Friday Reading: Green Dreams in Midtown East, Rise of the Prefab High-Rise, NYC’s Huge A/C Bill

It’s Friday! It’s Reading! It’s the possibility of open space on the East River, a prefab high-rise, and the perils of badly installed air-conditioners! (Admittedly, the first part is most exciting)

It’s Friday, and as either Rebecca Black or Bob Dylan once wrote, you’ve got to get down on Friday. Or… I don’t know, you can do whatever you’d like, honestly. Personally, I have to catch a MetroNorth train. And so for that reason — and because some stories inevitably fall through the cracks — we give you the most recent installment of gbNYC Friday Reading.

  • Trump-afflicted, vertical, and a little on the character-deficient side, Midtown East is nevertheless a decent enough place to live. But what it lacks — besides, you know, all the other things that it lacks — is, and long has been, green space. Factor in Midtown East’s sizable (and hugely underutilized) East River waterfront, though, and you can perhaps see a solution to this problem. You can also see a fanciful/speculative solution to this problem in the image above. But while we’re still some ways from actually enjoying the esplanade above, DNAInfo’s Amy Zimmer reports that, after years of false starts, Midtown East may finally be getting a little bit of open space to call its own. “Plans are inching forward to open the area along the East River from East 38th Street to East 60th Street, where the FDR Drive and the United Nations have blocked residents’ access to the waterfront,” Zimmer writes. “Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s long-term waterfront plan, Vision 2020, called for significant improvements to this greenway gap… Rep. Carolyn Maloney secured $475,000 in federal funding from the Surface Transportation Program and state funding from the Department of Environmental Conservation for a feasibility study of the engineering, design, landscaping and other planning related to the new esplanade for her East Side district.”
  • Prefab buildings occupy a strange space on the green building scene. On one hand, prefab green buildings are vaunted — quite reasonably — as a possible game-changer in the way that people live. On the other, they’re currently in use, at least in the United States, primarily as boutique demonstration-building type structures. Cool ones, admittedly, but ones that seem to function more as showcase examples of how graceful prefab green building can be, as opposed to practical, projectible examples of what it could and will be. In Fast Company, Ariel Schwartz discusses the new (and LEED Silver-certified) prefab high-rises being developed by Seattle-based Sustainable Living Innovations. Once again, they’re still in the showcase stage. But it’s a technology that could conceivably change skylines in the not-too-distant future. “This is the kind of thing that could revolutionize the building market–one day,” Schwartz writes. “First, SLI has to work out the tiny detail of getting its high-rise steel prefabs adapted to existing building codes; no small feat considering that no one really anticipated this kind of thing happening. SLI is confident it can make its designs compliant. Until then, the group can use its design to build structures up to six stories tall, and it is already in talks to build a dozen projects in the U.S.”
  • Air conditioning: we can’t live without it, and during a few months of the year, we really can’t live without it. Yes, air-conditioning is a carbon-belching, energy-guzzling technology — although the new wave of EnergyStar air conditioners are a quantum leap, efficiency-wise, from the rattling, sedan-sized units many of us grew up with — but it’s also one that few of us are willing to trade away. But as a new report by the indispensable Urban Green Council indicates, the real efficiency-hit from air conditioners — at least in New York, where they’re only necessary a couple months out of the year — occurs when they’re not in use. And it’s a pretty costly problem, at that. “The report, titled “There Are Holes in Our City’s Walls,” estimates that poorly fitted air-conditioners cost buildings in New York City $130 million to $180 million a year in extra fuel consumption, which in turn is linked to an extra 375,000 to 525,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions,” Mireya Navarro writes in the New York Times. “And while the heat loss matters more in areas with long winters like the Northeast, Mr. Unger said, cool air also leaks out when the units are in use in hot weather, resulting in higher electricity costs.”

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.

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