Going To Town(houses): Checking In On Manhattan’s First LEED Gold Townhouse and Williamsburg’s Passive House 1

Can you find the passive-house townhouse in this picture? That’s Brooklyn’s Passive House 1, and it’s kind of a big deal.

174 Grand Street gbnyc passive house

We’re not necessarily biased towards bigness here at gbNYC. Constitutionally, it’s actually quite the opposite, in my case — I’m not writing about a giant LEED-certified mall in the Bronx because I feel like the Bronx was sorely lacking when it comes to giant LEED-certified mall. (Also, I’m only writing about New Domino because my therapist said I need to work on more productive outlets for my aggression) But while I’m personally partial to small changes in the way we build and human-scale development, this is New York City, which means big green commercial projects (like 11 Times Square) and big green residential projects (like Toren) and big ambitious rock-salt sheds and retrofits and so on. If you can make it here you can presumably make it anywhere, but you’re generally going to make it pretty big. For scale, for starters. This is all kind of a long way of saying that it’s easy to see how we might miss out on the smaller-scale green townhomes being developed throughout NYC, even though they’re eminently worthy of a gbNYC mention. So let’s get to work on that.

If there’s one townhouse development in Brooklyn that people have been talking about recently, it’s honestly probably this bizarre whimsical checkerboard/Lego-motif one in Bushwick. But if there are two Brooklyn townhouses on the city’s lips, the second would be Passive House 1 at 174 Grand Street in Williamsburg, a (yes) passive development by Brooklyn architecture firm Loadingdock5. Curbed covered 174 Grand recently, in that weird and peculiarly Curbed way that’s somehow so knowing that a reader doesn’t actually know what’s going on in the post. Luckily, the good people at Loadingdock5 have an informative blog that covers the goings-on at Passive House 1 and the firm’s other projects. This is good news for those of us — for short, we’ll use the word “dorks” — who want to check out 174 Grand Street’s exterior insulation and read about Loadingdock5′s struggles with thermal bridge issues. It’s a pretty interesting project, all told, and would be the first new building in New York City to meet the ambitious and rigorous Passiv Haus standards. I would hope that this goes without saying, but despite the skepticism I expressed about passive houses a couple weeks ago, Passive House 1 sounds like a pretty awesome project, and one well worth applauding. It’s also right near Iona, which is a pretty nice bar and also, in its way, worth applauding.

The LEED Gold-hopeful townhouse development by Teddy Schiff’s Oyster Capital Group is a good deal more down-the-middle than Passive House 1, but that’s to be expected — Passive House 1 is down the street from the cradle of electroclash (never forget) and Schiff’s development is on East 82nd Street in Manhattan. Schiff doesn’t come off especially well in Maya Pope-Chappell’s Wall Street Journal feature on the development — try this on: “The goal of the project was to not only build a sustainable home, but to build an aesthetically pleasing one that attracts luxury Manhattan families,” said Mr. Schiff. “I didn’t want to build this green, left wing home that less people want to buy.” Which is just really interesting to parse at a number of levels, but “luxury Manhattan families” by itself is just about as wince-inducing a phrase as I can think of right now.

Real estate developers are seldom as appealing as the things they build, of course, and the East 82nd Street townhouse — which Stephen covered when it was still in its infancy — is pretty admirable. Yes, it has an elevator and a wine cellar and a bunch of elements designed to appeal to, um, luxury Manhattan families, but there’s also a lot of very impressive high-end green building stuff going on here — beaucoup recycled materials, radiant floors, rooftop garden, thermal envelop and the like. Proof, again, that small can not only be beautiful, but is worth covering here at gbNYC. But maybe we can agree never to say “luxury Manhattan families” again? Because a “luxury person” is not a concept I’m eager to tackle.

About David Roth

Since September of 2009, David Roth has served as the Managing Editor of gbNYC. David lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with his wife, and is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New Republic and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications. You can contact David at droth11@gmail.com.

about gbNYC

gbNYC is a multi-disciplinary consulting and real estate services firm. In addition to representing office tenants and commercial buyers in leasing and acquisitions, we also provide innovative consulting solutions from a unique, green building perspective. We advise on green building financial incentives, comment on proposed green building marketing strategies, author white papers, treatises, and market analyses, organize seminars on the LEED process and professional accreditation, and provide advice and analysis on green building risk management and the overall state of green real estate, leasing, and construction, in New York City and beyond.

Our blog, the gbNYC+ journal of real estate, law, + sustainability, delivers consistent, original content - from a New York City perspective - on how technology, data, and sustainability are changing how we interact with our built environment. Subscribe below and receive new articles as they're published or connect with our social media presence to join our ongoing conversation about real estate and sustainability, in the Big Apple and beyond. Contact us at (201) 835-8530 or info@gbNYC.com for more information about our services and to discuss how we can assist you.

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