Beyond the Build


Start Spreading the News: Even an Existing New York Building Can Go Green

I’m sure you’ve heard the industry’s excitement about LEED certified construction. Once considered more ideology than practicality, we’re realizing that green building can actually be more cost effective than traditional methods. The trend is catching on, and it’s not just private companies who’ve embraced sustainability. In 2006, government agencies began requiring all new buildings meet certain LEED certification thresholds. This translates to a huge emerging market for our industry.

But what about major cities, where construction is land-locked? Retrofitting and remodeling become essential since structures are already standing. The prime example? New York City.

The Hearst Tower, home to publishing company Hearst Corporation, shows the trend in action. Completed in 2006, it became the first occupied commercial building in NYC to achieve a LEED “Gold Rating.”

Norman Foster of Foster + Partners designed the Tower to be constructed over and around an existing 6-story building. The new entry plaza houses the entire shell of that base, which was erected in 1928. Truly a marriage of old and new, the Tower was constructed from recycled steel, and uses 26 percent less energy than conventional NYC buildings.

Sustainable features include:

  • Rainwater collection on the roof to replace water lost in air conditioning system and reduce sewer deposits
  • A 2-story “Icefall” in the atrium area uses chilled collected rainwater to cool the vast area in summer and humidify in winter
  • Coated glass to reduce solar radiation and cooling load
  • Sensor-controlled artificial light based on amount of natural light available
  • Walls coated with low vapor paints
  • Low toxicity furniture, furnishings and carpeting constructed from sustainable or recycled materials
  • Concrete surfaces treated with low toxicity sealants

I think the words of Old Blue Eyes sum it up perfectly: “I’ll make a brand new start of it, in old New York; If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” If Foster + Partners can make LEED Gold happen in midtown Manhattan, we can do it anywhere.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.