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Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park graphic: what's built/what's coming + FAQ (pinned post)

As new attention paid to building energy efficiency, a perplexingly low (and possibly costly) score for 550 Vanderbilt, but higher grades for affordable buildings

As the Commercial Observer reported 4/20/21, New York City’s Building Emissions Law Awaits Next Mayor’s Muscle, a law passed in 2019 will eventually have some consequences:
Under the rule, Mayor de Blasio’s administration has targeted buildings of at least 25,000 square feet with carbon caps beginning in 2024. Building owners will have to pay $268 for each metric ton their site’s carbon footprint exceeds the limit each year.

The key to lowering emissions will be how quickly owners can electrify their buildings to provide heat and hot water. That could involve changing steam radiators over time to electric heat pumps that plug into a grid.
That seemingly relates mainly to older buildings, as architect and political candidate Lou Céspedes recently wrote, and tweeted, suggesting it could lead to a stall in repairs and then renovation-caused evictions. 

At 550 Vanderbilt, a low rating

But, as Barbara Rogers responded, the 550 Vanderbilt condo has a notably low energy efficiency rating: D, or 21.

Drilling down on 550 Vanderiblt

Note: I don't know if that rating automatically translates into increased operating costs for the building, or any future retrofit. But it seems quite low, especially for an expensive new building.

I don't know if the score has been contested, or if there are steps being taken to improve the score. That's because my query on these issues was met with a "no comment" by Greenland Forest City Partners, which developed the building and, as far as I know, controls the condo board via its appointees.

LEED Silver ratings, but...

Interestingly, all four Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park towers---B2 (461 Dean)B3 (38 Sixth)B11 (550 Vanderbilt)B14 (535 Carlton)--have been certified as LEED Silver, which is the second-lowest (of four) green building ratings from the U.S. Green Building Council: Certified, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, and LEED projects earn points across nine basic areas, including indoor environmental quality, innovation, material & resources, sustaintable sites, and energy & atmosphere. 

Note that, with B11--as shown at right--the latter category gets 6 of 17 possible points, which might be a hint regarding the low city rating. 

Then again, B14 gets only 3 of 17 possible points in that category, yet gets an A grade from the city, with an 88 rating, as shown below.

Indeed, the four Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park buildings vary enormously in their energy efficiency grades from the city. The other building with market-rate units, 461 Dean, is also a D, albeit with a score of 46. 

And the two "100% affordable" buildings have higher grades. 535 Carlton is rated A, with a score of 88, while 38 Sixth is rated B, with a score of 74. See screenshots below.

Grades for other Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park buildings

What's next

Beyond building retrofits, the Commercial Observer noted that various proposals have been made for compliance, including carbon trading between buildings, as well as tax offsets and grants.

A 2/25/20 column in Forbes, What New Energy-Efficiency Grades Mean For NYC Real Estate Investors, notes that the "cost of building a LEED-certified building did not significantly differ from that of a traditionally constructed building within the same category."

This engineering consultant explains that the ENERGY STAR score of the building, which ranges from 1 to 100, is calculated from the building performance data, and that energy efficiency measures boost the score. A low grade could affect the ability to attract residential or commercial tenants, the consultant suggests, because a low grade could suggest higher gas and electricity bills.


  1. Anonymous7:54 AM

    Tying heat & hot water supply to the electrical grid may be efficient but it has drawbacks: in a blackout, folks would lose heat and possibly water depending on the building's pumping system. That can be deadly in the winter, as we saw this past year in Texas. The risk of tenant displacement is high. Too bad they are not looking at analyzing buildings individually, to optimize efficiency thru window replacement, LED lighting & motion detected lighting, and rooftop solar grids. Installing individual thermostats fir each unit in a building would make a huge difference.


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