The Green Way Lays Path for the Future

Event: An Evening with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and its Deputy Commissioner Holly Leicht
Speaker: Holly Leicht — Deputy Commissioner, NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development; Adam Weinstein — President, Phipps Houses (Co-developer); Paul Freitag — Development Studio Director, Jonathan Rose Companies (co-developer); William Stein, FAIA — Principal, Dattner Architects (affordable housing studio); Robert Garneau, AIA — Grimshaw Architects
Organizer: Center for Architecture
Sponsor: Kramer Levin

Via Verde.

Phipps Rose Dattner Grimshaw, courtesy

Via Verde is entering its final working drawing phase. Since the competition-winning team of Phipps Rose Dattner Grimshaw was announced in January 2007 by competition hosts AIANY and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) with NYSERDA and the Enterprise Foundation, zoning changes have been approved, the design has developed, and it is now going for LEED Gold certification.

With a combination of sustainable and community oriented high-, mid-, and low-rise units (to be both owned and rented), the project may not be an exact prototype for future development, but it will hopefully be a model for smaller developments, said Paul Freitag, the development studio director for Jonathan Rose Companies. Sited near the NYC Housing Authority, Melrose Commons, the commercial center known as The Hub, and other retail development, the site presents distinct opportunities and challenges. According to William Stein, FAIA, principal at Dattner Architects, Via Verde can be described in organic terms. He compared it to tendrils that spiral from a high tower to the north, to the lower gardens to the south, and continue out to the neighborhood beyond.

The triangular site provides southern exposure, ideal for solar access. Terraced green roofs provide everything from orchards, vegetable gardens, and passive recreation, to non-accessible green areas to control storm water and mitigate the heat island effect on the horizontal fields. The vertical planes accommodate photovoltaic cells on panels that will produce 2.5% of the building’s total energy, or 160,000kw per year. Every apartment has large operable windows and through-ventilation.

Various materials on the façade distinguish private and public spaces, from warmer wood composite material facing the courtyard to cooler cement board panels facing the street. The rain screen system throughout is innovative, Robert Garneau, AIA, of Grimshaw Architects explained, and the prefabrication provides both cost efficiency and construction expediency. Balconies line the private inner courtyard as well, encouraging interaction among inhabitants, while sunshades protect apartments from overheating along the public street façade.

Overall, the team aims to encourage a healthier lifestyle with the design. In addition to cross ventilation and passive and active recreation areas, a food co-op is planned in one of the street-level retail spaces, along with an onsite health and fitness center. Signage will encourage the use of the stairs over the elevators, and FSC woods and low VOC paints will prevent harmful off-gassing. The onsite Montefiore Medical Center will also provide care.

At the end of the day, fine tuning existing tried-and-true systems will save the most money and offer the easiest solutions to environmental challenges, said Garneau. By correctly sizing units and by not oversupplying spaces, the savings will produce a regressive tax on low-income housing. With requirements for fixed percentages of affordable units and environmental regulations for all new city buildings, this project has honed the skills needed for future developments, according to Adam Weinstein, president of Phipps Houses.