Yes, I am well aware this is New York City where almost everything is “luxury” or at least priced like it. But when we touch upon issues like climate change, air quality, healthier living and economic disparity, for New York to have a sustainable future, the “luxury” of green building cannot be limited to high end residential developments and Class A office buildings.

The difficulties of building new construction lower income housing are well documented. Government and private sector intentions are good. Land and labor costs are astronomical. Rents continue to rise while incomes fail to keep pace. But lower income shouldn’t mean that the massive benefits of lower energy, better air quality, lower utilities costs, enhanced health and the creation of a greater sense of community, deserves no attention.

Mayor De Blasio has called for 2000,000 new or preserved units just for the poor and middle class in his first term.

Brooklyn may now be the center of the hip universe but, even so, Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn and Greenpoint will be where 75% of the 3,069 newly constructed affordable units will be located according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

But let’s look at The Bronx where Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. is currently overseeing the Bronx program funded with $2.5 million to retrofit apartment buildings with 50 or more units. These retrofits will bring direct energy savings to those most in need, help avert future rent increases, improve conditions and fuel economic activity.

In the past decade, the Bronx has been committed to leading the way in development of affordable multifamily green housing. Consider Arbor House, state-of-the-art, affordable green housing located at 770 East 166th Street. The project’s cost of $37.7 million was a part of Mayor Bloomberg’s Housing Marketplace Plan, a multibillion dollar effort to finance 165,000 affordable housing units for half a million New Yorkers by the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

Among Arbor House’s green features are direct drive elevators that use considerably less horsepower than conventional elevators; Energy Star LED and CFL fixtures; Energy Star kitchen appliances; and nest “learning” programmable thermostats with occupancy sensors. But its most visible and imaginative green amenity is a 10,000 SF fully integrated rooftop farm. Using water harvested from the roof, the garden provides fresh vegetables to building residents and the community. It’s inspirational urban farming.

Via Verde/The Green Way in the Bronx is the winning response to the New Housing New York Legacy Competition, providing 151 low-income rental apartments and 71 middle-income co-ops.

Given the crime rates throughout the area’s history, the South Bronx may be a tough neighborhood to live in, but developments such as Via Verde are helping residents build a healthier, safer community. The most substantial improvement made with the construction of Via Verde compared to most buildings in the Bronx is its LEED certification Gold rating.

All progress often starts with a simple concept. In the case of affordable green building, those concepts include not only reduced living costs, but also the opportunity to use housing as a stimulus for healthier, safer, more community-involved living that will contribute to the multi-cultural diversity that defines our city.

Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C
President, Metropolitan Valuation Services