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Luxury Condo is Going Green in Style

April 1, 2009
Manhattan's luxury Visionaire residential condominium is trying to set new standards in sustainability, energy efficiency and water conservation.

New York — Rising 33-stories above Battery Park City, a planned community on the southwestern tip of lower Manhattan, the Visionaire residential condominium is, as befits its zip code, packed with luxury amenities. The gym has a steam bath, sauna, cardio and yoga room. The rooftop garden features barbecue pits. The bathrooms and kitchens boast high-end fixtures.

But while providing creature comforts to its residents, the Visionaire is also trying to set new standards in sustainability, energy efficiency and water conservation.

The wood floorings are made from sustainable lumber harvests. Most appliances, such as the Asko washer-dryers in each unit, are Energy Star rated. All sealants in the building are low in volatile organic compounds. Advanced automation systems monitor and optimize energy usage throughout the building.

But the use of green technology and practices has had the greatest impact on how the building uses water. Rainwater is collected to irrigate the rooftop gardens; low-flow fixtures help reduce consumption; and to cap it all the building has it's own central water filtration and wastewater treatment plant located in the basement.

The people behind these advanced water systems are the Applied Water Management Group of American Water. “Ninety percent of the company is a big water utility,” Don Shields, vice president and director of construction for the company explained. “We're on the 10%, non-regulated side.”

American Water has been doing design-build for the last 15 years, first doing individual residential septic systems, and then moving into community-based systems for between 400 to 1,000 homes.

“Now we provide design service, construction service and design-build,” Shields said. “We've got hydro-geologists on staff, a fleet of consulting engineers and a whole operations arm as well.”

The GC on the job was Turner Construction, the national contracting company headquartered in New York. Liberty Mechanical, based in the Bronx, subcontracted the plumbing work, and American Water worked with Liberty hand-in-glove for the entire project. “We're about teaming,” Sheilds said, “believe me. They're the plumbers, they know better than we do.”

Out of the entire $250 million dollar building, the treatment plant only accounted for about half a million of the cost. That plant, however, allows the Visionaire to use 55% less potable water than a residential building of similar size.

Shields terms it a “wastewater mining” system. Instead of water going out into the city's sewer system, it goes into a feed-tank, from which it is pumped into a biological treatment system.

“Basically, this is a series of concrete tanks where we're going to be removing wastewater constituents, pollutants, biological oxygen demand, suspended solids and the nitrogen and the phosphorus,” Shields said. On the back-end are ultra-filtration membranes, with a pore size of only .04 microns. The clean water gets filtered out and the sludge gets left behind.

The system can reclaim as much as 25,000-gal. per day for use in toilet flushing and air-conditioning cooling systems. Because the city and state of New York have incentives for water conservation, the building's owners are saving more than 25% on water usage fees.

All the building's systems, working in concert, have been able to achieve Platinum LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Attaining that certification has become an important selling point among eco-conscious homebuyers.

Construction began in mid-2006, with occupants moving in late in 2008. Units are still being sold.

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