There’s no reason why Connecticut’s cities shouldn’t have numerous green buildings — as with some of New Jersey’s faded cities, Connecticut’s urban housing stock both reflects those cities’ lost grandeur and suggests all kind of encouraging adaptive reuse projects. Of course, like New Jersey’s cities, Connecticut’s cities are in many cases pretty far gone — there are people who remember a time when Bridgeport was less like Bartertown from Mad Max and more like a nice place to live, but it’s doubtful that they still live in Bridgeport. It takes consumer demand to get those green construction projects going, though, and that’s an area where your Bridgeports (and Hartfords and so on) are currently somewhat lacking. There are green successes to build upon — Hartford has a bunch and a green-minded mayor in Eddie Perez — and the state has a moderately progressive government and even an indispensable green blog of its own in BuildingCTGreen. But green residential projects are tricky, risky and not coincidentally scarce, in the Nutmeg State.
All the more reason, then, to applaud the arrival on the scene of 360 State Street, a LEED Platinum luxury rental building in New Haven that is the state’s first LEED Platinum residential building. It helps that there’s a pretty reliable demand for high-end green rentals in New Haven — the presence of a major academic institution helps with that — but everyone behind 360 State Street deserves a round of applause for getting this far ((that is, open and 20 percent rented). Fairfield-based Becker + Becker deserves credit for designing and developing an impressively green building and the Multi-Employer Property Trust deserves credit for backing a green residential project while its competitors cling to outdated/plain-wrong investment criteria in their real estate developments and stiff cities with projects like New Domino as a result. Whether 360 State Street will succeed on the terms that matter to Becker + Becker and MEPT — that is, by generating a solid return on investment — remains to be seen. But as a green showpiece building, the $190 million, 32-story mixed-use tower is already a pretty smashing success.
I’ve spilled a lot of virtual ink mocking point-obsessed LEED Brain-style green buildings — ones that would stick a solar panel or a wind turbine on something just to give residents a chance to show it off at a cocktail party. But your author is as susceptible to temporary LEED Brain fugue states as the next guy, and 360 State Street’s lengthy list of green building features begs for that open-mouthed salute — from the half-acre green roof (I know, I know, but I think they’re great) to the high-efficiency lighting (with occupancy sensors, naturally) to the sophisticated multifaceted submetering system to the on-site 400-kilowatt fuel cell, the biggest in any residential building in the world, it’s a daunting collection. The usual goofy LEED point-getters are in effect, too — bike racks and the all-important electric car charging station (you know, for your electric car) — but there’s more going on here than LEED point-hoarding. Starting with its dead-center location, 360 State Street is green in ways that go beyond low-VOC finishes. “Directly across from the State Street Metro North train station, a half-mile from the Union Station Metro North station — and with a Zipcar sharing program in the parking garage — [360 State] is a transit-oriented residential development designed for those eager to have cars handy but minimize their use,” BuildingCTGreen blogs. “New Haven Green is one block to the west, and Yale University, Yale New Haven Hospital and other downtown employers are within easy walking distance — as are hundreds of restaurants, shops, galleries, museums and clubs.”
And that is more or less exactly the way you do it. The fine-grained submetering — through a web-based dashboard designed by The Lucid Group — empowers residents, which is cool. But the NYC-style passive efficiency embodied by the building being an easy walk from just about everything is arguably an even greener (and notably low-tech) aspect. Even if the apartments for rent didn’t look pretty sweet (they do), 360 State Street would qualify for Green Building Rock Star status. That the apartments actually do look pretty nice — and come with all the usual luxury rental amenities — should help 360 State Street qualify for a label that doubtless means more to the developers than all the gbNYC bouquets and LEED certifications combined: successful investment. We’re pulling for it.