New York City's concrete jungle gets green buildings

New York City's concrete jungle gets green buildings

by Staci Giordullo

The townhomes located at the corner of Nevins and Pacific streets in Boerum Hill are rising like a phoenix out of the ashes. Abandoned for more than 20 years after a fire gutted the building, developers Emily Fisher and Rolf Grimsted of R&E Brooklyn Inc. knew they were up for the challenge of turning this former 1920s-era pharmacy, which also served as a laundromat and deli, into something beneficial for the neighborhood.

"We're preserving what was there by melding historical details with green construction," Grimsted says. "We wanted the homes to fit in and also be an example of something new and refreshing."

Staying true to neighborhood authenticity was one of many goals. The 6,400-square-foot building required a fair amount of deconstruction, but nearly 50 percent of the waste was recycled.

The back-to-back condos, one at 93 Nevins St. and the other at 453 Pacific St., will each feature more than 100 green amenities, including bamboo flooring, expanding soy-based insulation, Energy Star appliances, solar panels and a garage that's outfitted for a hybrid car. Each condo is projected to be 30 percent more energy efficient than other homes in the neighborhood.

The Brooklyn Health House, as the project is collectively called, is in the process of being certified LEED gold. They are also the first housing units in New York City to receive the Health House designation from the American Lung Association, whose goal is to improve the health standards of indoor environments.

Each townhouse includes three bedrooms and two and a half baths. Fisher - who also serves as the realtor - has confidence in the selling power of these environment-friendly condos. "We're going to list them each between $2.6 and $2.8 million, which is just slightly higher than the rest of the neighborhood," she says.

Project manager Rich Feldmann of GreenStreet Construction says the interest in green building has increased. Six residences in New York City are LEED certified and 34 projects statewide have registered to go through the process. "It will grow, especially as the procedures get more streamlined," Feldmann says. "In New York City, around 90 percent of LEED projects are going to be renovations of existing buildings. That's just our market."

Feldmann says going for LEED certification adds a small premium - around 3 to 5 percent - to construction costs. "One of the issues is measurable performance," he says. "You can't force a green system into a building that's not equipped to handle it."

To help those interested in upgrading to green standards, the New York Energy Smart Loan Fund program is offering an interest rate reduction on loans for certain energy efficient improvements. Through July 2009, residential borrowers can qualify for reduced interest rates on loans pre-qualified by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

"[Green builders] all have a similar view on this," Feldmann says. "If you can build things right for the same price, why would you build them wrong?"

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