Structural advantages

More developers embrace eco-friendly buildings

Martin Daks//April 15, 2019//

Structural advantages

More developers embrace eco-friendly buildings

Martin Daks//April 15, 2019//

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Rendering of Kearny Point. (HUGO NEU CORP.)


When Hugo Neu Corp. Chief Executive Officer Wendy Neu discusses the $1 billion redevelopment of Kearny Point —a 130-acre former shipyard in Kearny — she points to attractions like the million-square-foot business center’s variety of workspace configurations. She also points to its easy accessibility “from anywhere within the New York metropolitan area,” less than five miles to Jersey City, Newark, Hoboken and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. But for Neu, Kearny Point also symbolizes the way that sustainable growth can be baked into a project’s DNA .

“Every aspect of the project’s revitalization will seek maximum reliance on renewable energy sources, high-efficiency building systems, and green infrastructure measures,” she said. “Environmental and social benefits are the main drivers in Kearny Point’s push for sustainability, but green initiatives offer other incredible incentives for real estate owners and businesses, as well. It’s also critical for developments to demonstrate environmental and social responsibility to attract forward-thinking tenants with similar values.”

Plans for the development include green roofs — a vegetative layer in a specially-designed soil that promotes absorption and retention of stormwater — and blue roofs, which feature drain inlets and other controls that promote temporary ponding and gradual release of stormwater. The site also features detention basins, advanced stormwater filtration systems, and bioswales, or landscaping features used to slow, collect, infiltrate, and filter stormwater.

Making an impact

“The removal of more than six acres of impervious asphalt surface to date is estimated to reduce 1.5 million gallons of runoff per year, and the eight engineered bioswales — totaling approximately 17,000 square feet of planted area and draining over two acres of impervious area — will eliminate an estimated 500,000 gallons of run-off each year,” Neu added. “Plans for the development, situated at the confluence of the Hackensack and Passaic Rivers, also include the reintroduction of native beneficial plantings that promote biodiversity and the restoration of the fragile estuary ecosystem along the Hackensack River’s edge. Specifically, a softened, restored river shoreline and wetlands will include vegetative buffers, organic materials and oyster beds to support estuary fish and wildlife while preventing erosion.”

“Every aspect of the project’s revitalization will seek maximum reliance on renewable energy sources, high-efficiency building systems, and green infrastructure measures.”

-Wendy Neu, Hugo Neu Corp. CEO

Additionally, “energy efficient renewables like PV solar panels and wind turbines will generate up to 4.5 megawatts of onsite renewable energy and develop baseline greenhouse gas impact analysis and commit to onsite greenhouse gas offsets,” according to Neu.

Kearny Point is also pursuing WELL Community Standard pilot and Well Core & Shell certifications, which are awarded based on environmental health, behavioral factors, health outcomes and demographic risk factors in building design, construction, and management, she noted. “The International WELL Building Institute is the leading advocate in workplace well-being, employing best-practices to benefit workers, support human health and help companies succeed,” said Neu. Today, one Kearny Point employee is WELL AP certified, with a second employee currently in the process of obtaining certification.”

An increasing number of developers who want to want to give their projects an edge in the marketplace are adding sustainable components to their projects, according to Wayne DeFeo, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

“A manufacturer at a recent [New Jersey Manufacturing Extension Program] conference spoke about the concept of the ‘triple bottom line: people, planet, profits,’” said DeFeo. “Sustainable buildings that are designed around the triple bottom line can help builders boost their returns.”

Buildings and communities constructed to LEED specifications — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a USGBC certification system — “deliver savings because they’re more energy efficient and they improve the health and productivity of the people who work within them,” DeFeo added. “For example, for decades buildings were designed to be sealed up to conserve energy. But that also reduced the flow of fresh air, and more people became ill as a result. But a LEED-certified building will deliver fresh air and at the same time use an average of 30% less energy than a building that’s just designed to code.”

Long-term savings

There’s a perception that building to LEED will add to construction costs, “but it won’t necessarily amount to a lot, especially if it’s incorporated from Day One in the design,” said DeFeo. “Certification may add a bit, and the HVAC and lighting might be a bit more, but in the long you save on energy and productivity.”

Rendering of The Duchess in North Bergen. (POST BROTHERS)

Builders like Post Brothers get it. The company moved into the New Jersey market with The Duchess, an upscale 320-unit North Bergen rental that features a water terrace deck with heated lounge pool and hot tub, and a rooftop with private terraces, open-air lounges and private cabanas.

“All facets of The Duchess—from foundation to faucet—are eco-efficient and environmentally responsible,” according to Post Brothers co-founder and CEO Mike Pestronk. “We started with a high-efficiency building envelope and insulation,  and added reflective, thermally insulated roofs, floor-to-ceiling high-efficiency windows in every residence, carbon-free heating & cooling systems and state-of-the-art appliances designed to save energy and water.”

The multifamily building “was designed with sustainable living in mind,” he added, noting that the floor-to-ceiling windows are filled with argon gas and heat block coatings for high performance energy savings.

In addition to carbon-free heating and cooling systems, units include Energy Star appliances, and LED light bulbs throughout the building. “We took special care to ensure that the appliance packages in each home were energy efficient, from the dishwashers to the washing machines, all the way down to the plumbing,” according to Pestronk. “When all is said and done, 50 million pounds of CO2 emissions per year are saved through these energy-saving systems at The Duchess — that’s equivalent to taking 4,000 cars off the road.”

Besides fulfilling the developer’s personal commitment to the environment, “We’ve found that the green components of The Duchess speaks to a growing demand from millennials and other socially conscious renters for a product that was built responsibly,” he added. “Our residents know that they’re contributing to the overall well-being of their environment while keeping their own energy costs low.”