Taking the LEED

The Solaire

The Solaire leads the pack towards sustainability

When it comes to the concrete jungle, sustainability and green spaces are far from mind, but since the early 2000s, a demand for more sustainable buildings has been on the rise—and with it, America’s first LEED-certified residential building.

The Solaire, a 27-story apartment building in Battery Park City, uses 35 percent less energy than required by New York State energy codes and includes features such as occupancy sensor systems for both lighting and climate control. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, the high-rise is providing a green culture that has set new standards with New York building agencies and showcases the importance of re-commissioning to fine-tune efficiency in the city.

The project, which broke ground in 2002, was designed to meet USGBC LEED Gold requirements using strategies such as a wastewater treatment plant; photovoltaics; efficient heating, ventilation, and cooling systems; efficient windows and walls; efficient lighting and controls; and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Energy Star appliances in all units.

While most believe sustainability and green energy to be interchangeable, sustainability encompasses more than energy efficiency. For the team that designed The Solaire, finding a balance between energy efficiency with other aspects of sustainability was of the utmost importance.

For example, reducing the amount of fresh air changes and leaving the water treatment system out of the design would have lowered the overall consumption of energy, but at the expense of air quality and water conservation goals. Therefore, the design team had to make smart choices to stay on track with LEED certification goals and provide a high-quality living space for residents of The Solaire.

For the 700 residents of The Solaire, green and sustainable living drew them to living in America’s first environmentally responsible residential tower, but the move didn’t come without a little education. The Solaire design team has supplemented sustainability goals with resident education on the benefits and daily components of sustainability, and behavior that reinforces operation protocols. As a result, tenants are informed on the building’s benefits and can live out a healthy and sustainable lifestyle on a day-to-day basis.

In 2008, energy consumption by residents at The Solaire measured 24 percent less than New York State code in comparison to other residential buildings that measured at the same square footage and height.

While The Solaire boasts many factors that go into the highest regard of green and sustainable living, it doesn’t detract from the luxury appeal. The building features an extensive communal rooftop garden that overlooks the Hudson with a wide variety of plants, intermixed with natural recliners and tables for relaxing. But unlike other rooftops in the city, the rooftop garden at The Solaire incorporates a storm water retention system for water conservation. The building treats and reuses its own water for use in toilets and its cooling tower, which reduces the use of potable water by 38 percent, while the rooftop garden reduces storm water runoff by 50 percent.

In addition, the building offers a full suite of dedicated services, such as a 24-hour concierge, resident-only communication system BuildingLink, maid and valet services, maintenance, car service reservations, green-dry cleaning, dog walking, and a fitness center.

Wood and bamboo paneling were used for cabinetry in apartments and are sustainably harvested and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. With high-quality sustainable details and energy efficient planning, The Solaire has set the standard for development of residential buildings in the city.

While the building was the first residential tower to attain a Gold LEED rating, it was also selected as an AIA Top Ten Green Project for 2004, was one of the first buildings to receive funding under the New York State Green Building Tax Credit, and was also chosen by the United States Department of Energy to represent the U.S. in the 2002 Green Building Challenge, an international conference on sustainable technology.

But development of The Solaire has started a wildfire of sustainable buildings in the now-green-friendly concrete jungle. Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects completed The Solaire and went on to design both the Visionaire and Verdesian, while The Durst Organization created a green-block comprising the Helena 57 West, VIA 57 West, and FRANK 57 West. Many more sustainable buildings are in the works.

With refined guidelines allowing building owners to earn tax credits associated with the design and construction of green buildings, it is likely that we will continue to see an influx of green in an otherwise concrete city.

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