To look at it, there’s nothing especially impressive about 375 Hudson Street — you’ve got your glassy stuff and a faintly unconventional shape, but for the most part it’s tough to argue that 375 Hudson Street is anything but a not-that-distinguished 23-year-old office building. And it is inarguably that, on the outside. On the inside, though, the 1,076,614-square-foot office space is now one of New York City’s greenest places to work, thanks to a top-to-bottom green retrofit by Tishman Speyer. Late last week, while your author was floating around on a lake and drinking beers, 375 Hudson Street was officially awarded LEED Gold and Energy Star honors. The news surprisingly didn’t filter up to New Hampshire’s Ossipee Lakes region, but it was nice to come home to. That’s both because it’s exciting to watch the green retrofit business deliver on its promise and because of 375 Hudson’s potential as an object lesson to the city’s massive stock of unremarkable office building. If this resoundingly middling, 1980s-looking 19-story office tower can become a green icon, just about any building could.
How did Tishman Speyer do this? More or less the way you’d expect — by implementing a bunch of very simple, demonstrably effective green building practices building-wide. “Changes and upgrades at the 23-year-old building include improved heat exchangers to improve efficiency, replacing original restroom fixtures to reduce annual water consumption by 1 million gallons, and installing variable frequency drives on the cooling tower fans that reduce electricity consumption by 110,000 kilowatt-hours per year,” James Comtois writes in Crain’s. “The building has also adopted an expanded recycling program that encompasses batteries, electronic waste and construction debris in addition to office paper and waste. It has also implemented the state’s ‘Green Cleaning’ policy, under which it exclusively uses sustainable cleaning and janitorial paper supplies.” There’s more fine-grained detail in Tishman Speyer’s press release, but longtime gbNYC readers — or anyone who follows green building in New York City or elsewhere — will be familiar with what’s above. This is common-sense stuff, not a revolutionary leap forward. It’s low-flow fixtures and improving fixtures, not slapping on some solar panels and hoisting a wind turbine. It is, in short, a basic green retrofit — one that happens to grade very highly in terms of LEED points and the sort of building performance metrics Energy Star measures, but not one that would be beyond the reach of most Manhattan office buildings. Which, in a way, is what makes it most extraordinary.
Transforming this mostly meh commercial tower into a green showpiece has earned Tishman Speyer some good pub — which it turns out they deserve, since the sustainability of 375 Hudson Street is not a one-off deal — and makes big-ticket tenants such as Saatchi & Saatchi, Turner Construction and Penguin Books look good, besides saving tons on building management costs. Those are all good things, but they’re that much more encouraging for how easily replicated both the process and the results are. There’s a lot to admire about the work Tishman Speyer did at 375 Hudson Street, but as cool as all the improved HVAC and Saatchi’s little rooftop garden (turn the tide!) are, the most impressive thing is that this resoundingly average building is now making everyone associated with it look that much better, and saving everyone money. What happened at 375 Hudson is a smashing success, but it’s also really nothing more than a pretty down-the-middle retrofit done well. It’s tough to imagine a better advertisement for green commercial retrofits than that.