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Cover Story - November 2008

Living LEED

Battery Park City Teeming With LEED-Certified High Rises

By Tom Nicholson

From the time it was conceived as an urban experiment four decades ago, Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City has been at the forefront of new possibilities, and today the Lower Manhattan district is home to more eco-friendly residential towers than anywhere in the world.

There are five LEED-certified residential towers either completed or under way, says Jim Cavanaugh, president of Battery Park City Authority, which instituted environmental guidelines in 2000 for construction in the district. “It’s a green neighborhood,” Cavanaugh says. “We’ve demonstrated that it can work.”

The Albanese Organization's Visionaire (third from right) was Battery Park City's first LEED Platinum high-rise. (Image courtesy of Albanese Organization.)
The Albanese Organization's Visionaire (third from right) was Battery Park City's first LEED Platinum high-rise. (Image courtesy of Albanese Organization.)

During the 1960s the lofty vision to expand the bank of the Hudson River and add nearly 100 acres of land to Lower Manhattan was a pie-in-the-sky idea. It took two decades and much forward thinking by officials, developers and architects to make the concept a reality.

About 1.2 million cu yds of fill were dumped into the river where piers once stood, creating a 92-acre district. The first residential building was constructed there in 1980.

Now, as ground has been broken for construction on the last remaining undeveloped parcels in the district, Battery Park City contains 9.3 million sq ft of commercial space, 7.2 million sq ft of housing, 52 shops, 35 acres of parks, 22 restaurants, 20 works of public art, three public schools, two hotels, a marina, a 1.2-mi esplanade, three major museums and nearly 10,000 residents, according to BPCA.

“Most New Yorkers are not aware that the green towers in Battery Park City are the most environmentally advanced in the world,” says Christopher Daly, president of New York-based Sheldrake Organization. BPCA’s stringent environmental guidelines for residential and commercial construction require developers to adhere to building and design requirements intended to create “environmentally responsible residential buildings that are appreciably ahead of current standards and practices.”

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The guidelines require that structures in the district be designed to the highest standards of green technology. The guidelines for residential construction stipulate that buildings receive at least 5% of electric power from solar cells and must have in-house black water and gray water treatment facilities.

A new school being built at 55 Battery Place will be the most energy efficient school in the city. (Image courtesy of Dattner Architects.)
A new school being built at 55 Battery Place will be the most energy efficient school in the city. (Image courtesy of Dattner Architects.)

Under the guidelines developers must utilize “cutting-edge green technologies,” Cavanaugh says. “We are consistently pushing the envelope,” he adds. In 2003, the 27-story, 293-unit Solaire, the nation's first sustainable high-rise residential building, opened in Battery Park City. The building, which gardered LEED gold certification, is outfitted with solar panels and a waste-water treatment plant in the basement. It uses 35% less energy and consumes 50% less potable water than typical high-rise residential buildings.

“The Solaire set the standard,” Cavanaugh says.

BPCA’s environmental guidelines “provided a good framework, which made it easier to set green goals,” says Russell Albanese, president of Garden City, NY-based Albanese Organization, owner of the Solaire. Two other Albanese towers in the district, the Visionaire and the Verdesian, each earned LEED platinum.

The Solaire was Albanese’s first foray into green construction. BPCA “helped us reach our goals by assisting in navigating the city agencies and the approval process,” Albanese says.

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  • In 2005, New York-based The Related Cos. completed TriBeCa Green, a 274-unit rental building at 325 North End Ave., which received LEED gold certification.

    New York-based Millennium Partners is at work on a 236-unit condominium project at Little West Street that is on track for LEED gold. Sheldrake Organization is building a 320-unit green condominium tower called Riverhouse on track for LEED platinum.

    And New York-based Milstein Properties has two green towers with a total of 421 units under way on North End Avenue, which will attain LEED gold, Cavanaugh says.

    Buildings like the Visionaire have helped usher in now-common features such as landscaped grounds and rooftop gardens.
    Buildings like the Visionaire have helped usher in now-common features such as landscaped grounds and rooftop gardens.

    “What has been satisfying is seeing developers take their green experience in Battery Park City and expand upon it,” Cavanaugh adds. “Solaire was Albanese’s first green project, but through the process of building the Solaire, the firm became invested in green and is now one of the most committed.”

    The city’s School Construction Authority and BPCA are constructing a new school at 55 Battery Place to accommodate the residential influx in the neighborhood. The school will boast the most advanced green features of any school in the city, Cavanaugh says.

    “The most prominent feature of the school is the photovoltaic array,” says Daniel Hueberger, principal at New York-based Dattner Architects. Funded by the BPCA, the 7,000-sq.-ft., 50-kW voltaic array will reduce the school’s energy consumption by 20%, Hueberger says.

    The school will be fitted out with a host of green technologies such as CO2 sensors and automated light dimmers in classrooms. “This is an experimental school, a test for future schools” to be built to requirements outlined in the newly instituted New York City Green Schools Guide, Hueberger says.

    Sheldrake’s Riverhouse, a 32-story, 320-unit condominium tower at one River Terrace, is expected to receive LEED platinum when fully completed later this year, and 75% of the units are sold, says Monique Roeder, Sheldrake director of marketing.

    “Summer is typically a slow time for sales, but in Battery Park City sales consistently hold up,” Roeder adds. Buyers and tenants flock to Battery Park City’s riverside views, but increasingly “they are well informed about green and we’re finding more that come to Battery Park City because it’s ecofriendly,” she says.

    The school project represents that last vacant lot in Battery Park City and “is the end of new construction in Battery Park City,” Cavanaugh says.

    The goal now is to devise guidelines to retrofit the several buildings in the district that were built prior to the implementation of environmental guidelines in 2000, he adds.

     

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