In 1999, when The Durst Organization’s4 Times Square was completed, if theword “green” came up at all in New YorkCity’s commercial real estate world, it wouldhave referred to the color being painted onthe walls.

What a difference only eight years havemade. The Big Apple has become the BigGreen Apple, and the roots laid down by 4Times Square have branched out to include11 Times Square, the Goldman Sachs Buildingin Battery Park City, 7World Trade Center, theHearst Tower, the Freedom Tower, The NewYork Times headquarters and the Bank ofAmerica Tower at One Bryant Park.

“New York City is a hotbed of greenbuilding, and it would be an exception for anew building not to be green,” says DanKaplan, senior principal with FXFOWLE.”The residential sector is lagging behindcommercial a bit because it’s much tougherto sell the concept to clients.”

The greening has grown so quickly not somuch because of legislation like Local Law86, which requires some municipal buildingsto have at least a silver Leadership inEnergy and Environmental Design or LEEDrating, but because developers—and moreimportantly, their clients—realize that it is asocially responsible choice that benefitseveryone. “It’s gotten much easier to buildgreen,” says Dan Tishman, president ofTishman Realty & Construction Co. Inc.,which as the construction manager of 4Times Square was the first green builder inManhattan. “It’s not more expensivebecause there are more products and contractorsand subcontractors used to it. Andbecause there is LEED certification, thegreenness is acknowledged.”

Serge Appel, senior associate at Cook + FoxArchitects, which is working with Durst on TheBank of America Tower, says that the bottomline is that “green features cost 1%to 2%more,a very small number, and almost all the featureshave four- to five-year payback period.”

As systems get more energy-efficient andtechnologically sophisticated, it may, asTishman says, be easier to build green, butthat doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges.Indeed, as more developers go for thegreen, the bar keeps being raised, with Silverand Gold LEED certifications becoming socommonplace that Platinum, which Bank ofAmerica is the first office tower to aim for, ison the fast track to becoming the standard.And with so many developers applying, thereis a backlog at the US Green BuildingCouncil that is further delaying certification.

The LEED system itself, which awards onepoint per green feature, is one of the chiefhurdles in the process. It is, says DouglasDurst, co-president of The DurstOrganization, “difficult, time-consumingand expensive, but I haven’t thought of abetter way of doing it.”

There is a learning curve to LEED, Appelsays, that “requires writing specifications differentlyand a lot of paperwork.” His firmhires consultants to do the extra work.

And it requires careful planning because”you have to identify the technologies youwant to institute right from the beginning,”says Tishman. “You say, ‘I’m going to put inphotovoltaics on the roof, and they will produce”X” amount of energy, and this has to offsetother energy demands and then you have todemonstrate that it does to get the point. Soyou have to build in more points just to be certain,and they all carry a cost and you have tobalance the benefit against the costs.”

And, until the end of the game, it’s also abit of a gamble: Certification isn’t given untilthe project is completed. “I know of nonethat have gone for it and not gotten a rating,”Tishman says. “But I have known some thatwent for gold and didn’t get it.”

Despite the rating system’s shortcomings,says Kaplan, “it’s good because it gets themethodology out there.”

As the concept of green has become moreaccepted and sophisticated, interior andexterior spaces are both being planned soresources are combined and put into oneoverall energy-efficient, aesthetically pleasingpackage. “At 4 Times Square, most of thegreen innovation was in the mechanical gutsof the building,” says Kaplan, a co-architectof The New York Times building. “Now, weare looking more carefully at the office spaceitself. The issues include the control of daylightwith shades and glazing and using themto offset artificial light. This is excitingbecause 40% of an office’s total energy loadcomes from the lights, making them thebiggest single user of energy.”

He points out that The New York Timesbuilding will have automated window shadesthat are activated by sensors that raise andlower them electronically to reduce glare andadmit the correct amount of illumination. “On this scale, this system has not been used in NewYork City,” he says.

The challenge of the new green projects is tomake the architecture itself a vital green componentinstead of merely a shell to house a myriadof green features.

The New York Times Building and 11 TimesSquare, for instance, each will feature exteriorshading elements integrated into their design. Onthe Times building, tubes in front of floor-to-ceilingglass form a blind that cuts glare and heat. “Theyfloat in front of the set-back windows,” Kaplan says.”In the vision zone of the window, there are norods to interrupt your view out. They create shadowswithin the building and bounce energy backout into the environment.” At 11 Times Square,FXFOWLE turned glass into an architectural elementby using a sheer-glass curtainwall and silkglasspanels to create a visually stunning compositionof sculptural forms, with the south-facing glassshaded from the heat and glare of the sun.

Another important structural feature, the raisedfloor, traditionally a space to run wire and cable,is becoming higher on the green scale. “The nextstep up the ladder is to put the AC distributionthere, which is what we are doing at the Times,”Kaplan says. “This system distributes cooling airat a temperature much closer to the comfortzone, and everybody can have his or her own littlediffuser to adjust the temperature like a car airconditioner, and the cost of the modification isabout 1/3 of overhead ductwork.”

Despite all the innovations, experts agree thatthere still is much work to be done in the greenfield. New York City has an edge because thebiggest projects are still being done by the oldestplayers—real estate families who are willing tobear the extra costs because they have made along-term commitment to their buildings.

“We are greener than most other places becauseof our public transportation system,” says DeborahTaylor, New York City’s Department of Buildings’executive director of special projects. “We areamong a very small handful that have legislated Citybuildings to be green. But it will still take us five to10 years to be totally green.”

Ultimately, Tishman says, the future of green restsin the movement’s not resting on its laurels. “Theworst thing that could happen is if today’s standardbecame standard and remained the standard for thenext 20 years. The technology we have today seemsreally great, but we have to keep reinventing it.”

As its record has shown, The Durst Organization,for one, is up for the challenge. “There will be moregreen features in buildings in the future,” Durst says.”We are the leader in this field and will continue tobe the leader.”

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