the same claim with equal confidence. Despite the media attention showered on “green” issues, the federal government has yet to establish universal efficiency standards for buildings. Yet, according to some estimates, buildings consume nearly as much energy as industry and transportation combined. And the average building in the U.S. uses roughly a third more energy than its German counterpart.

    Americans did not always lag so far behind; much of our most celebrated architecture has had a green strain. Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler and Richard Neutra all sought to create a more fluid relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces, man and nature. At the height of the cold war, architect-engineers like Buckminster Fuller envisioned marshaling the immense resources of the American military-industrial complex to create a more ecologically balanced world. Fuller’s geodesic domes, which he hoped would one day house all humanity, were cheap and lightweight yet held up in extreme weather. They could also be erected in a matter of hours. In the late 1960s and ’70s, the Whole Earth Catalogue, with its D.I.Y. ethic and living-off-the-land know-how, encouraged a whole generation to dream of dropping off the grid.

    By the ’80s the green dream had faded somewhat. Faced with corporate and governmental clients who saw little financial benefit in investing in sustainable design, American architects often ignored ecological questions. The few who didn’t tended to focus on small-scale projects that could serve local populations: mud-brick construction in Arizona or rural shacks made of recycled materials in Alabama.

    In Europe, by contrast, where the E.U. and national governments often play a greater role in planning and regulating building, the effort to develop sustainable architecture gathered momentum. By the mid-90s, all new construction in Europe had to meet basic requirements in energy consumption, and many European architects began to make sustainability a central theme in their work. This was true of established architects like Norman Foster, whose 1997 Commerzbank in Frankfurt was conceived as a soaring high-tech glass-and-steel tower punctuated by open-air gardens. But it was especially true of younger European architects who were just beginning to practice their craft at that time and saw sustainability as a basic moral responsibility.

    Some of the early projects of this new, ecologically attuned generation had a wonderfully goofy, fairy-tale quality. There was Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till’s house, made of stacked sandbags and straw bales and topped with a meadow of wild strawberries. There was MVRDV’s Pig City, an imaginary project conceived as a grid of enormous concrete-slab towers, interspersed with stacks of lush gardens that looked as if they were suspended in midair. And there was the equally whimsical Minnaert Building, at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, by the Dutch firm of Willem Jan Neutelings and Michiel Riedijk, completed in 1997. Its cartoonish spray-on concrete facade is propped up on big metal letters that spell out the building’s name. Inside the cavernous main hall, tiny alcoves resembling monastic cells are embedded in the thick walls, each with its own space heater. Neutelings was inspired, he said, by the coal braziers that were once used to heat homes. Giant funnels cut out of the roof collect rainwater in a vast pond; in the summer, water is drawn from the pond into pipes in the ceiling, cooling the building.

    “We experimented a lot with darkness,” Neutelings said on his first trip back to the building since it opened in 1997. “We were interested in the contrast between light and dark rather than the idea of total transparency. And we played with the idea that you can have different climates in one building, which is a much healthier working environment.”

    This project was followed by another, a government tax office in Apeldoorn buried one story underground and covered by a vast reflecting pool. The surrounding subsoil — a dense mixture of sand and clay — stores heat in winter and cools the building in summer. The pool regulates the tax office’s internal temperature by absorbing excess warmth; usefully enough, it also serves as a security barrier.

    “They considered surrounding the complex with very high walls and barbed wire,” Neutelings said with a mixture of humor and disgust. “They were obsessed with security. So the reflecting pools act as a gigantic moat.”

    Few architects, Neutelings said, would design a building like the one in Apeldoorn today, not because sustainability has become a creative dead end but because a building no longer has to look “green” to be environmentally sensitive. “In the mid-90s clients were still very suspicious about strategies like this,” Neutelings’s partner, Michiel Riedijk, said. “Now the argument is set — there is no longer any need to prove that sustainability is important. We are technologically more advanced. So we are way more relaxed about how we express it.”

    The most stirring examples of this new attitude are often found in Europe’s industrial wastelands. Standing at the edge of Rotterdam’s abandoned piers, many of which will soon become sites for high-end housing, Neutelings proudly ticked off the city’s credentials as a capital of environmental waste: most of England’s industrial air pollution, he tells me, is carried here by the north winds. Historically, Germany’s industrial waste flowed down the Rhine to be deposited in Rotterdam’s harbor. “We are the main collecting point for all of Europe’s pollution, its garbage dump,” he said with a smile.

    Like many of his contemporaries, Neutelings doesn’t see this landscape as ugly. Nor does he see the creation of bold industrial forms and a sustainable environment as necessarily in conflict. Neutelings and Riedijk’s recently completed Shipping and Transport College, which rises at the edge of an aging industrial pier, looks perfectly at home. The building’s cantilevered top evokes a gigantic periscope; its corrugated metal skin brings to mind the stacked shipping containers still scattered around the port. The thick heavy walls retain heat and cold, while inside, the escalators are set to move slowly to conserve energy, their low hum mimicking the sound of nearby ships.

    UNStudio’s Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart also rises in the shadow of industry. Overlooking the company’s administrative offices and test track, its spiraling aluminum-clad exterior is seemingly built for speed. Inside, intertwining ramps that echo the elevated freeway outside lead from one floor to the next. The museum is a testament to how much green architecture has changed: its towering central atrium is both an architectural tour de force and a part of a sophisticated ventilation system. Rather than recycle used air, as buildings that depend on old air-conditioning systems do, the museum’s thick concrete walls store hot and cool air, which is then drawn into the atrium. Were the museum to catch fire, the atrium’s ventilation system would create a sort of mini-tornado to suck out the smoke.

    In a pastoral setting, the gorgeous cast-glass facade of Neutelings and Riedijk’s Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision masks an efficient ecological machine. Built to house the Dutch television and radio archives, the center’s galleries and offices are insulated from extreme weather by a facade of double glass panels. The archives themselves are buried in underground vaults — the surrounding earth is used to cool the warren of storage rooms. The building is split into two climatic zones, not just to save energy but to reinforce the experience of two different environments: the dark world of the underground vaults, which the architects dubbed the inferno, and the twinkling, light-filled world above.

    Neutelings was quick to note that a building’s efficiency should be measured not just by its mechanical systems but also by how much energy it uses over its lifetime. More energy is expended in a building’s construction than at any other stage, so a structure that lasts 100 years will use far less energy than one that lasts 5, no matter how efficient.

    “From this point of view the Pyramids are the most sustainable buildings in history,” he said.

    For now, the United States has no federal regulations that would guarantee a minimal level of sustainability in new construction — or spur an ecologically attuned approach to new architecture. The LEED guidelines, which were drawn up by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit group founded in 1993, are a voluntary program that is now more than a decade old. Even when they are adhered to — they’ve been adopted by a number of government agencies, most notably the General Services Administration, which oversees the construction of federal buildings — they still have little effect on the majority of commercial or residential construction. In most cases, the decision to make an efficient building still rests with the client.

    What’s more, the guidelines often lead to a constricted idea of what sustainability means. “In Europe the guidelines tend to have to do with broader organizational ideas,” Thom Mayne, the founder of the Los Angeles-based architectural firm Morphosis, told me. “Energy consumption, the organization of the workplace, urbanism — they’re all seen as interlinked. Here, the whole focus is on how to get these points. You just check them off: bike racks, high-efficiency air-conditioning units — it’s very narrow.”

    Stefan Behnisch, an architect who has long been considered a leader in sustainable research and has worked in both Europe and the United States, agrees. “The problem is that these ideas become clichés,” he says. “They don’t allow for anything interesting and new. They rule out real invention.”

    There are, nonetheless, some significant, innovative projects in the United Sates. Norman Foster’s new Hearst Tower in Manhattan has many of the sustainable features he began exploring in the Commerzbank in Frankfurt, like natural ventilation and high-performance glass that deflects heat. And the San Francisco Federal Building, completed this year by Morphosis, looks as if it could have been assembled in Germany: the building’s narrow width gives everyone access to natural light and ventilation, operable windows let in fresh air, elaborate shading devices filter sunlight. “In San Francisco,” Mayne told me, “we didn’t even bother to go after the LEED ranking because it doesn’t necessarily lead to the most efficient building.”

    But architects who choose to be inventive often find that the slightest deviation from the norm is fiercely resisted. Mayne relates how some federal workers at his San Francisco building mocked the idea of office-building windows that could be opened and closed, arguing that birds would nest on their desks while they were away over the weekend. Bloggers, meanwhile, claimed that some government bureaucrats had to wear sunglasses indoors because of the amount of natural light. Mayne countered that the shades have yet to be installed. To be sure, it is not just Americans who resist seeing a building as an integral part of the environment. Sauerbruch and his partner, Louisa Hutton, told me that workers at the environment agency in Dessau — long in the habit of toiling in sealed, air-conditioned buildings — often forget to close their windows when they leave the office. Apparently, many of them still find the effort a nuisance.

    Will America ever catch up with Europe’s impressive green record? Mark Wigley, the dean of Columbia’s graduate school of architecture, has noticed a sea change in how students here approach sustainability. Increasingly, he said, they see it as a central aspect of their work. “Today’s students are an entirely different species,” Wigley said. “They’re used to absorbing inputs from about 15 different directions at once. And they’re all interested in a radical ecological point of view.”

    At the same time, Wigley admits that architects cannot accomplish anything without willing clients. “My prediction is that if we have a change in America, it won’t be driven by politicians or architects but by the developers,” he said. “We’re at the moment where developers can gain a significant advantage if you reduce energy. For the first time you have clients who are willing to pay for this. So I think the one group we associate most with greed and inefficiency, it will lead the way in the future.”

    Nicolai Ouroussoff is the chief architecture critic for The New York Times.

    Photos by Wijnanda Deroo for The New York Times

    Neutelings and Riedijk’s Shipping and Transport College
    peers like a periscope over the port of Rotterdam.

    Neutelings and Riedijk’s Shipping and Transport College.

    Dessau’s Federal Environment Agency, built by
    Sauerbruch Hutton Architects, features candy-colored
    panels that reflect the surrounding environment.

    Neutelings and Riedijk’s Netherlands Institute for
    Sound and Vision is divided into two climatic zones five
    chilly underground floors of archives and the light-filled spaces above.

    The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany,
    built by UNStudio, shows that green architecture
    doesn’t have to look green.

    The Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

    Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

  11. #11


    Gotham Gazette
    October 15, 2007

    Cleaning Up New York’s Buildings

    By Jeremy Miller

    When Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited London earlier this month to talk with Mayor Ken Livingstone about that city’s congestion plan, he slept in his own bed in the 3,500 square-foot apartment he owns in London’s exclusive Cadogan Square neighborhood. He told reporters that in New York he lives simply and efficiently – in a 7,500 square foot Upper East Side townhouse. “I get my haircut two doors away,” Bloomberg told a reporter from the International Herald Tribune. “I never have to leave the neighborhood.”

    He can afford not to. But even staying home can take a toll on the environment – as the mayor’s own environmental plan makes clear.

    The streams of traffic crashing against the city’s various choke points may be New York’s most iconic image of waste and pollution. But, in fact, the city’s buildings – its defining physical elements – account for the bulk of the New York’s energy use and carbon emissions. The city’s 750,000 buildings – residential, commercial and government -- are responsible for nearly 80 percent, or 47 million metric tons, of New York City’s total carbon dioxide output. That’s the equivalent of 150 Empire State Buildings worth of greenhouse gas being pumped annually into the atmosphere – hanging heavily over its economy, landscape and environment.

    Buildings in the city’s commercial sector, alone, which includes offices and retail space, kick out 25 percent of all emissions (transportation, by contrast, accounts for 23 percent).

    Despite this, Bloomberg’s ambitious PlaNYC2030 is largely silent on reducing pollution from buildings other than those built or owned by the city. It says virtually nothing about commercial buildings. Can New York City expect to meet its goal of reducing overall emissions by 30 percent by 2030 if it does not move aggressively – like London – to encourage and, in certain cases, impose efficiency standards on commercial property, one of its largest polluting sectors? Or will the combination of market forces and moral responsibility prove powerful enough to bring the city’s business leaders in line with the city’s push for sustainability?

    Polluting Buildings

    Though the world’s largest cities account for 2 percent of land area, they generate 75 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. Despite that, New York already fares well on some measures of efficiency and sustainability. PlaNYC acknowledges as much. “Our density, apartment buildings and reliance on mass transit means we are one of the most carbon-efficient cities in the United States,” the plan states. “New Yorkers produce 71 percent less carbon dioxide per capita than the average American.” (Carbon dioxide emissions are the key cause of global warming.)

    To take a page from Bloomberg’s playbook we can look at London and its sprawling metropolitan area with a mélange of aging and new buildings and a population of 7.5 million. There, buildings account for an almost identical proportion of energy use, according to a statement by London deputy mayor Nicky Gavron.

    The two cities not only have similar demographics and man-made environments, they have recently begun reckoning with their obligation to make those built environments more sustainable. Two months before Bloomberg and his Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability rolled out PlaNYC 2030, London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone released his own 148-page report called the Climate Change Action Plan. The two documents are strikingly similar in approach and have been applauded by environmental and business leaders alike. Each plan outlines key sources of energy use and carbon emissions and presents an array of policy proposals for each of the cities as they reckon with a future marked by increasing populations, rising costs of living and warming temperatures.

    Yet there is at least one conspicuous – and significant – difference between the London and New York reports. The London plan devotes a full section to commercial and institutional buildings – analyzing in minute detail their energy use, recommending ways to improve efficiency and outlining various regulatory measures intended to force the commercial sector’s hand. New York City’s report, however, has no such section.

    Bloomberg’s report does offer an exciting yet jarring portrait of New York City two decades from now: an influx of a million people, the creation of 750,000 new jobs, the construction of 265,000 new housing units and 60 million square feet (more than four former World Trade Centers) of new commercial space. Despite the new construction, existing buildings will account for 85 percent of the buildings standing in New York City in 2030, according to deputy mayor for economic development Dan Doctoroff.

    Buildings pollute in a number of ways. Most building pollution, however, does not emanate from the residences and offices themselves but the smokestack of a power plant when a light switch, computer monitor or coffee maker is switched on. Various emissions are also generated on-site from natural gas and oil-burning boilers, gas stoves and hot water heaters and the gasses released in the breakdown of certain building materials such as paint and insulation.

    To address this, plaNYC calls for making the buildings we already have more efficient. “If we’re concerned about energy efficiency and carbon we need to start with buildings that have the largest carbon footprints,” said Rohit Aggarwala, director of the city's Long Term Planning and Sustainability. “As a city I’d like to see us prioritize those retrofits and projects that have the biggest bang for the buck.”

    Improving What We Have

    The Diversity Houses

    Reducing energy use and carbon emissions is architect Chris Benedict’s goal as well. Benedict, who has headed her own firm since 1996 and teaches environmental technology at the Parsons School of Design, has a number of rehabilitation projects, including one at a residential building on West 126th Street in Harlem. Benedict says she is achieving energy savings in the range of 50 percent in her renovations and that her new buildings are achieving a rate of efficiency 80 percent greater than “average” buildings. And she says she’s doing it at no extra cost.

    On a recent morning she is running a plastic cylinder into small boreholes made in the walls, extracting insulation and testing its density on a small digital scale. This lets her make sure that the amount of insulation blown into the walls is adequate for maximum efficiency – not the kind of work you typically find an architect engaged in, let alone early on a Saturday morning. But it’s the “magic” that makes efficiency happen, says Benedict.

    Her prescriptions are elegantly simple – but require care in execution. Efficient buildings, she says, must be carefully designed to make sure air moves efficiently throughout. The key in this small apartment is making it airtight except in places where drafts are wanted – in this case, through trickle valves (small one-way vents activated by fans) installed in the high-performance windows. The fans push hot air out, allowing it to be replaced by cool air streaming in through the vents. In order for the system to work properly, a “bubble” must be established: All joints and cracks throughout the apartment must be meticulously sealed. The apartment’s efficient heating system relies on multiple thermostats that are able to regulate temperature room-by-room.

    Other “simple” prescriptions include high efficiency appliances and green building materials such as recycled cellulose insulation and dimmers. Benedict says that for this reason it’s vital that work be carried out to the standards set forth in her plans. “We make the contractors working on our projects sign off that they will commit to following the plans exactly,” says Benedict. “If they don’t, none of this works.”

    As reasonable as many of these improvements appear, the stark economics facing the city’s residents could limit the use of such improvements and make it difficult for the city to achieve further gains in residential efficiency. In 2004, more than 45 percent of renters – accounting for roughly a third of all households in the city – paid over 30 percent of their income toward housing. The price of real estate continues to gallop away from wages. While the average house price sits at $550,000 (in Manhattan, the average is $1.3 million) the average income hovers around $40,000. Such statistics paint a gloomy picture – one of strapped renters and homeowners with little free cash to invest in efficiency upgrades.

    Projects such as the well-known luxury apartment building, the Solaire, which boasts photovoltaic cells and a green roof garden and where three-bedroom apartments are pushing $5,000 a month, inevitably raise the issue of whether efficiency can be affordable. Benedict says that there is no reason why it can't be.

    And builders seem to be catching on. A number of efficient projects intended for low- and moderate-income families are popping up around the city. These include Via Verde in the South Bronx, the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Complex in Brooklyn and the Diversity Houses on East 2nd and 3rd Streets in Manhattan (another one of Benedict’s projects).

    The administration hopes that projects such as these will encourage others. PlaNYC, though, does not set specific rules for increased efficiency in New York City’s homes and apartments.

    Efficiency in Government

    For its own buildings, though, the city has made some headway in promoting wide-scale building efficiency. With the recent passage of Green Buildings Act (in .pdf), the city’s code now sets more stringent efficiency guidelines for municipal buildings. For example, capital projects costing (with the exception of schools, which are held to less rigorous standards) $30 million or more must reduce energy consumption by at least 25 percent. According to Aggarwala, next summer the city will introduce even more energy efficient measures for city buildings. He also says the Department of Buildings has stepped up enforcement of the state energy code to ensure that developers do not cut corners during construction.

    The Hearst Building

    Aggarwala said, by 2015, he would like to see rules requiring all buildings over 100,000 square feet to have an energy audit. This would provide the city an overview on the performance of all its buildings, he says. But little has been done to force the commercial sector to adopt the stringent building codes embodied in the Green Buildings Act. “Our plan is less prescriptive than London’s. We don’t have the authority to regulate, say, what kinds of computers are used in the city,” he said.

    The commercial sector has made some eye-popping gestures toward efficiency. New projects like the Hearst Tower, 1 Bryant Park and the new New York Times Building in Midtown jut skyward with massive dimensions – and promises. The 600-foot tall Hearst Tower boasts energy-saving measures such as high efficiency heating and cooling, motion sensors that regulate power usage and “Icefall,” a three-story waterfall driven by “harvested” rainwater, which helps humidify and cool the building’s open atrium. In all, its cutting edge features will reportedly make the building 22 percent more efficient than other office buildings.

    Still, 22 percent is a far cry from Benedict’s 80 percent. Moreover, that figure does not factor in the energy costs of demolition, site clearing and rebuilding, which one Canadian study found required more than two and half times as much energy as rehabilitating an existing building.

    Some developers have tried rehabilitating office space, though such projects are fairly unusual. In the 1990s, the National Audubon Society renovated the Schermerhorn Building in lower Broadway to create an energy efficient and generally environmentally friendly headquarters for the organization.

    Audubon, of course, is a non-profit. For big corporations, new high-profile projects seem to be the preferred way to go – if they consider sustainability at all.

    “There are some visionary, innovative and hopefully high performing commercial buildings going up here and there,” said Nancy Anderson, executive director of the Sallan Foundation, a non-profit that looks at urban sustainability. However, Anderson said a large number of buildings erected during New York City’s decade-long construction boom do not meet the highest efficiency standards. “We’re not going to where we have to go to in terms of our carbon dioxide reduction goals with a building here and there. We need to quickly achieve a scale – of many large numbers of buildings plus new buildings and renovations.”

    Cheap Energy and Lots of It

    Along with the many technical obstacles to increased efficiency in commercial buildings lies a more fundamental issue: economics. Even though energy is as costly as it has ever been, it is still cheap when compared with the other costs associated with building operations in New York City.

    “In our region, commercial building utility costs typically run at $3 to $5 a square foot. Overall operating costs in New York City run in the area of $30 to $50 a square foot. And rents in Midtown Manhattan are pushing $100 a square foot,” says Michael Bobker, a senior fellow at the CUNY Institute of Urban Systems. “So there you can see where energy fits into the overall economics of operating a building.”

    Chris Benedict

    Bobker, who is currently working with companies to develop environmentally friendly vision statements and integrated efficiency training programs, said, though, that there is reason to be optimistic. He sees movement for efficiency at the highest levels of the city’s commercial establishment. It is spurred, he said, more by ideology than money.

    “We’ve had price drivers for a long time and that hasn’t really driven the message the way we’re seeing it happening in the marketplace today,” says Bobker. “What’s different is that people are aware now that energy use is linked to climate change – and that’s what’s driving executives. It’s no longer just an economic issue. It’s an ethical issue.”

    How far does that concern go? In business, the bottom line will always be ideology number one. Companies will balk at environmental regulations if they impose excessive construction costs, said Stephen Hammer, director of Columbia University’s Urban Energy Project. “Businesses say, New York City is already 25 percent more expensive than across the river and in Westchester. If you’re going to make us do all these extra things, construction costs are going to go up, and we’re going to leave.“

    That kind of thinking is outmoded, said Hammer, because energy efficiency is vital to a firm’s long-term competitiveness in a global marketplace. What’s more, it can be profitable. London, Hammer said, shows us that environmental mandates can actually spur economic growth. In spite of Mayor Ken Livingstone’s uncompromising approach to efficiency mandates, London’s economy has grown steadily since his election in 2000. One prestigious magazine (albeit an English one), The Economist, has gone so far as to declare London the world’s new financial capital.

    A tough love approach on efficiency, said Hammer, might be just what New York’s private sector needs to see the potential long-term savings of green building. “[London’s] businesses are finding that they can do this stuff without breaking the bank,” said Hammer. “In fact, they’re going beyond the mandates and finding that there’s economic reason to do it – that the return is good on efficiency.”

    Jeremy Miller is a New Jersey-based freelance writer, who writes about people, science and the environment. His most recent work has appeared in The Boston Globe and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.

  12. #12


    When to Shout ‘Eco-Friendly’

    By C. J. HUGHES
    Published: April 27, 2008

    BUY any magazine this week at one of 35 New York newsstands and the cashier will throw in the latest issue of O2, whose 64 pages include articles and splashy photos.

    BFC Partners/Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
    The Toren, rising in Brooklyn, is finding that green ads clinch deals.

    If the title doesn’t ring a bell, don’t fret. The publication is a thinly disguised marketing gimmick to sell units in Riverhouse, at 1 Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City, by publicizing its environmental features — geothermal wells, solar panels and the like.

    It’s also the latest, and perhaps brashest, attempt yet to sell apartments by emphasizing energy efficiency.

    Just a few years ago, many developers putting up eco-friendly high-rises shied away from trumpeting their green features. They were convinced that the majority of buyers associated that type of construction with lower-quality design or a lack of comfort, according to developers, brokers and architects.

    But today, developers seem more than confident that buyers’ tastes have changed. Green features still don’t translate into higher asking prices — despite the fact that they can add 5 percent to high-rise construction costs — yet they’re increasingly helping to close deals, people in the industry say.

    Buyers can still get glazed eyes when told how, for instance, construction waste will be recycled, said James Lansill, the senior managing director of Corcoran Sunshine Marketing and the creative force behind O2, who spent $100,000 generating its 85,000 copies.

    “But if you distill the green story to the elements in their personal space,” like clean air, “it’s much more compelling,” said Mr. Lansill, adding that the current and previous issues of O2 helped sell 10 Riverhouse condos.

    Riverhouse’s 268 units — from 750-square-foot one-bedrooms to 2,450-square-foot four-bedrooms, priced from $900,000 to $6.5 million — are 70 percent sold since September 2006, he said.

    “There’s no question green adds a competitive advantage,” said Donald Capoccia, the managing principal of BFC Partners in Manhattan.

    His company’s Toren, an aluminum-and-glass tower rising at 150 Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn, is aiming for gold LEED certification, under an environmental-design rating system devised by the Green Building Council.

    Gold is second only to platinum in the system; LEED is an acronym for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

    Toren’s artful 55-page sales brochure explains how power will be supplied by five on-site 100-kilowatt generators.

    Its units range from 450-square-foot studios to 1,970-square-foot three-bedrooms, priced from $320,000 to $1.695 million; 15 of 240 have sold since sales began this month, Mr. Capoccia said.

    Of course, not all developers are convinced that buyers really care about LEED ratings — and in such cases, even if a building has green plans, its developers may not publicize them.

    Alf Naman, a co-developer of HL23 in Chelsea, put it this way: “Buyers are first concerned about price and layout and finishes and location.”

    Like Toren, HL23 is shooting for LEED gold. But that ambition is barely evident from its Web site (; it cites more conventional features. The building has 11 two- and three-bedrooms, priced from $2.65 million to $11.5 million, Mr. Naman said. Sales began this month; none have yet sold.

    In general, said Murray Levi, a principal of Manhattan-based LiRo Architects and Planners who is often consulted on LEED projects, the hype about going green is a good thing. It may persuade future developers that they won’t be able to sell apartments unless they’re friendlier on the environment. “There’s a wonderful confluence of good policy becoming good business,” Mr. Levi said.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  13. #13


    One of my companies projects, Poly Prep Lower School in park slope is the first NY school to be LEED approved.

  14. #14

    Default Green Building Award Winners Named

    September 24, 2008, 5:44 pm

    Green Building Award Winners Named

    By Tina Kelley

    The Visionaire apartment building, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, was recognized for its environmentally sensitive features.

    The hotel of tomorrow takes 112 cars off the road, uses all its rainwater, and tells you how much energy you’re using during your visit. The condominium of tomorrow has 100 percent fresh air ventilation and is built with at least 20 percent of its building materials made within 500 miles.

    Tomorrow’s park maintenance building is geothermally heated and cooled.
    And tomorrow came a bit closer today, as the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability chose winners in their third Green Building competition.

    “In our city, more carbon is emitted from buildings than cars,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “That’s why green design – and events like the Green Building Competition – are so important to our efforts to build a greener, greater New York City.”

    The contest, which was also held in 2004 and 2006, honored the following winners [pdf]:

    The interior of the Battery Park City Conservancy’s maintenance facility, designed by Dattner Architects, shared the grand prize.

    Grand prize: The combined project of the Battery Park Conservancy’s maintenance facility, designed by Dattner Architects, and the Visionaire condominium building, designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. The maintenance facility is on the first floor of the Visionaire, which is rising amid Second and Third Place and Battery Place and Little West Street in Manhattan. The seven judges, who included architecture experts from the public and private sectors, found the buildings “embody sustainable design while exuding a gracious aesthetic.” Each company won $4,000.
    Winners: The Bowery Hotel (250 Bowery Street), designed by Flank Inc. Architects; and West Harlem Environmental Action’s center (to be built at 459 West 140th Street), designed by AQC Architects PC. Each company won $2,000.

    Honorable mentions: The Hearst Tower (300 West 57th Street), designed by Foster+Partners, with a tower design that used 2,000 fewer tons of steel than traditional designs, and has a rooftop rain collection system that feeds the atrium’s waterfall, which keeps the lobby cool. The other honorable mention was won by a condominium at 1347 Bristow Street in the Bronx, designed by the Community Environmental Center.

    Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

  15. #15
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Far West Village, NYC


    National Geographic has a story on green roofs in its latest issue:

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